Summer Running Benefits and Strategies for Staying Cool

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Beginner Runner
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Written by :

David Dack

If you’ve been hesitating to lace up your running shoes during the warmer months, today’s post is my heartfelt attempt to change your mind.

Running in the summer, contrary to what you might think, offers numerous benefits for your body. It’s not just about building muscle strength; it also enhances cerebral health, burns calories, improves blood plasma volume, and boosts endurance.

By avoiding summer runs, you could be missing out on a lot. Yes, running in the heat does require some precautions like staying properly hydrated and replenishing electrolytes. But when you weigh the benefits against these manageable challenges, summer running emerges as a winner.

In this article, I’m going to dive into the myriad benefits of summer running and offer tips and strategies to help you beat the heat.

Whether you’re a seasoned marathoner or just enjoy casual jogs around the neighborhood, understanding how to tackle the heat can transform your summer runs from a daunting task to an enjoyable and rewarding experience.

Excited about the idea? Great, let’s dive in!

Good Weather:

Here’s a little nugget of wisdom: running in warm weather isn’t just enjoyable, it’s a clever strategy for your training, particularly if you’re eyeing a fall race.

But there’s more to it than just the feel-good factor. Research suggests that training in the heat can significantly enhance your performance. A study from the University of Oregon, for instance, revealed that athletes who trained in hot conditions for 10 days showed significant improvements in their exercise performance in cooler environments. Isn’t that cool?

Longer Daylight Hours:

Have you ever noticed how, during summer, the sun seems to wake up before we even have our first cup of coffee and stays up well past dinner time? In places like the US and Europe, this means daylight from as early as 5 a.m. to as late as 8 p.m. For us runners, this is fantastic news because it significantly expands the time available for our runs.

Consider this: more daylight hours equal greater flexibility in our running schedules. Whether you’re an early riser or prefer evening runs, the extended daylight accommodates all preferences. Additionally, there’s a safety bonus. Running in broad daylight is generally safer than venturing out in the dark.

Minimal Apparel:

Opting for minimal attire isn’t just a matter of comfort; it’s a practical choice. As temperatures soar, our bodies need to cool down more efficiently. Lighter, less clothing means better breathability for your skin and more effective regulation of body temperature.

There’s also a liberating feeling in shedding those extra layers. It’s like casting off the weight of the colder months, both literally and metaphorically. But, with more skin in the sun, don’t forget to apply sunscreen. Protecting your skin with a good SPF is essential to guard against harmful UV rays and prevent sunburns, ensuring your runs are both enjoyable and safe.

More Options for Racing

Summer isn’t just about training; it’s also the prime season for racing! From local 5K fun runs to ultra-distance events, there’s a race out there for every kind of runner. The best part is the abundance of races available, often just a stone’s throw away from your home.

And if you’re gearing up for a major fall race, participating in summer races is invaluable. These events are more than just mileage under your belt; they’re a phenomenal source of motivation. Imagine the scene: you’re amidst a sea of runners, the atmosphere buzzing with energy, pushing each other towards personal bests. It’s an ideal environment to maintain your training momentum.

But the benefits don’t stop there. Summer races are perfect for refining your racing skills. They act as dress rehearsals for your main event. You get to experience it all – the pre-race nerves, finding your pace, navigating hydration stations without carrying your water bottle, and experiencing the rush of crossing the finish line.

Perfect For Long Runs

We runners know that long runs are essential, the very foundation of our training. And here’s a summer bonus: those long runs become much more manageable when the weather is warm. It’s time to ditch the bulky layers and embrace the simplicity of summer gear!

In summer, the mantra is to wear as little as needed for comfort and protection. This minimal approach isn’t just about keeping cool; it’s incredibly practical. No more struggling with layers of thermal wear, gloves, and hats. You’re down to the bare essentials – shorts, a light top, and your reliable running shoes. And let’s not forget one of the greatest perks – less laundry! Fewer clothes mean less washing, drying, and folding, which is always a plus in my book.

