Running in the heat – tips for a holiday

How to keep your fitness regime on track while you are on holiday

Whether you are holidaying at home or abroad this year, respect the climate and its impact on your body and running performance.

If you choose to pack your running shoes, do not put yourself under pressure to achieve the same distances and speed as you normally run. For both recreational runners and elite athletes alike, running in the heat reduces your speed.  The body works overtime to keep you cool as your internal temperate rises. With additional possible humidity and altitude to contend with, you have a body that is fighting many challenges, not just the job of putting one foot in front of the other.

Adapt your run
Be flexible with your training plan while on holiday. Listen to your body and adapt to the conditions and the terrain. Be sensible and avoid situations where running might not be a good idea. Find a route that is less exposed to the heat than in direct sunlight. Follow the shade where you can. There may even be a case for hotel treadmills if the weather outside or the local area is not safe for running.

If you do venture outdoors in heat, wear light loose clothing and cover your head. Sun cream is essential and finding the right product that doesn’t run into your eyes might take a few attempts. In the meantime, Vaseline on your eyebrows will catch the drops. Running in early morning or late evening are the best times to avoid the heat although both of these options might require understanding holiday companions.


Keep hydrated
Hydration is a full-time job rather than a quick drink before you lace up your shoes. I prefer to hydrate gradually throughout the day as this avoids that feeling of fullness and the need to keep a lookout for the local public toilets. Depending on the length of your run, choose to bring along a drink with you. Cool down with a dip in the sea or pool for the ultimate run recovery. I always bring a few emergency euros in my back pocket to stop off in a shop for a drink en-route. If you plan your route perfectly, you can finish your run at an ice-cream shop and replenish a few calories with the remaining sweaty euros.

Many years ago I learnt the lesson the hard way that giving your body time to adapt to the heat is essential. Arriving into Lanzarote the night before the marathon may have got me the best flight prices, but landing into the Canary Islands heat directly from an Irish January was not the jump that my body needed. I spent many miles chasing the shade and wishing away the time. Even a few days of acclimatising and hydration would have helped my cause. Give your body the time to adapt to your surroundings and as the days pass you will notice that running may feel a little easier.

Get local knowledge
You won't be the only runner in town. Ask in your hotel about any recommended running routes or areas that should be avoided. There might be a local running club, shop or gym that organises group runs. Running tourism is on the rise with 5k parkruns now popular right across the world and large cities offering running tours of the tourist sites. The best advice comes from locals and you might just get a different insight into your holiday location by linking in with local runners.

Be practical
Find the right balance between running and resting on holiday. I love the freedom of running in a new location with a surprise around every corner and an appetite for breakfast when I return. Almost always, however, I do end up running a lot less on holiday than I plan. The challenge is not to feel guilty about having the lie-in or a lazy day. It is a holiday after all, but sometimes we do feel that the free time should be filled with activity rather than recovery. There may be days when running is not the most sensible thing to do.

A holiday should be your chance to have a break from the stress and routine of daily life. If your holiday schedule or weather means that fitting in a run might be more stressful than satisfying, decide if running is really the best use of your holiday time.

A total break?
Rather than feel guilty for putting off a run every morning of your holiday, you may choose instead to leave your running gear at home with the rest of your usual routine and give your running a complete holiday too. If you feel you might have withdrawal symptoms, you could always bring a book about running to read by the pool instead.  For some runners, especially those nursing a niggle or injury, this could possibly be your best choice of holiday workout.

Sign up for one of The Irish Times' Get Running programmes (it is free!).

First, pick the programme that suits you.
- Beginner Course: This programme is an eight-week course that will take you from inactivity to being able to run 30 minutes non-stop.
- Stay On Track: The second programme is an eight-week course for those of you who can squeeze in a 30- to 40-minute run three times a week.
- 10km Course: This is an eight-week course designed for those who can comfortably run for 30 minutes and want to move up to the 10km mark.
Best of luck!