Have you ever stared out the window of your air-conditioned apartment in July as a panting runner passes by below, and thought, "they're bonkers"?
You're not alone.
But some UAE residents do run throughout the scorching summer months, and, with a few crucial tips, it might not be as difficult as you think.
For many this year, with gyms at a limited capacity and people avoiding crowded places, running outside is going to remain their preferred option, even as temperatures hit 30 degrees Celsius by 6am.
So we spoke to Heidi Jones, Lululemon's first Run Community Ambassador, about how to navigate the summer months if you're determined to keep running outdoors. Jones will be leading the Lululemon Global Running Day challenge on Wednesday, June 3, inviting UAE residents to log a five kilometre run on Strava to keep the running community motivated.
Jones set up a health coaching practice in 2015 following a nine-year stint as a secondary school design technology teacher.
Here are her tips for running outside during the summer...
Be smart with timings and locations
Jones says it's important to exercise at the coolest times of the day, even if that means getting up excruciatingly early.
"Getting up at 4am may seem like drastic action, however it can make a huge difference to outdoor training. Not only is it cooler and the sun is not beating down on you, but you get to enjoy the sunrise.
"Using the evenings has the advantage that it will be getting cooler [as you run, rather than hotter in the mornings]. Watch the sun set or wait until the sun has gone down completely."
If you're running outside of the city limits or somewhere more isolated, Jones stresses to stick to trails where there's shade, easy access to water and a phone signal.
"Do not go running in the trails or mountains on your own, or for the first time during the summer, even if you have been before – take the heat seriously, it can be very dangerous if you’re underprepared."
Three ways to stay hydrated
Proper hydration is essential for runners at all times of year, but in summer it is even more important as we're losing a lot more water through increased sweat.
Jones offers three methods of keeping the water stocks in your body up:
- Increase your daily amount from two litres per day, to up to three to five litres per day, depending on your size and how much physical movement and sweating you do per day.
- To get the most out of drinking water, sip it throughout the day, don't just "down it" in one go.
- For the runners, hikers, explorers and outdoor climbers, start wearing a hydration pack when you are training outdoors, so you can continue to sip water during training.
We lose electrolytes in our sweat, therefore adding an electrolyte tablet to one of your water bottles will help you replace the excess you are losing by running in the heat, potentially helping you with fluid retention and muscle cramping.
Increase fresh hydrating foods, such as fruits and vegetables, with each meal. Here are five to get you started:
- Cucumber – water content 96.7 per cent
- Iceberg lettuce – water content 95.6 per cent
- Celery – water content 95.4 per cent
- Tomatoes – water content 94.5 per cent
- Strawberries – water content 91 per cent
Focus on your health, not your time-per-KM or PB
No matter how good you feel, make sure you take your pace down and don't go for as long a distance as you would in the cooler months. You should also continue to focus on speed work, endurance, flexibility etc, but just make sure the workouts aren't as intense.
"If it’s your first time training in higher temperatures, a jog or walk is a good place to start," Jones says.
"To maintain a low heart rate run, the best thing to do is to run with a friend and keep the pace steady so you can have a conversation – while 2 metres apart. Wear a heart-rate monitor and check-in with your numbers, and always remember to listen to your body, it’s never wrong."
If you're feeling unwell, stop.
Always remember why you run
"Physical exercise is about so much more than improving your physical appearance and fitness levels," Jones says.
"Moving your body in a way that it enjoys will increase your overall wellness. This includes your mental and emotional wellbeing, managing stress levels, feeling happier, creating work-life balance and improving your mindfulness.
"It’s your 'why' that is going to help you keep running – even when circumstances change."
A running coach can also help provide more detailed, tailor-made plans to help you stay fit and safe through summer, Jones says.
Coronavirus in the UAE