Summer in Georgia is sweltering. But that doesn't mean you have to give up on running outdoors. Instead, if you're running in heat, we have some important safety tips from Powder Springs podiatrist Dr. Alvin Cowans. But first, let's review some of the problems you could face if you run outdoors in hot, humid weather.

Running in Heat and Humidity: Risks to Consider

There is a potential danger if you run outside in the heat of the day. For that reason, you may wish to wake up early and train outside before the full force of the sun takes over. (You can also follow additional safety tips, highlighted below.) But why is it so important to take precautions when running in heat? Here are some of the potential problems that could occur:

1. Cramping.

As the weather heats up, you will sweat more when you run, causing you to dehydrate at a faster rate. In turn, you could develop an
electrolyte imbalance. And, if that happens, you may develop heat cramps, typically in your stomach or in large groups of muscles.

2. Fainting.

Fainting is a major risk when you're running in heat, especially if you make a sudden stop instead of gradually slowing your momentum. Why is that the case? When you go from a full run to a complete stop, blood may pool in your veins instead of flowing back up to your heart and head. In turn, you could get dizzy and faint. So, to avoid this problem, try to maintain a slow and steady pace while you train outdoors (more on that below.) And, when you're ready to take a break, gradually slow down for at least five minutes, taking your pace to a job then walk before completely stopping all movement.

3. Exhaustion.

Another side effect of an electrolyte imbalance, heat exhaustion is a medical condition that means more than just feeling tired after a hard run. Instead, with this condition, your core body temperature rises, sometimes up to a dangerous 104°F. If that occurs, you'll develop symptoms such as nausea, severe sweating, headaches and fatigue. Luckily, you can usually prevent exhaustion with proper hydration. But if you feel yourself overheating, try getting indoors as soon as possible, making sure to apply cold compresses or even ice packs to your face and neck to help you cool down quickly. 

 4. Hyponatremia.

While it sounds silly, you can actually get sick from overhydrating. This happens if you sweat out a lot of electrolytes, and replace them with water instead of a sports drink or gel pack. (More on that below.) Early signs of this condition include a headache, confusion and twitching muscles. But, left untreated, the dilution to sodium levels in your blood could prove fatal. So take every precaution to avoid this concern by drinking electrolyte-rich sports beverages instead of plain water when you're running in heat. 

5. Stroke.

Remember when we said heat exhaustion can raise your core body temperature to 104°F? Well, that's because if it goes any higher, you'll be facing the risk of heat stroke, a medical emergency characterized by vomiting, headache, nausea, disorientation, and a rapid pulse rate. The only way to reverse heat stroke is with IV-fluids and, in some cases, immersion in ice water. So, if you even suspect you've crossed the threshold into stroke territory, call for emergency medical support right away. 

Now, we know all these risks are scary. And they are worth worrying about, in order to protect your health and wellbeing this summer. Fortunately, though, most are preventable. Especially if you follow Dr. Alvin Cowans' top tips for running safely during the hot summer months.

Safety Tips for Running in Heat  Runners training outdoors

If you want to avoid sports injuries in the summer, and still enjoy your outdoor runs, here's what you have to do:

1. Plan your outfit carefully.

Choose light colored clothing. Wear sunglasses and a visor or hat. And, especially when it comes to your socks, look for sweat-wicking materials instead of cotton. That will keep moisture away from the body, helping you stay cooler and avoid concerns such as blisters and athlete's foot.

2. Hydrate wisely

When you're running in heat, drinking water may not be enough to make up for the electrolytes you'll sweat out. Instead, look for sports drinks with plenty of electrolytes in them. And, even when your workout is over, increase your fluid intake for the rest of the day to help you avoid dehydration.

3. Go slow(er).

If you're running in hot, humid weather, don't try to beat your best time or increase your training distance dramatically. Instead, stick to a comfortable pace, route and distance, because simply running in heat adds resistance to your workout.

Now that you know how to manage external risks like heat and humidity, let's help protect your feet from other factors that could lead to running injuries!

Preventing Overuse Injuries from Running

Whether you're enduring humid temperatures or training indoors, in air condition, the act of running increases your risk for overuse injuries like plantar fasciitis and Achilles tendinitis. But often, we can help the patients in our Powder Springs podiatry practice prevent these problems. Here's how.

First, make sure to pay attention to your running form. It's important to fully extend your leg at the end of your stride. Otherwise, your toes will bear the brunt of the force that happens when you push off the ground. In turn, you'll put more pressure on the muscles in your calves. And that could lead to pain and inflammation, both in your Achilles tendon or your plantar fascia. (The band of connective tissue running from your heel to your midfoot.)

In addition to maintaining proper running form, you can help prevent these injuries by maintaining a safe training schedule. Try to avoid running every day, and make sure to cross train, incorporating other types of movement into your workout routine. (Strength training is especially important.) Finally, depending on your running style and foot shape, getting fitted for a pair of custom orthotics could help take pressure off your feet. So, if you want to keep running all summer, but don't want to deal with pain or injuries, schedule an apppointment with Dr. Cowans today! He can provide you with a safe training plan and any necessary supportive devices that will keep you on track to meet your training goals!