Runners are a dedicated bunch.  Most pound the pavement in every kind of weather: rain, snow, hail and even the blazing heat.  But did you know that running in the hot summer heat can actually be hazardous to your health if not approached correctly?  It absolutely can – here’s an overview of how and why, and what you can do to minimize your risk this summer season.

Safely Running In Summer

On air quality

Air quality is lowest in the summer months, particularly in urban areas like Toronto, which means that there are more pollutants in the air than any other time of year. When you exercise, your heart rate increases causing you to breathe faster and heavier, taking in more air than when at rest. Inhaling a large volume of low-quality air can reduce the function of your lungs, cause inflammation, swelling, chest pain and coughing for days following your run.

What do Doctors recommend?

You may be surprised to learn that many doctors compare running in smoggy conditions to smoking cigarettes. This is because once the inhaled pollutants enter your blood stream, they make the cholesterol more “sticky” which increases the likelihood of blockages that can result in heart attacks. And it doesn’t end there: running in the heat can also lead to dehydration, heat stroke, heat cramps and heat exhaustion.

Our top seven tips for your running success:

To help keep you running safely in the hot spring and summer heat.

1.  Check the Air Quality Health Index

In Canada, you can check the air quality for your city (and even your neighbourhood) at any given time to determine whether it is safe to run outside. If the air quality is poor, opt for an indoor treadmill run instead (or see #3).

2. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate

Drink water (and lots of it) before, during and after your run. You can even weigh yourself directly before a run and after – if you have lost weight, it means you sweat more than you drank and you need to drink more next time.  Take either a water belt or a hand held water bottle with you.

3. Keep it Early or Late

The temperatures are lower in the early morning and in the evening. Avoid running in the middle of the day or during rush hour when there are more vehicles on the road and therefore pollutants in the air.

We recommend to run at dusk or dawn. These are generally the coolest times of the day. And best for your lungs and overall health.

tips for runners by personal trainers

4. Dress Appropriately 

Wear a hat, sunglasses and moisture-wicking clothing in light colours. You may even want to soak your hat before you leave or at any water fountains you pass to keep your head cool.

5. Allow for Acclimation

 If you’re not used to running in the heat, don’t expect to set a personal best the first time you try. Instead, slow your pace down, decrease your distance and allow yourself to take breaks whenever needed.

Your best bet for hot-weather running is a shady trail with soft terrain, like Toronto’s Beltline Trail, or Collingwood Ontario’s Georgian Trail.

You can also allow your body including your joints to acclimatize by giving them a break. And do some cross training such as workout in the pool. Which is excellent for your ankles and knees and hips.

6.  Find the Shade 

A shady trail is hands-down the best place to run in the heat because it offers protection from the added heat of the sun. 

7.  Avoid Concrete

If you can’t find a trail, at least opt for a pathway or grass as opposed to concrete. Concrete retains heat which can make it harder for you to keep your temperature down. 

Your Overall Fitness

By following the above tips, you will not only increase the safety of your runs, but also your comfort and enjoyment during them.

If you would like more one-on-one support and coaching from a certified personal trainer, we offer fitness training services in the Greater Toronto Area. If you live elsewhere, we also provide virtual personal training. Contact us to find out how a Nielsen Fitness trainer can help you improve in your running and overall fitness.  Happy running!

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