The summer months are ideal for running with plenty of long days, plenty of races around to keep motivated.
The downside, excessive sun exposure can put you at risk for many issues, such as premature skin aging, pterygium, cataract formation, skin cancer, etc.
But don’t worry. It’s possible to keep training and minimize your risk of sun damage and skin cancer by taking the right precautions and measures. That’s where today’s post comes in handy.
In this article, we’ll take a look at how the sun can damage your skin as well as what to do in order to protect it from the harmful rays.
The Dangers of Sun Exposure
Spending any length of time exposed to sunlight may put you at risk of skin damage. As a runner, the risks are higher, especially when running during peak daylight hours.
While running, and other forms of exercise are usually associated with a lowered risk of most cancers, skin cancer is an exception.
Don’t take my word for it. Marathon runners reported an increased number of age spots and abnormal moles, key risk factors for malignant melanoma, according to research published by Archives of Dermatology
Research published in Clinical, Cosmetic, and Investigational Dermatology, revealed that the UV rays could also contribute to eye damage, such as cataracts.
So how do you protect your skin from the sun’s damage while running?
Do the following.
Choose a sunscreen with at least 30 SPF that protects against all types of UV rays. We call it broad-spectrum SPF.
Remember to apply the sunscreen liberally to all areas that may receive sun exposure, especially your arms, legs, back of your neck, and the rims of your ears. I’d also recommend that you protect your lips using a lip balm with SPF.
Apply it 15 to 20 minutes before heading out to make sure it’s absorbed into the skin. Planning to run for more than 90 minutes? Take with you a small travel size sunscreen to reapply.
Keep Your Clothes On
If you’re going to run outdoors under the sunny sky, dress to protect your skin.
Choose long sleeve shirts, leggings or track pants, and other skin covering running kit to protect most of your dermis from the dangerous ultraviolet rays.
I’d recommend technical, high performance, fabrics, especially those labeled as “sun protective,” which is pretty much the clothing version of sunscreen’s SPF. Try to avoid dark-colored clothing since it absorbs more sun rays than a lighter color.
Hat & Sunglasses
If you’re running outside, wearing a hat and sunglasses—even if you’re in the shade—is also key. You can also soak your hat in water to help keep your core temperature down.
Choose headgear made from Coolmax fabric, which will keep you cooler on hot summer runs.
Sunglasses with UV protection can also come in handy as they shield your eyes from the sun’s rays. Make sure to check if the glasses serve your purpose, don’t just choose because of looks or style. Function over fashion, buddy.
Don’t Run During Peak Sunshine Hours
While you do need to take the right precaution measures whenever the sun is up, running during peak sunshine hours, between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. generally, is more dangerous. Instead, plan your running routine during the early morning or later evening hours (when the UV rays aren’t as strong).
You should also start those long runs early so that you’re done by 9 a.m.
During peak hours, you can take your runs indoors, or take further measures to protect yourself from known carcinogens.
The only exception? If you’re training for serious endurance race that takes place in the daytime heat.
Chafing is skin damage caused by repetitive friction. The affected area often consists of a tender, painful scratch mark where the skin has rubbed against your clothing, or even against itself.
The condition is worse when running in the hot season as extra sweat creates added friction between skin-to-clothing and skin-to-skin.
Prevent this by investing in an anti-chafing stick or ointment and apply it generously to chafing prone areas, such as your underarms and inner thighs
Your clothing also matters. As a rule, avoid clothing that’s too baggy as the extra material can cause irritation. Choose shorts that cover your upper thighs and a bra with flat or covered seams. A nipple pad can be helpful.
Stay well hydrated
Staying properly hydrated should absolutely be a priority, especially during the hot season. The more miles you log, the more water you lose. In fact, you lose up to 6 to 10 ounces of fluid every 20 minutes of running.
Water intake also impacts skin health. Since we tend to sweat profusely when running under the sun, our skin becomes drier and more susceptible to the sun’s penetrating rays.
As a rule, stay well hydrated throughout the day by drinking plenty of water before, during, and after your runs. Shoot for 8 to 12 ounces 20 to 30 minutes before running, and keep drinking every 20 to 30 minutes along your running routes for runs exceeding 90 minutes.
You should also keep track of your dehydration levels. These include dark yellow urine and persistently elevated heart rate after a run. Remember that thirst is not an accurate indicator of dehydration—if you feel thirsty, you’re already dehydrated.
So that’s pretty much what you need to know about protecting your skin when running under the sun. Nothing magical or mystical here. Just commonsense advice. Now it’s up to you to put it into practice. The rest is just details.
Please feel free to leave your comments and questions in the section below.
In the meantime, thank you for dropping by.
Keep running strong