on... Heat

Random thoughts on... heat!

The past week or so, I’ve been suffering with the heat. When you’re hot, you’re stressed. Everything seems harder as your body tries to cope. You slow down, get despondent and become more prone to injury.

The problem for me at the moment is not so much the temperature, but how sudden the change was. Personally, I haven’t adjusted yet, but this has made me think about the various strategies that I employ to deal with the heat. I’m interested in how many of these work for you, or indeed what I’ve missed out. So, in no particular order...

Acclimatisation – take a holiday in a warm country, and run! Now, this isn’t an option for me – very unlikely to go abroad for a few years (unless there’s a war), but I can go to my local gym which luckily has rubbish air conditioning. Alternatively, if you’ve a treadmill in the house, shut the windows and doors and crank up the heat. Start things off with a 60 second plank and then start running - this should get you ready for summer.

Water – drinking. Hydrate properly the day before, the morning of the race and afterwards. If you’re running more than 5K and there’s a water station, pick up some water even if you cannot drink it. Personally, I am still trying to master the art of drinking while running – I just choke and splutter. Running with a cool drink in your hand will cool your body down – you can also tip it over your head or throw it at yourself. It is not advised to help others in this manner.

Clothing – some people are cool in whatever they wear, but not me. All sorts of moisture-wicking technical tops are available, but I tend to prefer a running vest. There’s something about bare shoulders that does it for me – you can feel the breeze as you go along (oh, and the rain too, but that can be so refreshing!) Some companies sell technical clothing that claims to reduce the body temperature by up to 4 degrees – not tried these for financial reasons, but happy to hear your experiences. The right type of shorts can help too – I need to go extra long, for obvious reasons, and I’m on the thin, light, baggy shorts right now. Socks also make a difference - if you’re used to thick woollen socks then it’s time to re-consider. I’m persevering with my compression socks for now – while they are long, they are quite thin and cool.

Get a haircut! - My hair grows thick and needs more of a regular thinning out than a cut, but it warms up pretty quickly. I realise that if you take the minimalist approach to hair, there’s a higher requirement for sun cream to avoid a sunburnt scalp. I wonder if wet hair works better than dry?

Shades – keep the sun from your eyes. Make sure that they cover the sides too. Test them out before running hard in them. Nuff said.

Sun Lotion – I am convinced that this will help you to feel cooler and makes you think that you’re on holiday. It also acts as a secondary deodorant – I far rather the smell of coconut as a runner goes past, as opposed to pure sweat. You can go one further and use a bit of “Jungle Formula” – that’ll throw off any midges, mites and stop competitors from hanging on your shoulder.

Timing – get your long run in early in the morning, before it heats up.

Wear a hat – running caps are available with mesh inserts / tops providing protection from direct sunlight. The brow of the hat acts as a visor to keep the sun out of your eyes too – unless you’re “too cool for school” and wear it the wrong way around – you listening, Davies?

Wear white – does this really make a difference? I know the technicalities, but I’m not a fan of white clothing, so not experimented in this way.

Water – sprays. Some races offer a “water spray” area that allegedly cool you down as you run through. Only experienced this once, it was a contraption built of twenty hose pipes with fine nozzles, spitting out so little water it was, frankly, pathetic. Maybe they wasted all of the water on the elite athletes – or maybe it was switched off in preparation for the Mankini-clad runner behind me. Could we bribe one of the campers to set up a spray over at Caravan corner on a Saturday morning?

Shade – find it, use it and persuade your brain that it helped. This week saw a bit of trail running, running through the woods. The shade of the trees made 25 degrees still bearable for effort, though you still need sunglasses to keep the gnats out of your eyes. Be prepared to run a few extra meters on a race too, if there’s some valuable shade en-route. Alternatively, if you’re heat-conditioned, use this to your advantage and take the straightest route.

Hopefully some of these things will help - and here's the disclaimer - I don't provide any medical advice, so if you are prone to problems in the heat, please seek someone who can give you proper help.

I’m sure that some things just work in the mind. I don’t care. If makes me feel more comfortable in the heat then it’s worked for me. Now, it’s over to you...

Nigel.