Yesterday, I went for a four-mile run at Busse Woods around 4 p.m., when the heat was just about to decline from its peak; When I finished, I looked like I had just jumped into the lake next to the kayakers with the amount of sweat covering my body, and I was breathing like I just ran up Mount Everest. Running in the summer is not my friend.
I think for most people, sweat typically accumulates more once the run has ended – it’s almost like even if there is no breeze in the air, the slight draft from the consistent movement keeps you cool, but the minute you stop, it’s a torrential outpour of salty water from your skin. It feels so good to sweat, but it’s pretty gross (especially when my dog licks every ounce of sweat off my skin when I return from a run – I must have very salty sweat).
As I was sitting in the parking lot stretching, I started thinking a lot about running in the heat and sweat. I recently read that running in hot temperatures has a similar effect of running uphill or increasing your pace, so that was ultimately my motivation to finish; if I keep running when it’s hot, my runs in cooler weather will seem easier. At least that’s what I’m counting on.
I looked down at my gray, cotton tank top, and thought how I should have worn a sweat-soaking technical shirt, but since all of them are heavier t-shirts, not tank tops, I may have been hotter. That got me thinking.
In 90-degree plus weather, is it better for your body to wear clothes that absorb sweat, or to wear the lightest weight clothing possible? I prefer the latter, as I hate having fabric touching my hot skin, but I wanted to hear the real answer, so to the internet I went.
Unfortunately, this is not the black-and-white type of answer I thought it was. While most websites warn to stay away from cotton as it holds in moisture, others claim the opposite. Bustle says cotton is the best running material as it “is a natural fiber that absorbs moisture rather than repelling it.” But Fleet Feet says “on its own, a dry standard cotton t-shirt weighs about 8.5 ounces, whereas a dry standard synthetic shirt weighs about 4.5 ounces. When sweat is added, the cotton shirt becomes even heavier.” So, I concluded, like many things in the running world, it’s a personal preference. One thing was consistent across all websites though: the lighter the color of your clothing, the cooler you will be.
According to Livestrong.com, runners should stock up on moisture-wicking, quick-drying gear for the summer. This may seem like a no-brainer, if something absorbs sweat, why would you wear anything else in the heat? The fact that nearly every race provides a tech shirt for competitors must mean something, but I always felt like it made me sweat more. And, if you are not a frequent race participant, these materials can be pretty pricey. That’s why I’ve always resorted to athletic shorts and a light tank top – they’re comfortable, cheap and can be bought anywhere. But, I guess I’ll start taking the advice from the pros, and maybe I’ll go from a sweaty pig to a glowing gazelle. (yeah, right).
Another thing I found very interesting is how important sock material is. Like other clothing items, Fleet Feet advises straying away from cotton for your feet, as it makes them more prone to blisters. The same post said that the foot releases ¼ cup of sweat a day when resting, but a full cup just during a five mile run. Gross! Technical socks, though, are lightweight and breathable, and provide additional support and comfort with features like cushioning, compression panels and reinforcement panels. Seeing as I am always putting on Band-Aids before a run to prevent old blisters from reopening, I may have to invest in some technical fabric running socks.
When I felt like I had read enough articles about running in the heat, I stumbled across an article from London called Summer Science: Clothes Keep You Cool, More Or Less. This article began describing the importance of letting sweat evaporate, and to help with evaporation, you want as much of your skin exposed as possible. Therefore, in the summer, the best way to stay cool is to run naked.
I’ll just leave you with a picture of everyone taking that advice.