Athlete who ran over 200km through the desert shares advice for running in a heatwave
We’ve been hit with a September heatwave and, for runners – whether beginner or seasoned – it means added concerns around dehydration, chafing and generally keeping safe in the heat.
Ultramarathon runner Leon Bustin, 36, completed a 220km run through the Wadi Rum desert in Jordan in October 2022, so he knows a thing or two about dealing with hot weather while exercising.
Here is the athlete’s advice for heatwave running right now.
Be sun safe
“Covering your skin to avoid too much direct sunlight will really help,” says Bustin, who is also a content creator for Lean Machines and a personal trainer. “I highly recommend using a good zinc stick under the eyes and across the nose as well.
“I used a bright purple one in the desert to remind me of my daughter and also to show very clearly if there was a part I’d missed. [Use] a higher factor than you think you need.”
Hydration starts before a run
“Working on your hydration starts before you take a single step out of the door,” he says. “I even start my day with an electrolyte-rich glass of water as we even become dehydrated in our sleep.
“So having a good 500ml of electrolyte-rich water pre-run will really help, then as a good basic guideline take a further 500ml for each hour you are out.
“The important thing is adding the electrolytes to the water. If we over-consume [pure water] we may dilute and flush out essential electrolytes and trace minerals as we pee.”
Cool bare skin
“Try cooling the glabrous – or none hairy- areas, it really helps flush heat out of your body fast,” says Bustin. “Those areas include the palms of your hands, under eyes, ears and soles of your feet.
“Every time l arrived at an aid station in the desert l would hand over my water bottles to be refilled and plunge my hands straight into a bucket of coldish water, splash my face then keep the hands there for a good 30 to 40 seconds.”
For those of us without air stations, Bustin suggests wetting exposed skin with water from a bottle. Pop a flannel in the freezer before going on a run and run it across your skin afterwards, or midway.
“The key to keeping cool on a run is managing your core temperature because if that rises too much, put simply, it will be the end of your race,” he adds.
“Breathing right for you is really important to get nailed down regardless of the running conditions, but especially in the heat as we don’t want to put any unnecessary extra stress on our bodies – because it will just cost more energy,” says Bustin.
“We all tend to over-breathe through our mouth so simply focusing more of our inward breaths to be through the nose will help more than you think and over time both bring down and regulate your average heart rate greatly.”
Be careful of the chafe
Chafing can put you off pretty early in your running journey, and in the heat, where shorts can leave thighs rubbing together and slick with sweat, it’s a run-ruiner.
“Anti-chafe cream is your best friend in the key areas (between the thighs and under the arms),” says Bustin, “but also if you get lots of toe blisters like me.
“I put a generous dose between my toes of a good oil-based anti-chafe or even just some good old Sudocrem to keep those toes gliding. The right cream for you will take trial and error and is also combined with wearing the right run kit for you as well.”
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