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Five essential tips for running in hot weather that aren’t just ‘drink plenty of water’

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Tom Wheatley
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How much slower should you run? Should you drink water before, during or after your run? All these questions answered so you can beat the sweltering sun

Let’s be honest, none of us were prepared for an actual Summer in the UK, especially not a record breaking one. Not so bad when you’re sat in a beer garden with a nice American pale ale. Not quite so enjoyable when you’re slogging out for 10k; salty sweat stinging your eyes as you dodge iced latte-quaffing tourists.

Running in this heat needs a bit of smart strategy to make sure you don’t end up cowering in a bush, and we mean more than just “drink plenty of water”.

 Get some salts 

Yeah, water is important, but so is salt. Have you ever seen a marathon runner with white stuff all over their sweat-soaked shirt? That’s salt, loads of it. We use it for absorbing nutrients, maintaining cognitive function, nerve impulse transmission and muscle contraction. Mess up any of those things and you’re in trouble. Get yourself some hydration tablets to pop in your water bottle, failing that eat something salty. Pretty simple really.

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Use a proper running hat as a sponge 

Running in the heat is pretty tough and the majority of the time all you’ll want is someone to chuck a cold bottle of water on you. Not always the easiest thing to arrange though. DIY it by picking up a proper running hat (designed to be washed a lot and to dry quickly) and running it under a cold tap/fountain/waterfall in your hour of need. Stick it back on your head and sigh as the cool water drips down your face. Repeat as required.

Lower your pace 

Running in the heat puts a lot more stress on the body. It’s harder work and it means things like your heart rate are above normal levels. If you run at the same pace as usual, chances are you’ll have to stop at some point because you’ve hit your limit. Pointless if you’re training for something. Take it down a notch and maintain the pace or even use a heart rate monitor to gauge your effort levels.

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 Hydration is a preparatory, not reactive 

Alright, it’s kind of both. When you’re thirsty, you should probably drink something. Especially in the heat. But pre-hydrating yourself is a pretty smart move when the weather heats up and reduces how much you’ll need to top up mid-run. If you don’t drink plenty of water in the hours leading up to a race, you’ll be working at a hydration deficit. The result is that you’ll be inefficiently trying to fix it at a time when you need it the most.

Choose a shady route 

10k in relentless sunlight is not fun. Unless you’re training for the Marathon de Sables, you’re basically making things really hard on yourself for no extra benefit. Choose routes where there’s inevitably going to be a fair bit of shades, like woodland or built up areas. Not only will it dehydrate you, you’ll also end with a much greater risk of being burnt.