Cross Training For Runners

Running In the Sun – Benefits, Risks & Tips

7 Mins read

Looking for the best advice on running in the sun? Then you’ve come to the right place.

Running in the sun is inevitable at one time or another, but it’s key to understand the benefits and risks of doing so.

Though skipping a run is never a good idea because it’s “too sunny,” you’ll want to ensure you’re safe.

How come?

Excessive exposure to sunlight can cause skin issues. When running in the relentless summer, your skin is prone to drying, flaking, chafing, windburn, and, most importantly, painful sunburns.

To make things worse, runners are especially prone.

Today’s post lays out all you need to know about protecting your skin while running in the sun. More specifically, I’ll dive into the following:

  • The danger of sunburns
  • Runners and Skin Cancer
  • Is It Okay To Run In The Sun?
  • Why Is Running In The Sun Harder?
  • The Pros of Running in the Sun
  • How To Avoid Sunburns When Running In The Sun
  • How to Choose the Right Sunscreen for runners
  • When runners should consult A Dermatologist

Sounds great?

Let’s get started.

The Dangers Of Sunburns

Sunburns put you at a higher risk for dehydration, heat stroke, premature aging, and, most importantly, skin cancer.

Here are some horrifying stats:

  • More people are diagnosed with skin cancer each year than cancers of the lung, breast, prostate, and colon combined.
  • Roughly 5 million people are treated for skin cancer in the U.S., according to skincancer.org
  • One in five Americans will get skin cancer in their lifetime
  • According to the American Cancer Society, one person dies from melanoma cancer every hour.

Feeling terrified?

You should be.

Runners and Skin Cancer

As far as I can tell, running has a few downsides, but a big one is that it puts you in the high-risk category for skin cancer.

This isn’t just me talking: my statement is based on many scientific papers.

One example is an Australian study in which researchers reported that marathon runners suffer more abnormal moles and other skin lesions often associated with skin cancer than a less-outdoorsy control group.

Another research published in the Archives of Dermatology reported that marathoners had increased numbers of age spots and abnormal moles—all of which increase the risk for malignant melanoma.

The reason is obvious.

When you spend extended periods training under the ruthless sun, you expose your skin to high levels of ultraviolet (UV) radiation, the most detrimental environmental risk factor for skin cancer.

Not only does spending extended periods outdoors increases exposure, but research also found that long * intense training—think long-distance training—may suppress the immune system, which makes you more prone to skin damage.

Is It Okay To Run In The Sun?

Yes, you can—as long as you’re doing it right.

The truth is, it’s safe to keep running in the sun. But If you’re running long distances and spending more and more time under the sun, it’s key to take the right precaution to protect yourself (some of which I’ll share with you later).

Why Is Running In The Sun Harder?

Running outdoors on a cold day or during the evening is one thing. Completing the same run when the sun is out is another thing.

Although most runners enjoy running on a sunny day, it usually feels much more challenging as you try to pick up the pace or go the distance.

So how come?

I hate to state the obvious, but running in the sun feels harder because sunshine is often accompanied by heat.

Running at high temperatures forces your body to exert more effort, thus, making your normal pace feel drastically harder to maintain, especially over a long distance.

Here’s the truth. The heat of the sun saps your energy fast. That’s why running when it’s hot can increase your perceived exertion. It feels much more challenging than the same run on a cooler or overcast day.

You should always put this into consideration. Making the right choices during the summer can make all the difference.

That’s not the whole story.

A blazing sun can also impair your vision, especially without sunglasses. It can also make exposed skin feel super sensitive.

Additional resource – Heart Burn While Running

The Pros of Running in the Sun

Though the risks of running in the sun are no secret—age spots, burns, premature aging, tan lines, cancer—the joys of running in the sun are plenty.

Let’s look at a few of these benefits.

Simulates Altitude Training

Don’t have the time to head to higher lands? Then try running in the heat as an alternative for boosting your endurance and power. Research has reported that training regularly in the heat impacts your body in the following ways:

  • Improved sweat rate
  • Reduced overall body temperature
  • Reduced blood lactate
  • Improved blood plasma volume
  • Increased skeletal muscle force
  • Etc.

So what does this mean?

Simply, running in the heat stresses your cardiovascular system, which strengthens your heart and allows you to run farther and faster, especially in extreme weather conditions.

running in the sun skin protection

Sun Exposure

I hate to state the obvious, but sun exposure, as you already know, is good for you. It’s highly recommended. Ultraviolet rays from the sun provide our skin cells with the needed energy to kick off the process of vitamin D synthesis.

