Despite South Africa’s sweltering climate, there are some benefits when running in summer. For instance, the sun rising earlier and setting later means that there’s a lot of extra time in the day.
However, running in summer comes with a very particular set of challenges, and if you don’t take the necessary precautions, the heat might catch you off-guard.
Here are some tips for keeping cool when running in summer.
1. Choose the right time of day
Early morning and late afternoon runs make a lot more sense than having the sun beat down on you during midday. Choosing the right time of day will make your run safer and more comfortable.
2. Adjust your route
If you do run when the sun is still high in the sky, choose a route that is shaded. If this means cutting through the shade of the bush, do it, but keep in mind that it is wise to choose a route that is not too secluded and off the beaten path.
3. Choose the right gear
In summer, wearing as little as possible is key. Choose clothes with moisture-wicking properties, like these from Compressport, and remember your hat or cap. Wear loose fitting, meshed clothes in light colours that reflect the rays of the sun, and don’t forget sunglasses with a UV filter.
4. Use sunscreen
Apply sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 (50 is even better) to all the parts of your body that are exposed, including your ears, the back of your neck and knees, and your lips.
It is important to be hydrated whichever season it is, but staying hydrated in summer is non-negotiable. When you sweat, you don’t just lose water, but also minerals and iron. Just a small amount of water loss can have an effect on performance and your overall health. Hydrate well before your run, and if you’re planning a long one, take a water bottle along and sip from it regularly.
6. Easy does it
It is more strenuous on the body to run in summer than it is in other seasons. If you experience any adverse symptoms like headaches, dizziness, muscle cramps or intense thirst, look for shade, take a break and drink water. Heat stroke can lead to damage to your kidneys, heart, muscles and even your brain. This is not the season to exert yourself too much. Listen to your body, and take emergency measures if necessary.