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Running in the heat

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Running in the heat

By Vera Alves on 31st January 2018 Advice

Running in the heat

It can get hot out there!

This post first appeared as an article in the NZ Herald online.

In case you've been living in a really nice air-conditioned home under the shade of a giant tree and haven't noticed, it's really hot right now.

Still, as much as some would welcome the excuse, the heat is not a good reason to ditch your fitness goals, nor is it enough of a reason not to head outside and enjoy some sunshine.

All it means is there are a few extra precautions to take, to make sure you enjoy the outdoors safely.

Malcolm Law, Kiwi adventurer and keen trail ultrarunner, is not one to shy away from a challenge, be it in the snow or extreme heat.

Yesterday, Law completed The Ultra Easy 100km mountain run, in Wanaka, on what turned out to be the hottest day on record in that South Island town.

Law, who previously made headlines for running 50 marathons over 50 mountains in 50 consecutive days to raise money for the Mental Health Foundation of New Zealand, has now founded Wild Things, a nationwide trail running club with the goal of getting all New Zealanders enjoying the outdoors.

The club provides ideas, information and inspiration for anyone wanting to run off-road in New Zealand. It includes a crowdsourced trail directory, created by all Wild Things members, with detailed guides to hundreds of off-road runs all over the country.

While still recovering from his "mother of a run" in the mountains near Wanaka yesterday, now sitting in the shade, Law shares his tips for staying safe while keeping the heart rare up under the hot sun.

1. Stay hydrated. This means more than just drinking water at regular intervals (although please do that a lot). Working out outside during a heatwave requires more than water as your body is sweating out precious minerals. Make sure you hydrate with electrolytes as well.

2. Keep as much of your body covered as possible. This might sound counterintuitive, but it is important to keep your skin covered when working out outside, whether that's running or doing anything else. It is especially important to cover your head and neck - hats with flaps (Lawrence of Arabia style) are great for this weather.

3. If you can access ice, use it. Put some in your arm sleeves or in a bandanna around your neck or under your cap. It'll help reduce your body temperature quicker and slow down your heart rate as well.

4. Plan your run or outdoor activity near available sources of water - not just to drink but to jump in as well. "On Ultra Easy yesterday there were a few small creeks. I sat in each for at least five minutes and cooled off, soaking all clothes, especially headgear," Law said.

5. Modify your expectations. If you push too hard, you'll be in serious trouble. Just accept that you need to go slower in extreme heat - your heart is working extra hard anyway, don't add to the load by trying to run at speeds you'd do in cool weather. You might be running or working out slower, you might not be going very far, but at least you're still out there, enjoying the weather safely and creating some great summer memories, which definitely beats staying in doing nothing (as attractive as that might sound sometimes).

All these tips have one thing in common and it's the most important thing to keep in mind when exercising outdoors in the heat: you need to control your body's core temperature. "Once that's out of control, you're finished," he warns.

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