April 14, 2022

Running in the Heat

Running in the Heat

It is August which means the heat is here to stay for a couple more months. What does this mean for your body as you log in those miles?

How does the body react to warmer temperatures?

The body has a way of cooling itself down which is called sweating. As the core temperature in your body rises, sweat is produced which evaporates off the skin causing it to cool down. While running our working muscles produce heat. Another way the body cools itself down is by carrying blood away from working muscles to the skin. Heat radiating off your skin into the air cools you. 

What happens with your muscles as you continue to run in the heat?

Your muscles are working hard as you run. They use oxygen and produce carbon dioxide. Blood is the usual carrier of oxygen to the muscles and takes away the carbon dioxide from the working muscles. in the heat the blood is also busy cooling you down and moving toward the skin. The body continues to use more water to make sweat, and pulls from the muscle as it is still trying to work hard running. The muscles have to work even harder to continue to run.

High humidity and dew point can make it difficult for sweat to evaporate because the air is already full of water vapor. This is bad news for the body trying to cool itself while running. 

Give yourself a little grace since you now understand why your body is going slower during those hot runs. The body is doing a lot to both run and cool itself in hot conditions. But your body can acclimate to hot conditions. It can actually strengthen. Running in the heat can increase your sweat rate, which in turn will cool you more as long as you can stay hydrated. Studies show that heat acclimation training can also increase your VO2 max, lactate threshold, and blood plasma volume, all of which will translate to faster running with less effort.

There are dangers to running in the heat. Be mindful of any of these symptoms. If your body temperature goes above 100 degrees you could expect problems.

Here are 3 stages of heat sickness.

1. Heat Cramps- it feels like a sharp pain in the muscles. You should stop, rehydrate, and rest until the cramps subside.

2. Heat Exhaustion- The second stage of heat illness is marked by feeling dizzy, tired, and/or nauseated, sweating profusely, having cold, clammy skin, a fast, weak pulse, and possibly fainting. Take steps to cool yourself right away

3. Heat Stroke- occurs when your body’s core temperature rises above 103 degrees Fahrenheit (39.4 degrees Celsius). It is life-threatening so seek emergency medical attention and take steps to treat it immediately! Symptoms include hot, red, dry skin, a fast, strong pulse, and confusion, as well as the above symptoms of heat exhaustion.

You CAN run in the heat, and you can actually become stronger from it. Just be very aware of your body and stay as cool as possible by running in the shade, wearing a hat, and hydrating often.