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How to Acclimate to the Warmer Weather & Stay Safe

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As the seasons change runners always get excited. Not only do you have an entire running wardrobe change but the change always calls for a few new purchases for some items that are “worn out”. Not only does your attire change, but so do your needs (and complaints) related to the weather.  There is a laundry list of items that switch from being back-burner concerns to front and center worries with the season change. Plus, there is the time our bodies will take to get acclimated to the change in seasons.

Sometimes, in certain parts of the country, there are only two seasons, winter and summer. The gradual warm up and cool down of spring and fall don’t seem to occur. Running in any extreme weather calls for precautions but so does every day running. How do you properly prepare for the warm up in the weather and what really goes on in your body with the warm temperature?

What’s Going on in Your Body?

You are increasing your core body temperature when you run.  Running, or any cardiovascular exercises, puts extra stress on your body, not just from the activity itself but by doing the activity, in this case running, in the heat. Your body’s job during your run is to aid in keeping your body cool. It does this by sending blood to circulate as a way to cool your skin. Your body only has a finite amount of blood. When blood is directed to one source, in this case, your skin to cool it, there is less blood for your muscles, which is what increases your heart rate.  The good news is that your body is designed to do this, even in the heat. You can get in trouble when the humidity is high since there is no evaporation of the sweat off your skin, the duration of your run is very long or you are not properly hydrating to produce sweat.

Many runners find they are more worn out during the warm months post-run, do not have the “get up and go” they normally have or simply don’t perform at what they feel is their peak level. This is very normal and to be expected.

There are some things to look out for in yourself and other runners as warnings when running in the warm months: lightheadedness, headache, dizziness, loss of vision, fainting, vomiting, goosebumps or being cold or weak. Anyone with any of these items that is not cured within 20 minutes of stopping, moving to cooler temperatures, hydrating and adding a wet cloth to their body needs medical attention.

How to Acclimate & Stay Safe

The increase in temperatures automatically makes people think of increasing hydration and heading out for early morning runs for the coolest temperature of the day. While both are key to helping you acclimate to the weather change, they are not the only things you need to take into account.

  • At the beginning of the season, on especially warm days, know your limits. The first few weeks or so watch the weather and plan accordingly. Doing speed work on the hottest day of the year so far won’t benefit you. Do the speed work inside and do your warm up or cool down outside. You want to expose your body to the temperatures, not shock your body with them.

  • Hydration is extremely important but what you hydrate with is equally as important. For outdoor activities over 60 minutes, you will want to choose a beverage that’s more than plain water.  Choose a beverage that has electrolytes and carbohydrates in it. You are seeking to replace the sodium, potassium and glycogen lost through your sweat.  How much and how often should be based on your weight, the intensity and duration of your workout and the amount at which you lose liquid. For more information, check out our page on hydration.
  • Plan your attire accordingly. There is a reason many runners look like they are wearing as little clothing as possible in the heat. Also the lighter the material the cooler you will be. The saying “cotton is rotten” is true.  Today there are many material options that are better for you to run in. You want to wear moisture wicking, loose, light-colored clothing. Even if black is “your color” or you stick to dark colors, you should avoid them in warm weather. The dark color absorbs heat adding to your problem, not helping it.

Other Helpful Hints

Sunscreen not only keeps you looking young and out of the dermatologists office but it prevents sunburns. Surprisingly, sunburns can hinder the way your body cools itself. While it seems obvious to avoid the heat of the day, being aware of the overall forecast. The hottest part of the day could often surprise you, especially in the earlier warm months. Sometimes the temperature can be exactly the same at 6am and 6pm but the humidity may be vastly different.

Allow yourself some time to adjust. Going from the cool indoors to the warmer outdoors that is 20 and even 30 degrees warmer will take your body a little time to get used to. The good news is it won’t take the whole summer.  However, you’ll need to make sure that you are out in the heat a few days a week, not just once a week or every other week. Due to the invention of the wonderful air conditioner, you are not subjected to the elements. You will need to be consistent in your exposure to the temperature.

Every year and every season a runner needs to acclimate to the change in the weather. Practice makes perfect, but reminders never hurt. The good news is that the seasons do change so if you find yourself in one you don’t like, you only have to wait a season.