There are many potential hazards runners face daily, such as hydration, blisters, or any number of overuse injuries; one huge factor that is often overlooked is the sun! As the summer comes around, more and more people run outside but are unprepared for the dangerous rays of the sun.
Although spending time outside can increase the amount of Vitamin D your body can produce, it also increases your risk of sun burn, early aging, and skin cancer. The American Academy of Dermatology reports that sun exposure is the most preventable risk factor for all skin cancers. Here are a few tips to stay safe in the sun:
1. Sunblock: Wear a waterproof broad spectrum (protection from both UVA and UVB rays) sunblock with SPF greater than 30.
2. Protective clothing: Often during a long run, you risk sweating off the SPF you so diligently applied prior to the start of your run. Sun-protective clothing such as long sleeves, pants, hats, and visors can provide additional protection. A hat ensures that you’re protecting even the most overlooked area of your skin: your hairline and the top of your head. Sunglasses with UV protection can also protect the sensitive areas of your eyes.
3. Train in the early morning or later hours of the day: The sun’s rays are strongest between 10:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. Avoid these hours of the day to protect your skin from the sun.
4. Make sure to hydrate: As the weather gets warmer, there is also a higher risk of overheating. Make sure to hydrate adequately on your run. Map out the closest water fountains or carry a water bottle on your run.
5. Skin check: Be aware of any changes in your skin, as early detection is critical. Know your ABCDE’s of melanoma (Asymmetry, Borders, Color, Diameter and Elevation). If you are unsure, seek medical advice from your dermatologist and make sure to schedule an annual skin check.
Remember, the sun is out 365 days of the year, so keep these tips in mind all year round!
Leigh-Ann Plack, PT, DPT, is an advance clinician at the Hospital for Special Surgery Site Affiliated with JPMorgan Chase. She specializes in running and endurance athletes. She is a certified USA Track and Field Level 1 coach and Ironman Certified Coach. She has run nine marathons and two Half-Ironman triathlons. She is currently working on her EdD in Applied Exercise Physiology at Columbia University Teachers College.