While we know that running is great exercise, strapping on our sneakers when it is 80 degrees Fahrenheit or above outside can prove to be a challenge. Exercising outdoors can expose us to unfavorable temperatures, dehydration, humidity, pollution, and sun exposure, all things that can slow us down. Even though other seasons offer better temperatures, many of us tend to be more active in the warmer months. For those long, hot summer days when you plan on hitting the trails, here is what you need to know.
Check the temperature
Unfortunately, there really isn’t a set rule for when you should skip running in the great outdoors because there are different variables at play. Some of us are more acclimated to warm weather and do well when it’s warm, while others may feel overheated running in 70 degrees. Plus, if you are more physically fit, you may fare better. To avoid some of the confusion, check the National Weather Service’s heat index so that you can make an educated decision. For example, on days when it is 86 degrees with 80 percent humidity, the real feel temperature is 100 degrees. The weather service lists that as “extreme caution,” meaning that could lead to heat-related issues. “Run inside on the treadmill on days that are very humid and hot,” says Samantha Clayton, a former track runner, 2000 Olympics runner, personal trainer, and vice president of Worldwide Sports Performance and Fitness at Herbalife Nutrition. “Your body will struggle to cool off and maintain good core temperature in those conditions.”
Not drinking enough liquids on hot days can be dangerous. So, plan your route and make sure that there will be opportunities to hydrate — like fountains — along the way, or carry water with you. “Sip four ounces for every 20 minutes of exercise, and then hydrate post run,” says Clayton. “For long runs, drink an electrolyte-based fluid so that you are replacing what you lose as it will help with your recovery time.”
Know the risks of air pollution
Even though those with asthma, allergies and heart conditions are more susceptible to outdoor air pollution, poor air quality can affect us all, especially when we are exercising. Prolonged exposure to dust, motor vehicle traffic, construction, and power plants may be harmful. “I believe that checking air quality levels is important for protecting your health,” says Clayton. Long on to the Environmental Protection Agency’s website to see what the levels are in your neighborhood.
Go for the right gear
When choosing sportswear, think function over fashion. “Clothing that is too tight or not the right type of fabric can be a poor choice for runners,” says Clayton. “They can cause chafing and may interfere with your natural running stride.” This is especially true for distance runners. Choose a lightweight and breathable fabric to stay cool and dry in the summer.
Pick your hat wisely
While wearing a hat may seem like a good idea for blocking out the sun, they can cause you to overheat. “Choose caps that are designed for exercising,” says Clayton. She prefers sun visors because they shade your eyes while allowing heat to escape from your head.
Wear the best sneakers
Choosing a sneaker that is specifically designed for runners is a must. Distance running shoes tend to be lighter than shoes you would use for CrossFit or other exercises. You can risk knee pain, shin splints, and Achilles tendon strain, especially when training on hard surfaces. Try an ultralight running shoe, like SAS Tempo, which has a shock absorbing midsole, a cushioning outsole, and heel cup support.
Protect your skin
While there is a lot of chatter about the safety of chemicals in sunscreens, there is no negating the importance of using a minimum of 30 SPF before heading outdoors. In addition to causing premature aging of our skin, UV radiation can lead to skin cancer. “I steer my patients toward physical sunscreens, those that are zinc- or titanium dioxide-based, as they do not penetrate the skin,” says Deanne Mraz Robinson, MD, FAAD, a board-certified, dermatologist based in Connecticut. “I love products by Supergoop!, ISDIN and EltaMD specifically,” she says.
Headphones can be great for staying motivated, but they can also be a distraction. “I am a fan of the ‘around the temple’ style modern designs as they do not go inside your ears, and therefore allows for situational awareness,” says Clayton. You can also try JLab’s recently launched JBuds Air Sport True Wireless earbuds, which is designed with runners in mind. They are sweat resistant and feature “Be Aware Audio” that can be turned on or off while exercising to allow in ambient noise.