It’s one of those inevitable summer running things; you’re eventually going to be faced with heat. Knowing how to stay cool while running in the heat is critical to race day performance, but also just to stay feeling good on everyday workouts. There are a variety of methods to manage heat while running. Here are some tried and true ones to try on your next run.
Let Your Heat Escape.
The head, hands, neck, and wrists are where your body most rapidly expels heat. Breathable, wicking shirts are a top pick, but have you considered your head and hands? Make sure you’ve got on a light, breathable hat on. If you have long hair, a ponytail or braid can help open up airflow on the back of your neck to keep heat escape from your skin.
Use Ice to Your Benefit.
Put ice in your water bladder if you wear a vest, or, just pack the ice loosely in your pack and let it melt and drip onto you. If you use handhelds, put ice in those bottles or even freeze them first. Tilt the bottle at an angle in the freezer, about 60% full, so that the ice make a wedge shape. Top off the bottle with water before you head out. This keeps your nozzle from getting blocked by an ice brick. The cold bottle will keep your hands cooler, and hands are a major site for the body to dump heat from. A study in Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise found that athletes who drink an icy drink before had lower body temperatures and ran for 10 minutes longer before reaching exhaustion compared to runners who drank room temperature drinks.
Wear Your Water.
Wet clothing pulls out 5X more heat from the body than dry clothing does. Carry an extra bottle to keep yourself doused with water through the miles. Wearing cooling sleeves and a neck bandana is also a good option if you plan to use an evaporative strategy, as they just make for more surface space to evaporate water from and are easy to keep soaked. If you encounter a stream, splash yourself or dunk your hat. Immersion in water sheds heat from the body 25X faster than being dry.
Strategize Your Speed.
Heat requires the heart to work harder to circulate blood to release heat. You’ll be working harder to maintain the same pace during the hottest hours vs cooler hours. Do your hard workouts at night or morning. When racing, try running a bit faster at the start and conserving energy during the day, and then picking the pace up again into the evening. This can take some practice, but is a common strategy with ultramarathon elites.
All that extra drinking you’ll be doing in the sun will also be flushing electrolytes like sodium, calcium, magnesium, and potassium from your system. You need all of them to maintain energy, circulation, and pretty much everything else your body does. Tablets like Nuun, or powders like Tailwind include lots of electrolytes, or if you prefer straight water, you can also opt for electrolyte tablets/pills too. These can work well during races if you lose your appetite or get nauseous.
What works well for you? Got questions? Leave a comment below!