The Safety Factor

Now, let’s talk about one of the greatest aspects of summer running – the safety and social angle! With the warm weather and longer daylight hours, there are more opportunities than ever to run in well-populated areas like parks and trails.

Something wonderful happens in summer: it brings everyone outdoors. You’ll find people of all ages and fitness levels walking, biking, and running, making even solo runs feel less isolated.

This increase in outdoor activity is not only great for a community atmosphere, but it also enhances safety. When more people are around, the risks associated with running alone diminish significantly.

Simulate High Altitude Training

Runners, ever thought of turning the summer heat into your training ally? Here’s a fascinating insight: running in the heat can be like a free pass to high-altitude training benefits. Yep, you heard that right!

Running in hot conditions does something pretty incredible to our bodies. It simulates some of the physiological effects you’d get from training at high altitudes.

So, while you’re out there sweating it out, your body is getting an incredible fitness boost.

Research backs this up big time. When you acclimate to the heat, several awesome things happen:

  1. Increased Sweat Rate: Your body becomes a cooling pro!
  2. Lower Core Temperature: You get better at regulating your body heat.
  3. Reduced Blood Lactate: Less burn, more endurance.
  4. Increased Blood Plasma Volume: This means improved cardiovascular fitness and endurance.
  5. Boosted Muscle Force: Stronger muscles with every stride.
  6. And that’s just the beginning!

All these changes mean one thing: your heart and cardiovascular system are getting a fantastic workout. Think of it as strength training for your heart.

The Impact of The Heat

As runners, understanding the effects of summer heat on our athletic performance is crucial. And it’s not just anecdotal evidence; there’s some compelling research backing this up!

Let’s start with a study from the “Journal of Sports Sciences.” It reveals some fascinating insights. When you adapt to running in the heat, your body undergoes adaptations similar to those experienced in high-altitude training. This includes increased plasma volume, a reduced heart rate, and enhanced body temperature regulation. Essentially, regular runs in the hot summer months can improve your body’s ability to perform under stress, much like training in the mountains.

Then there’s another intriguing study from the “European Journal of Applied Physiology.” This research indicates that heat training can increase the efficiency of your heart. The result? A lower heart rate and increased stroke volume during exercise. These improvements are similar to the physiological changes seen in athletes who train at high altitudes, where the heart must work more efficiently due to reduced oxygen levels.

And there’s more: let’s talk about VO2 max, which measures how much oxygen your body can utilize during intense exercise. A study in the “Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports” found that training in heat can enhance your VO2 max. The exciting part? When you return to cooler environments, your body becomes exceptionally efficient at using oxygen, almost like a finely-tuned engine.

The Heat is Hard

Running in high temperatures brings its own set of challenges, mainly due to how our bodies react to heat.

Here’s the deal: whenever you run (or do any exercise, really), your core temperature naturally goes up. To manage this, your body has a neat trick – sweating. It’s like your body’s own air conditioning system. Your sweat glands produce sweat, which then evaporates off your skin, taking some of that heat with it. Pretty cool, right?

But, when you’re running in the heat, things get a bit more intense. Your body temperature can rise significantly, especially during those longer runs. This is where you need to be careful because if your body gets too hot, it can affect your performance. You might notice that keeping up your usual pace becomes much harder.

Once your body temperature hits a certain point, its main focus shifts to cooling down. This is super important to prevent overheating, but it can lead to a few issues that every runner should be aware of:

  1. GI Distress: Ever had that queasy stomach during a hot run? That’s gastrointestinal distress for you. Running in the heat can increase the risk of stomach cramps, nausea, or even diarrhea. It’s not just uncomfortable; it can seriously disrupt your run.
  2. Side Stitches: Those sharp, cramp-like pains in your abdomen, known as side stitches, are more common when you’re out running in high heat. They can be quite painful and make it hard to keep going.
  3. Lightheadedness: Ever felt dizzy or light-headed on a hot run? This happens because your body is working overtime to cool you down, redirecting blood to the skin and away from places like your brain.
  4. Heat-Related Conditions: This is the serious stuff. If you push too hard and ignore the signs of overheating, you could end up with heat exhaustion or even heatstroke. These are dangerous conditions that need immediate medical attention.

