If you’re of the opinion that Singapore is the hottest place on the planet during certain times of the year, it may just feel that way. When we slide into the sultry season, humidity is high and it’s hard to muster enough energy to get from one air conditioned place to another. In fact, you may look upon humidity and heat as being the enemy of every runner… but don’t be so harsh!
Heat does more than make people cranky: it’s great for your skin (dermatologists and cosmetologists agree) and when it’s humid, according to new research, 86-percent of airborne virus particles can’t “do their jobs” when humidity levels are 43-percent or above.
This helpful information may hit home with you — until you’re out there on the trail or the pavement perspiring like a racehorse! But there are measures you can take to offset some of the debilitating effects of the Singapore heat and who better to dig them up than our editorial staff?
Survival Tip #1: Baptize yourself.
No religious affiliation required! We’re borrowing a tip from doctor/marathoner Derek Li who swears by his impromptu shower habit: “I douse water on my head every 10 to 15 minutes to keep myself cool,” he says, which means that he not only re-hydrates repeatedly, but while he’s at it, he dumps water over his head, too.
Dr Li also recommends undertaking strenuous workouts only in the early morning, before the sun comes up if possible!
Survival Tip #2: Make the trade.
If it’s obscenely hot and humid outside, trade your usual outdoor conditioning run for a treadmill session at the gym where the air-conditioning is cranked up. Run your usual distance so you keep up the pace you maintain when you run outside.
Is there a downside to sheltering in a gym? There is. Other members may come up with the same idea for staying cool, so get to the gym early or you could find yourself waiting around for someone to get off a treadmill so you can snag it.
Survival Tip #3: Turn to science for ways to manage your body’s heat tolerance.
Researchers at Singapore’s DSO National Laboratories have studied the relationship between runners and heat for years and recommend a heat acclimatization process that takes about 10 days to kick in.
Adopt this conditioning regimen by interspersing low-intensity exercise with moderate-intensity exercise for 30-minute sessions for five days straight and then repeat. This simple routine not only helps a runner cope with heat stress but heart stress, too.
Survival Tip #4: Pay attention to weather reports.
Is this a silly bit of advice? Not really. Heat advisories sent out by Singapore’s Meteorological Service help citizens to stay on top of heat waves, and prognosticators are becoming experts at tracking weather patterns that show, for example, when Pasir Panjang records the nation’s highest daily mean temperature.
You likely already know that April tends to be the worst month in Singapore in terms of heat, so even if you don’t normally keep tabs on forecasts, make it a point to do so throughout April and May, at the very least.
Survival Tip #5: This is no time to obey your usual fashion rules!
Get your hair off your neck and wear loose-fitting, light-coloured separates when you run your circuit to minimize the effects a humid day can have on your body. It’s just plain foolish to don heavy clothing, layers of clothing or togs that don’t breathe — unless you intend to overheat your body, in which case, carry a mobile so someone can call for medical help when you pass out.
Linen and cotton are preferred by people in the tropics and that’s no accident! There are a few sports attire that come with new technologies which provide instant cooling sensations that last and while helping athletes combat the heat, such as the adidas Climachill collection, 2XU ICE collection, Columbia Omni-Freeze ZERO collection or any attire powered by Coolcore technology.
Survival Tip #6: Behave differently when it’s hot.
Take more breaks when you run than usual, even if it means you don’t quite get the distance or endurance results you crave. Monitor your vital signs for tell-tale indications of overheating — confusion, dizziness, blurred vision, vomiting, nausea, disorientation and more – that can land you in hospital with a full-on heat exhaustion crisis.
If you need to deliver immediate relief to your body, stop or slow down and splash cold water over your pulse points (wrists, temples and face).
Survival Tip #7: Drink up.
Hydration is so important to sustaining the body that without any, people die. Try to pump yourself up with water at regular intervals so you don’t find yourself feeling thirsty, because by that time, you may already be flirting with dehydration.
One sign that you’re not drinking enough (in addition to the aforementioned symptoms of overheating) is that you’re not urinating very much despite your water intake. And we don’t have to remind you that drinking anything alcoholic when you run is just plain dumb, right?
Survival Tip #8: Eat for the heat.
It’s an easy rhyme to remember and on the days when you intend to run in the heat, did you know that your diet can help you stay cool? Make like a farm animal and graze rather than sitting down to big meals, and when you graze, eat small portions of refreshing foods — cold soups, salads, fruits and fish — to feel cooler.
Save that burger for cooler weather when your body requires a protein-fueled fire to heat up your system. You may already know this, but if you choose spicy dishes during heatwaves, the chemical capsaicin will make you sweat and as it evaporates, you feel cooler.
Survival Tip #9: Hypnotise yourself!
Undertake your conditioning runs in places that offer more relief than, for example, city parks or urban tracks. If you run along the water’s edge, you’ll be psychologically influenced by the body of water, whether you’re on a beach, circling a reservoir or running along a riverbank.
If that’s not possible, choose places like Bukit Timah Nature Reserve where a high concentration of forest canopy means you can escape direct contact with the sun. Run there early in the morning while following tips listed in this article and you may say, “What heat?” when you’re done with your run!
Survival Tip #10: Be creative!
Don’t be afraid to take unorthodox measures to cool down, no matter how silly you may look or feel. Stick a hot water bottle (filled with water) into the freezer, throw it into a lightweight, waterproof backpack and wear it when you run. You can even place your running clothes in the freezer.
Research portable, battery-operated fans to see if one might work for you on the go. During your run, pour ice cold water into your hat and place it back on your head. As it drips down, you cool off.
There’s nothing we love more than clever, innovative ideas for staying cool, so could we call upon you to send us your own method(s) for beating Singapore’s worst heat?