But what do you know about vitamin D?

This is a key vitamin that improves bone strength by allowing for calcium absorption.

That’s not the whole story.

Conversely, lack of vitamin D has been associated with many conditions. For example, weight gain, depression, and some cancers, such as breast, colon, and heart, have all been linked in some way to vitamin D deficiency.

Vitamin D is crucial because it helps to absorb calcium, which is key for stronger bones. Devoid of vitamin D, calcium absorption isn’t possible.

Make You Faster

Another benefit of running in the sun is improved speed.

Again, don’t take my word for it.

Research from the American Journal of Sports Medicine reported increased speed in cyclists after spending around 20 minutes exposed to UVA rays via a Uva lamp.

The researchers suggested that improved performance is due to nitric acid. When released into the bloodstream, this compound boosts blood flow, increasing the amount of oxygen and nutrients that flow into muscles.

Just remember that too much exposure, as with any good thing, can put you at a higher risk for a slew of issues rankings from the nagging annoyances to serious, even fatal, conditions.

How To Avoid Sunburns When Running In The Sun

Here are a few safety measures to help you protect your skin throughout your summer workouts.

Choose the Right Sunscreen

Recent surveys have revealed that just over 14 percent of American men and only 30 percent of American women slather on sunscreen before going out.

This simple measure might be the easiest way to prevent millions of yearly cancer cases.

But…

Not all sunscreens are created (or made) equal.

Some are significantly better than others.

For the best protection, opt for a broad-spectrum sunscreen that shields you against UVA and UVB rays. It must also be water resistant and have an SPF of at least 30, preferably higher.

This will greatly reduce your risk of sunburn while running.

Put On Your Sunscreen the Right Way

Once you get your hands on a strong sunscreen, use it properly.

To get the lotion to bind with the skin, apply it for at least 20 to 30 minutes before heading out.

Cover all of your exposed skin to err on the side of caution.

Slather it on your face, ears, neck, shoulders, arms, legs, and anywhere else at the sun’s mercy.

Sunscreen is not bulletproof. It will wear off eventually, putting you at risk as the day passes. To avoid this, reapply your sunscreen, especially when planning to run for more than 60 to 90 minutes.

Skipping this step results in many runners complaining about sunburn despite using strong sunscreen when they first set out.

Run Early Or Late

I hate to sound like Captain Obvious, but the easiest way to prevent a sunburn is to avoid sun exposure, but it’s not always possible unless you only run at night.

But I’d generally avoid running between 10 a.m. and 4 p. m.

That’s when the sun is at peak intensity.

Even on the hottest summer days, early morning or late evening is drastically cooler, so get your run done then, and you’ll feel pretty damn good about it all day.

This also helps you avoid heat-related conditions.

If you must run outdoors when the sun is strongest, take cover in the shade as much as possible and slather on sunscreen, then hope for the best.

Protect Your Face

Whether running, walking, or hiking, your face gets a lot of sun exposure.

So what should you do?

Wear a hat or a visor to keep your face shaded to prevent more sunlight exposure to protect your face when running in the sun.

What’s more?

Visors are also great for protecting your eyes and face from sunshine, which cools you down and helps prevent squinting.

Wear The Right Clothing

Another helpful measure for limiting the risk of sunburn while exercising outdoors is to wear the right clothing.

Choose items that meet these three criteria:

(1) Tightly woven, as this prevents the penetration of ultraviolet rays through the fabric

(2) Darker in color, so less UV radiation reaches your skin

(3) Made from the right materials (usually nylon or a nylon-polyester blend)

Want more protection?

Look for clothing made with Ultraviolet Protection Factor (ULF) fabrics.

The higher the UPF rating, the less UV radiation reaches your skin.

Also, wear sun-protective sleeves for exposed arms and a visor or hat with a brim to protect your scalp and face.

Visors are especially helpful since they protect your face without trapping heat.

Consult A Dermatologist

Excessive exposure to sunlight means you’ve undoubtedly sustained some damage to your skin. And this is the case even if you do your best to protect your skin against sun exposure.

For this reason, it’s key to check with a dermatologist regularly—at least once per year—to monitor your skin health and measure any damage or issues before it becomes a real problem.

Running in the Sun – The Conclusion

Here you have it! You all need the above guidelines to protect your skin and prevent painful sunburns while running in the summer. And it’s not rocket science! All you have to do is take action.

Now it’s your turn.

Do you have any sun protection tips for us?

What’s your favorite sunscreen?

Cmon, talk to us.

In the meantime, thank you for reading my post.

Keep Running Strong

David D.

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