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Adjusting for the Summertime Heat

Atlanta is known for its Heat, Hills and Humidity. As summer time approaches so does the legendary heat and humidity. As runners we need to think about how to adjust to these changes in temperature during training. It will be especially important if you're doing longer distances or training for a fall marathon!

It is crucial to be aware of and listen to the signs your body is sending you.  You've probably heard the terms heat exhaustion and heat stroke, but what are they and what is the difference? Heat exhaustion is when your body loses too many fluids and electrolytes from sweating. This is more common and might be experienced if you've run in the middle of the day in the summertime or during the Peachtree road race! It is very common for runners to get cramps when they are experiencing heat exhaustion. If left unchecked, heat exhaustion can progress to heat stroke. Heat stroke is a MEDICAL EMERGENCY, call 911. Below is a chart that shows the differences in the symptoms:

If you experience any of the warning signs below stop your run, drink fluids with electrolytes and find shade.

  1. Cramps/muscle spasms

  2. Dizziness/fainting

  3. Headache

  4. Extreme fatigue

  5. Clamminess 

If you witness someone who looks like they are in danger from heat stroke: CALL 911

  1. Move to them to shade, preferably air conditioning

  2. Lower body temperature by providing cool cloths or cold bath/removing clothes especially the socks

  3. Do NOT give fluids

  4. Also, a fan could also increase the person's temperature if it is too hot outside (greater than 90). 

Another thing to keep in mind is the heat index. The heat index can give us a good indication on “how hot” it’s actually going to be and give us an idea of when we should plan our runs that day (when the heat index is the lowest). The heat index is the measure of how hot it actually is combining relative humidity and the actual air temperature.

Knowing the heat index can be beneficial,especially if you need to do a long run or speed workout. Typically the best time to run outside in the summer is before sunrise or in the evening. But if your schedule does not allow you to run in those hours and you're stuck with running in the heat of the day, make sure that you find the most shaded running route or cross train. 

If you are in the midst of a training program, whether it's for a fall time marathon or just trying to get into shape make sure that you alter your training schedule according to the weather.  Look at the forecast and choose the “cooler day” for your long runs and workouts while the “hotter” days can be more for your easy runs and recovery days.  Another thing to keep in mind is that your pace will change as the temperatures rise. On average your pace per mile will increase about 20-30 sec per mile with every 5 degree increase above 60 degrees fahrenheit. So listen to your body and go off “feel” rather than pace. 

Running attire is also important. For any hot day runs you want to have wicking, loose fitting or dry fit material so that your body can sweat and can get the heat away. You do NOT want to wear cotton. This can not only get heavy but it does not allow our skin to breath and dissipate the heat like it should. Wearing a sun visor/hat and sunglasses can help protect our face and eyes from the sun. 

Lastly, make sure you HYDRATE. Insuring that you have plenty of fluids before, during and after will help prevent heat exhaustion and give you the extra fluids you need to have a successful run/workout. Before your run it is recommended to drink 16-20 fl oz. of water/sports drink. During your run you should consume 3-5 fl oz. of water/electrolytes for every 30 mins. After you are done, it is recommended to drink 16 fl oz per pound of water weight loss during activity. Weighing yourself pre and post run will help you to calculate how many ounces to drink to replenish what your body has lost. 

In summary, listen to your body, get up early, HYDRATE, choose appropriate clothing and enjoy the sunshine! Make sure to check out the blog on Running In the Heat and Humidity and What to Dew to get a more in depth understanding of how the factor of humidity and dew point plays a role.  Happy running!

Thanks for reading!

Dr. Noelle O’Hara, PT DPT


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