Hydration for runners

It Ain't Half Hot

Coach Alan Newman shows how to stay safe this summer...

Summer has arrived. At 04:43 am on Wednesday 21st June 2023, a crowd of some 8,000 druids, pagans and other tourists celebrated the summer solstice at Stonehenge and around 200,000 music lovers are expected to turn Worthy Farm in Somerset into one the biggest campsites in the world at the 51st Glastonbury Festival this weekend.

Other sure signs of the change of season are that, after the wettest March on record since 1981 according to Met Office statistics, the first hose-pipe bans are already in force – in fact, in Cornwall the ban has never been lifted since last summer and North Devon imposed its own ban in April!

June is 2C warmer on average than for the past 30 years and the Met Office has issued Amber heat health alerts while not ruling out a return to the blistering temperatures we saw last year when the all-time record 40.3C (104.5F) was recorded in Lincolnshire, resulting in a rare Red 'risk to life' heat health warning, as we reported here on runABC.

So, how do we maintain fitness while not putting ourselves at any undue risk or unwittingly adding to the pressures already faced by the NHS? Resident runABC coach Alan Newman offers some advice...

Drink often, and enough. Sounds simple, but how many of us know whether we are reaching the European Food Safety Authority guidelines of two litres of fluid per day for women; 2.5 litres for men? Remember, these are average figures for the general population, not athletes. One way to measure this is to keep a 500ml bottle of tap water cooling in the fridge and make sure you refill it four or five times a day. Add an additional 500ml per hour of fluid intake when running, plus an extra 500ml in the hour after training. Reduce diuretics like caffeine and alcohol, particularly prior to a long training run or race.

Ditch the ubiquitous black kit and go for lighter shades or white to help reflect the heat. Consider wearing a cap and/or some cool sunshades. Dress for the second mile, not how you feel when you first step outside. Obviously, technical clothing that wicks sweat away is a must. And, of course, before you put anything else on – apply sunscreen!

Training Intensity
Reduce pace and distance to suit the conditions. It really is harder to run when temperatures exceed 20C, so adapt your training to take this into account. Consider changing training times to early morning or evening when it will likely be cooler and possibly less humid.

Training Venue
Can you go to the gym and do a treadmill session or head for some shady woodland trails instead of a midday road run with the sun bouncing off the tarmac? Is it wiser to practice those running technique drills under the trees, rather than banging out yet another long run to impress your Strava followers?

Check Your Pee
The urge to urinate every few hours is normal. Your pee should be a pale straw-like colour. If it's dark and/or you don't want to pee for many hours, you may be dehydrated. Don't panic, but don't train until you have balanced the fluid and electrolytes in your body or you could be heading for kidney stones (incredibly painful), cramping, heat exhaustion, or even heat stroke. In the absence of electrolyte drinks, try dilute squash with some added salt – it tastes awful but it will do the trick.

With a few simple precautions and minor adjustments, we can all enjoy our training and racing this summer. It'll be winter before we know it and we'll be back to moaning about the weather again!

Photo: Courtesy

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