The days are long and wonderfully warm. We find few excuses to hide inside during the summertime. But we also know the season is best enjoyed by keeping a few runner safety tips in mind while logging those sunshine miles.
Read on for three key ways to prepare for those sweaty sessions outside:
Make yourself tick-resistant.
The number of tick-borne illnesses across the county continues to rise, according to the Centers for Disease Control, and due to climate change, the areas of the country where ticks now reside is also expanding. That means runners should take precautions, especially if training in areas with a high likelihood of tick infestation.
Lyme disease, for example, is a common, serious tick-borne illness that, in some cases, can lead to long-term symptoms, including fatigue, pain, and joint and muscle aches.
The best way to avoid contact with ticks is to stay away from areas with long grass and plants, but if you’re heading to a high-risk area, some run safety options include covering up or wearing clothing treated with permethrin, an insect repellant. You can buy permethrin-treated apparel or apply the repellant to your running clothes yourself.
After your run, shower immediately and do a full-body check for ticks. And don’t forget runner safety applies to your furry four-legged partner—be sure to check the pooch, too.
Defend against sun exposure.
Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in the U.S. and because runners often spend an above-average amounts of time under the sun, it is always of concern.
A good old sunburn is preventable even if you’re running at high noon. Sunburns are caused by ultraviolet (UV) rays, and like suntans, they’re a sign of skin damage. Sun exposure can lead to skin cancers, premature skin aging, immune system depression, and eye problems.
The Food and Drug Administration released a proposal in February for updated guidelines on sunscreen aimed at ingredient safety, dosage guidelines, and SPF broad-spectrum requirements, so that consumers can more easily identify product information.
If you’re not running in the wee hours of the summer morning or after the sun starts to set, lather on the sunscreen—at least 15 SPF, wear protective clothing and sunglasses that provide 100 percent UV ray protection. For long runs, be sure to reapply your sunscreen.
The lips are commonly overlooked when covering up. Try a lip balm with SPF protection to help prevent skin cancer (and keep them moisturized in the sun).
We hear it all the time: don’t forget to hydrate. But the importance of getting enough fluids can’t be overstated. Lack of hydration and electrolytes (for muscle function) leads to headaches, heat exhaustion, heat stroke, and kidney damage. Research shows just a 1 percent dehydration level can negatively affect mood, memory, and motor coordination.
And precautions in the heat are only getting more critical for outdoor enthusiasts. According to NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the past four years were the warmest on record around the world. It’s caused race organizations to rethink start times for runner safety—in September at the IAAF World Championships in Doha, Qatar, for example, the men’s and women’s marathons will begin at midnight to help athletes cope with the high temperatures.
You can be sure those pro runners won’t cram for the test, though, and neither should the rest of us. Instead of chugging a bottle of water right before a run, it’s important to drink frequently, sipping throughout the day (every day) and eat foods with salt to maintain electrolyte balance.
On those long, hot runs bring a sports drink to help replace the sodium, potassium, and magnesium lost through sweat. For runs shorter than 60 minutes, you don’t need the extra calories in most sports drinks (though zero-calorie electrolyte fluids are also available), but make sure to drink water.
Editor’s note: At Women’s Running, we are committed to helping readers feel safe and empowered on every run. This article is made possible by sponsorship from Sabre.