Northern Ireland

When is the best time to run in summer?

Woman jogger in park Image copyright simonkr

We're in the last month of summer and as Autumn approaches it means a return to the running season.

I'm a bit of a runner and I am often asked this: How's the weather looking for park run or a race?

Whether you're a regular marathon runner or simply enjoy the occasional jog, there's no denying that a gorgeous, sunny day is often the best incentive to get out there and pound the pavement.

But training in the summer months brings challenges.

How does the weather affect your body during exercise?

When it's too hot, you're bound to sweat a lot, which can lead to dehydration.

Dehydration can lead to cramping, muscle weakness, nausea, light headedness and lack of concentration.

In fact, when you run in really hot weather, you may actually lose as much as much as 2% of your body weight from sweat alone, which is pretty mind-blowing when you think about it.

Is there an optimum temperature for running outdoors?

There's actually a "just-right" temperature, but it depends on the type of running you'll be doing.

After reviewing weather and race data from past Olympic events, researchers from the University of Tulsa used the information to determine the best outdoor weather temperature for optimal running performance.

The results differed between marathon runners and sprinters.

Image copyright Paul Bradbury

When it came to running longer distances, 10C was found to be the ideal temperature for men, and just a degree higher for women.

The sprinters, however, were able to fare better in warmer weather. For example, in the 100m, men and women performed best when the temperature was about 22C or 23C.

This is why long distance runs tend to be outside peak summer months and start early in the morning or in the evening time.

What about other weather conditions?

There is definitely such a thing as the fair-weather runner but rainy weather shouldn't send people running to the treadmill.

These islands see their fair share of rain, even in the summer, and most races are not cancelled because of rain.

Image copyright NicoPelon

A hat with a brim can be your best friend during a rainy run - it will keep the rain off your face so you can see - even in a downpour.

Overdressing is one of the biggest mistakes runners make.

Wearing more layers will not keep you dry. Unless you're running with an umbrella over your head, you will definitely get wet.

If you have tonnes of layers on, you will just be wearing more wet, heavy clothing.

Next up wind - it's a force that will hold you back significantly if you are running into a headwind which will mean a slower time.

A "substantial" wind - one approximately equal to the pace you are running at - will set you back 12 seconds per mile with a headwind and aid you by six seconds per mile with a tailwind.

But the extra effort you need to put into the headwind in one direction, even with a tailwind the other way, will still mean a slower run compared with little or no wind.

Some of the best races in the world are held on cool spring and summer nights, after the winds die down.

So, see you at the next Park Run!

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