With the onset of summer across India, most people are running indoors or wherever it’s cooler. But there are some for whom outdoor activities — especially running — are important, even in peak summer.
However, running in the summer heat warrants certain precautions to ensure that you stay safe. Doctors speak to South First to discuss some essential precautions to take while running outdoors during the summer months.
Dr Sudhir Kumar, a neurologist at Apollo Hospitals in Hyderabad, is a runner by passion. He’s a fitness enthusiast and is popular on Twitter for his tips on fitness, especially for runners.
Speaking to South First, Dr Sudhir says, “Several people get on to the streets for exercise and running. Summer is harder for running than other seasons, mainly because of greater heat and humidity,” he said.
Is it safe to run during summer?
Dr Sudhir says that it is safe to run during summer.
“If a person has been running for some time, they can continue running the distances they are used to, including 5K/10K/half marathons or marathons. However, those who are just beginning their journey should be careful not to log long distances without proper training,” he explains.
Adding to this, Dr Ananya Putaraju, Senior Consultant and Robotic Joint Replacement at Hosmat Hospital, Bengaluru, talks about marathons. He says that marathons are a physical activity that is celebrated all over.
However, preparation is important. He adds that the main aim of marathons is to develop stamina and running can be a good mental activity too. However, it depends on one’s health. It is important to plan for the runs, whatever season it is.
Here are some precautions to take while running in summer
Before deciding to begin running, the doctors stress on the need for planning, training, and a physical examination too. Dr Ananya says that it is important to meet a physician for health advice.
Doctors insist that it is essential to understand your body’s limits and health conditions before engaging in any physical activity, especially during the summer.
If you have any pre-existing health conditions, such as asthma or heart problems, consult with your healthcare provider before starting a running routine.
“Don’t jump to do long runs. Increase the distance and pace gradually. Those with cardiological issues and other co-morbidities should get a health check-up done before deciding to enrol in a running programme. Regular stretches are absolutely needed pre and post run,” Dr Ananya explains.
Summer running tips from Dr Sudhir
Plan your route
It is better to plan your route in advance and choose shaded areas or trails with plenty of trees. This can help you avoid direct sunlight and reduce the risk of heatstroke or sunburn.
Dr Sudhir says that drinking plenty of fluids before, during, and after your run is crucial during the hot summer months. Dehydration can cause fatigue, cramps, and even heat exhaustion. As runners sweat more, the more they will dehydrate.
“The amount of hydration depends on the heat, distance of the run, and the amount of sweating. About 500-750 ml of fluids may be needed for every hour of running. Fluids should preferably be electrolytes, ORS, or water mixed with salt/glucose,” he says.
He stresses that drinking excessive amounts of plain water should be avoided, as it can lead to dilutional hyponatremia (low sodium), which can cause muscle cramps and pain.
Choose clothes wisely
Clothing also makes a difference. Dr Sudhir suggests wearing lighter clothes. Also, shirts that can absorb sweat are better, he adds.
“Wearing lightweight, breathable clothing can help regulate your body temperature and prevent overheating. Choose moisture-wicking fabrics that can pull sweat away from your skin and help keep you cool,” he adds.
Best time to run
Running during the hottest parts of the day, usually between 10 am and 4 pm, is not recommended, as the sun’s heat is at its peak during this time.
Instead, try to schedule your runs in the early morning or late evening when the temperature is cooler and the sun is not as harsh.
If someone is planning a long run, it may be advisable to start at 4:30 or 5 am so that the run finishes before 7 am. The weather tends to get warmer post that.
Take breaks during runs
It is important to take breaks and rest when necessary. Listen to your body and if you start to feel lightheaded or dizzy, stop and rest in a shaded area.
It is better to take a break and recover than push yourself and risk an injury or heat exhaustion.
Run with a partner
Running with a partner can be a fun way to stay motivated. It is also a smart way to stay safe. If you start to feel unwell, your running partner can help you get medical attention quickly.
Common complaints while running in summer
Some of the specific complaints, besides cramps, include migraines and headaches post run. People who already experience migraines should take extra care, says Dr Sudhir.
He says, “Both heat and running can trigger headache episodes. They need to find the right threshold of running (pace as well as distance) that is safe for them and doesn’t trigger a migraine attack.” He insists on proper hydration and taking adequate amount of salt to prevent migraine headache attacks.
Also Dr Sudhir insists that people with diabetes and hypertension should take their regular medications on time. Patients with heart diseases need to maintain an adequate balance between fluid intake and loss.
Additionally, if you experience symptoms such as dizziness, nausea, or excessive sweating during your run, stop immediately and seek medical attention.