Summer is such a nice time of year to head off out on the trails. The sun reflecting off your sunglasses, blue skies, dry trails, and also not needing to wear a thousand layers to keep warm and dry are very appealing. It’s also a perfect time to explore further afield, maybe travel to other countries, such as those in the Alps, check out a new race, run with Run the Wild or perhaps create your own adventure! There is also the added freedom to run earlier or even late in the day, not having to worry about it getting dark. Let’s face it you were ever tempted by trail running, summer is the easiest time to get involved!
However, even though it is summer and it’s much easier to hit the trails, we actually think it’s more important to be prepared for summer than other times of the year. This is partly because our tolerance to heat is less than that for the cold. Extreme temperatures are also becoming more common, along with violent summer storms. Since trail running often takes you further away from those air-conditioned offices and the convenience of a cold drink, we thought it would be useful to put together our handy tips that we’ve discovered over the years whether you planning to run in hot deserts or city parks.
KIT FOR SUMMER RUNNING
One of the nicest things about running in the summer is that you don’t need to wear much to feel comfortable. For most days you can get away with the bare minimum, which makes for a real freeing experience. However, there are days when the weather can change quickly, especially if there is a cold front coming in, so packing a waterproof may still be a good idea. Watch out for afternoon thunder storms, it may mean you need to be out earlier on the trail in order to avoid them, and the best thing to do if you find yourself in a storm is to get inside a house or car as quickly as possible. Here are our tips for kit when the mercury is rising.
- Loose Fitting – keeps you cool and allows for moisture to evaporate more easily from your skin. Tight fitting garments such as leggings reduce your skin’s natural breathability.
- Thin + Lightweight – again helps keep you cool and feels comfortable when you start to perspire more.
- Synthetic / Wicking – synthetic materials are more breathable, wicking the moisture away from your skin and allowing it evaporate so you feel cooler. Synthetic fibres are really good at doing this, as is merino wool, but avoid cotton which will get heavy with sweat and not allow for breathing.
- Lightweight running vest – this maybe the time to invest in a 5 litre running vest! You don’t need to carry so much in the summer, so a lighter vest is perfect for still having access to water and a spare waterproof but without the added bulk and weight of a bigger pack.
- Hat and buff – a cap is a must to keep the sun out of your eyes and the intensity of the sun off your head. A buff is also really useful as you can dip it in water and wear it around your neck to keep cool. Buff have so many uses!
- Sunglasses – sunglasses are essential pieces of kit. We highly recommend Reactiv glasses like those from Julbo which adjust to the UV index, perfect for moving through shaded areas into bright ones, such as on the trail. They also keep the wind and bugs out of your eyes so you can stay focussed on enjoying where the path is taking you.
- Trail shoes – yes even though it is dry, trail shoes still trump road shoes. You might be able to get away with road shoes as dry trails don’t need the same amount of grip but road shoes suck at trail. Trail shoes not only have better grip on muddy sections but also on loose dry rock. Their cushioning takes into account stones and uneven ground baked like concrete so sometimes include rock plates or a thicker sole to protect your feet. They are more durable, provide better support to avoid rolling your ankle and stop loose stones stubbing your toes.
Looking after your health during a hot run could not only save your life but also make your run a lot more enjoyable. Remember the effects of heat can vary with humidity, wind and terrain. Remember if you like running with your dog, summer is often a good time to leave your best friend at home as they really struggle with the heat.
- Staying hydrated – drink before, during and after your runs. Hydration is a continuum and therefore if you get out on the trail dehydrated, things will only get worse. Make sure you drink to thirst and you have a plan for hydrating on route. When you get back home, you may find you catching up on water intake for a couple of days. Cold drinks quench thirst more and also help reduce your core temperature. If you are out for a short run drop some ice cubes into your soft flask.
- Go slow – running faster increases your heart rate and makes you perspire more, which is similar to how your body deals with the heat. When it’s hot run a bit slower, and put your body under less stress.
- Salt intake – sweating leaves you needing more salts. This will depend on the intensity of your exercise, but think about how you are going to replenish it during and after your run. Salt is essential for muscles contracting and relaxing as well as brain function. If you are cramping a lot, chances are you are salt deficient. Consider using an electrolyte drink or salt tablets.
- Acclimatising – it takes about 5 days before your body starts to become more efficient at coping with warmer weather. Spend even longer and physiological adaptations will start, so don’t panic at the beginning of summer, you will adjust if you give yourself time.
- Sunscreen – blocking the harmful UVs is really important to looking after your skin. It’s very easy when you are out running in a breeze or under cloud cover to think that you don’t need sunscreen but it’s just as important.
- Hay fever – looking at the forecast will not only tell you whether it will rain or be sunny, but will also give you the pollen index, invaluable if you suffer from summer allergens. Time your run after rain, or in the morning when generally the count is lower.
- Ibuprofen (NSAIDs) – one of the reasons we recommend avoiding NSAIDs like ibuprofen ahead of a run in the heat is that they can restrict blood flow to the kidneys. Kidneys are essential to your health and even more important during hot days when they work hard to keep your hydration levels healthy.
- Identifying heat stroke – feeling dizzy, confused, grumpy, tired, headachy, nauseous, breathing rapidly? These are all potential symptoms of heat stroke which can be really dangerous if you don’t get cool, now!
In summer, paths although frequently dry, can get quite overgrown. This is partly to protect wildlife such as nesting birds. Being aware that you might need to adjust your route to avoid bashing through nettles and perhaps sticking to wider bridleways can be really helpful. If it’s going to be a hot day, then think about how cool you can make your route. Are there shaded areas such as woodland or hedge lines, places you can dip your cap into cold water to cool down? Maybe if you can’t get out of the sun, you can head to higher areas or ridge lines where a breeze will help you feel cooler, not only that but provide an epic view! Try to hit the trails early morning or late evening to avoid the heat of the day. Finally look at adding in a way in which you can shorten your route if you need to, or perhaps a place you get a refreshment on the way, a country pub maybe?
Getting out on the trails in the summer is such an amazing experience, go find your wild and keep cool!