Still wanting to exercise in the heat? That’s great that you are still motivated (so am I!!! Though, I am a bit odd and I actually prefer exercising in the heat over the cold). But, there is always a but. Exercising should never be to the determent of your health so listen up…. you want to avoid sunburn, over-heating, hydration, salt-dilution (drinking too much water..yes, really!!) and heat stroke. All this may sound like common-sense but you can quickly find yourself in a ‘risk to life’ situation.

Here are a couple of ways to keep active safely during a heatwave, and what to do when it all goes wrong:

⏰ Exercise early

If you can, get out for your run or exercise session early doors to avoid the heat. The sun isn’t as strong and the temperature hasn’t risen yet. Bonus, summer mornings are beautiful. If you attend outdoor classes, these will be risk assessed by the instructor. Changes to the format or location may occur to reduce risk or some may be cancelled if they decide they can not run the class safely.

☀️ Protect yourself from the sun

Myself on a long run during a heatwave - wearing suncream, cape and hydration pack.
Race to the Stones training in 2018 – a hot day on my scheduled long run.

Wear sunscreen, sunglasses and visor/cap. Regardless of the time of day that you exercise, applying suncream and covering up is essential to protect your skin from damage. Here’s some more detailed information about the purchasing and application of sunscreen from skin cancer charity Skcin. Some exposure to the sun is important for the absorption of Vitamin D but we only need around 9 minutes of full sunlight daily.

💦 Keep hydrated

Drink before, during and after your exercise. The fluid you drink should contain water and electrolytes. Add an isotonic hydration tablet to your flask of water. Make sure you take spare tablets with you incase of an emergency. Sweating is your body’s natural response to heat, sweat evaporates off the skin taking with it some of the heat from the body. This water and electrolyte loss will continue until your internal body temperature is stabilised. If you do not replace the water and electrolytes that you lose, you will become dehydrated. Once you become 6-10% dehydrated you begin to experience headaches, confusion, dizziness.

There are some great hydration packs on the market: I use a decathlon one but there is also the Salomon and the Ultimate Direction packs that come highly recommended. For sport bottles, try the BPA-free Adoric.

Anti-chafing top tip: Use RockTape to patch over any persistent rub points. If you are sweating excessively, you may find that your normal anti-chafe balm just isn’t cutting it. I generally nab the husband’s Assos Chamios Cream but for longer or really hot runs I will tape up the points on my collar bones and neck where I tend to get rubbing (with RockTape, I recommend getting the H2O stuff which won’t budge under the sweat).

🌳 Find the shade

Get yourself under the trees or do a gym session indoors (with aircon, if possible). If you are running, walking or cycling, plan your route sensibly. There have been many times when I have had to re-route what I had planned to a shadier option. The Ridgeway is not the place to seek shade but a nice forest path would be perfect. If you are Oxfordshire based, check out this route through Bagley Wood.

Be prepared to switch up your training plan. With long distances it can be hard to keep in the shade. Opt for a shorter route and move your distance session to a cooler day. Alternatively, split your long distance, half in the morning and half in the evening. Training on tired legs is really beneficial to improving your endurance.

If you run with your dog, definitely go early morning. Find a route that offers a place to cool down, a shallow stream is ideal. If it is too hot, leave the dog at home. Here is some additional information on helping to keep your dog cool in the summer from the RSPCA.

📱 Be locatable

Take your phone with you and let someone know where you are going. My husband (and my parents actually) can track my location on ‘find my friend’ (here is how to set it up on an iPhone and for an android phone). If you aren’t familiar with your route, make sure you have the app ‘what3words‘. This app helps emergency services pinpoint your location to an accurate 3 metre square.

In case of an emergency – What to do when it all gets too hot

If you or someone you are with starts to feel unwell due to the heat and exercise, follow this advise from the NHS (more information on heatstroke and heat-illness can be found here).

  1. Get out of the sun and into the shade. Lie on the floor with legs raised.
  2. Drink water that contains an electrolyte tablet or grab a pre-made sports drink.
  3. Cool the skin down with water or icepack.
  4. Call 111 or 999 if symptoms worsen.

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