You might have an enviable split time, but there’s one thing you just can’t outrun — Utah’s stifling summer heat. There are few things worse than running in the heat of the day and getting extremely dehydrated.
With lots of summer marathons and races coming up (including the 50th Deseret News Marathon on July 24), it's important to make sure you know how to navigate the heat.
There are a few things you should always remember to keep you safe — and performing optimally — in the summer heat.
Train to drink
There's a paradox about running: you’re conditioning your muscles with every step, but your runs are simultaneously dehydrating you — especially under the hot summer sun. And even if you’re guzzling water before and after your workout, you’ll still wind up dehydrated if you’re not drinking enough throughout the week.
Runner’s World recommends drinking 2-3 mL per pound of weight at least four hours prior to a long run. Keeping a water bottle close by to keep you hydrated throughout the week is also important. However, chugging tons of water before your workout won’t just result in annoying mid-run pitstops, it could actually lower blood sodium levels. This can lead to a potentially fatal condition called hyponatremia.
Don’t rush it
In a perfect world spring’s moderate, pleasant temperatures would lazily and gradually rise to meet summer’s heat. But it’s not uncommon for summer to barge in abruptly and raise the mercury with full force. When that happens, or when you’re traveling to a hotter climate, it’s important to take it slow.
According to Marathon Guide, it takes your body approximately two weeks of running in a hot or humid climate to properly acclimate. Pushing yourself too hard during that time could lead to major dehydration and seriously undermine your continued performance. Start with shorter runs at a moderate pace until your body can handle the higher temps and humidity levels.
Avoid peak sun hours
They say the best time of day to run is whenever you’ll actually do it. But chances are, you’ll only see your own peak performance by avoiding the sun’s peak. Since your core body temperature rises when exercising in even 60-degree heat, the timing of your runs really matters.
Aim to work out during the day’s coolest temperatures — and unless you’re a vampire, that’s likely early in the morning or late in the evening. Active recommends exercising before the sun rises above the horizon or after it’s set. This way, you’re not overstressing your body, and — most importantly — you won’t be completely miserable.
With a start time of 5:30 a.m., the Deseret News Marathon runners will experience the coolest part of the day.
Don your lightest apparel
Black might be timeless, but when it comes to summertime running, it’s more than a fashion faux pas. When the temperatures are high, choose light-colored clothing that won’t absorb heat, making you (even) sweatier.
Loose, synthetic fabrics will wick moisture away and help you stay as cool as possible. When it comes to choosing your gear, Very Well Fit advises against 100-percent cotton, which holds onto moisture and can leave you chafed and uncomfortable. While more expensive than cotton alternatives, technical running fabrics will pay dividends in comfort during the hot summer months.
Avoid the UVs
In addition to the consequences of overheating, the sun can do a number on your skin. In fact, a 2006 study found that marathon runners were more likely to develop skin cancer than non-runners.
During the summer, you’re more likely to wear thin layers that cover as little as possible to keep yourself cooler. If that’s the case, be sure you’re slathering on the sweat-proof sunscreen prior to your run, and reapplying if you’ll be running more than an hour or two. Additionally, be sure your running tops and shorts are UV-protective since even skin covered by clothing is vulnerable to UV damage.
Give yourself a goal
When a summer run leaves you a hot, uncomfortable mess, it’s easy to throw in the (sweat-drenched) towel altogether. Setting a specific performance goal will help keep you motivated when the mercury rises. Many runners recommend signing up for a race or marathon so you have something to train and work for. It will help you set reasonable goals and stay on track.
The Deseret News Marathon — the oldest road race in Utah — is a festive and fun way to spend July 24. This year the marathon celebrates its 50th anniversary, charging from the top of Big Mountain above Emigration Canyon and finishing along the Days of ’47 Parade in downtown Salt Lake City. For more casual runners, there’s also a half marathon, 10K and 5K race available.
Sign up for the race on the Deseret News website.