So, what’s the game plan? Listen to your body. If you’re feeling off, slow down or stop. Make sure you’re hydrating well and maybe even adjust your running schedule to cooler parts of the day

Staying Safe out There

Here are few tips to help you make the most out of your summertime runs

Running in Humid Climates:

In areas where humidity is high, running can feel particularly challenging. When the air feels thick and heavy, it can make our runs feel tougher than usual. Why? It’s all about sweat and evaporation. High humidity means the air is already full of moisture, making it harder for your sweat to evaporate. This slows down your body’s cooling process, making you feel hotter and possibly more uncomfortable.

But don’t worry, there are ways to adapt and still enjoy your runs:

  1. Time It Right: Aim for runs in the early morning or late evening. Humidity levels tend to be lower then, making it a bit easier to handle.
  2. Dress Smart: Go for lightweight, moisture-wicking gear. These fabrics are amazing because they pull sweat away from your body, helping you stay cooler and more comfortable.
  3. Hydration is Key: Make sure you’re drinking plenty of fluids. Staying hydrated is crucial in humid conditions. Also, don’t be shy about taking shorter, more frequent breaks to cool down and hydrate.

Navigating Rainy Summers:

If you’re in a place where summer showers are more the norm, let’s talk about making those rainy runs both fun and safe. Rain doesn’t have to be a downer; it can actually add a refreshing twist to your routine!

  1. Gear Up Right: Invest in some water-resistant running attire. A light, breathable rain jacket can be a game-changer. It keeps you dry without turning you into a walking sauna. Remember, comfort is key, even in the rain.
  2. Watch Your Step: Rain can make paths slick, so be cautious. Adjust your pace and stride to avoid slips and falls. It’s better to run safe than push too hard and risk injury.
  3. Embrace the Wet: Running in the rain can be incredibly refreshing, especially during a warm summer. It’s like nature’s own cooling system! But, always be mindful of your surroundings – if there’s a thunderstorm brewing, it’s time to head indoors. Safety first!

Dealing with Variable Temperatures:

let’s tackle those areas where summer temps are more like a rollercoaster. One day it’s hot, the next, you might need a jacket. The key to handling this variability? Smart layering.

  1. Start with the Base: Your first layer should be all about moisture management. Go for materials that wick sweat away from your body. This keeps you dry and comfortable, no matter how much you heat up.
  2. Add Insulation: If it’s on the cooler side, throw on a light insulating layer. This could be a thin fleece or a long-sleeved running shirt. It’s all about trapping a bit of warmth without overheating.
  3. Top it Off: Finally, if it’s windy or a tad chilly, a wind-resistant outer layer can be a lifesaver. It shields you from the elements without being too bulky.

The best part about layering? As you warm up during your run, you can shed layers. Tie that jacket around your waist, or stash a layer if you’re looping back home. Running in variable temperatures can be a bit of a balancing act, but with the right layers, you’ll be ready for whatever the day brings

High Altitude Considerations:

For those of us hitting the trails in high-altitude spots this summer, it’s a whole different ball game. Thinner air and more intense sun – it’s a unique set of challenges, but absolutely conquerable with the right approach.

  1. Acclimatize Gradually: If you’re new to high altitudes, give your body time to adjust. Start with shorter, less intense runs and gradually increase as you feel more comfortable. This gradual approach helps your body adapt to less oxygen without overdoing it.
  2. Sunscreen is Your Best Friend: At higher elevations, UV exposure can be significantly higher. So, slather on that sunscreen! Protecting your skin is crucial, even on cloudy days. Don’t forget your hat and sunglasses too.
  3. Hydration is Key: The dry mountain air and increased effort can dehydrate you faster than you might expect. Keep that water bottle filled and take regular sips throughout your run. Staying well-hydrated is essential for high-altitude running.

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