Like many runners, I spend every cold-weather season counting the days ‘til spring. Running in the cold is not my forte, so the warm weather is always a nice welcome.
But now that summer is here, the extreme heat and humidity can make it difficult to do any form of outdoor exercise, let alone running.
Running when it’s hot and humid can compound problems, and the longer you stay overheated, the more likely it is that you’ll sweat through your clothes again after you shower, dry off, and get dressed.
This happens to me whether I run before work or during my lunch break—and I really hate it.
If the same thing happens to you, then you know what I’m talking about.
The good news is that you’re not alone, and there are ways to stay cool and ward off heat-related issues when running in the summer.
Without further ado, here are six simple measures to relieve the discomfort of running when it’s hot out.
Pre-Cool Before the Run
This is something I started doing this past summer, and it works like a charm.
Pre-cooling is exactly what it sounds like. It’s a set of strategies that slightly lower your core body temperature before a workout.
The premise is simple: the cooler your body temperature is pre-exercise, the longer it takes for you to start sweating. That, in turn, prolongs the amount of time that you can run hard before reaching a critical temperature threshold.
Don’t take my word for it. Plenty of research backs this up. According to a study published in Sports Medicine, pre-cooling not only regulates body temperature during training but also improves performance. What’s not to like?
Before you run in the sun and heat, apply any of the following pre-cooling tactics:
- Hydrate with cold drinks at least two hours before your run.
- Try cooling garments. These are clothes designed to help lower your body temperature.
- Take a cold shower before your run. Soak your hair and leave it dripping wet.
- Sit in an air-conditioned room or next to a fan for a while before you run.
Let It Sweat
When your body temperature rises (like during a run on a hot summer day,) your body will begin to sweat to keep it down. This is because your nervous system activates your sweat glands to release perspiration, which keeps your body temperature stable. This is a normal bodily function known as thermoregulation.
Sweating is what keeps your body from overheating.
Here’s what you need to do: invest in a proper cool-down. You’ve got to let your body sweat it off.
Do this by walking for a few minutes after your run, taking deep breaths to allow your respiration and heart rate to come down back to normal. Then do at least ten minutes of stretching.
Here’s what I usually do. I gradually reduce my pace to an effortless walk, then I look for shade or grass, sit down and take my trainers off, and stretch for 10 to 15 minutes. I also make sure I have a water bottle with me. After 15 minutes, I’ve stopped sweating profusely. Then I go inside and take a shower.
It’s really simple. This process not only helps prevent the post-shower sweats, it also avoid dizziness, improves flexibility, and speeds up recovery.
To make sure your body is sweating properly, you need to keep it well hydrated. The fact is that when your body is devoid of fluids, it can’t sweat efficiently, This makes it harder to regulate core temperature.
The more you sweat, the more fluids you lose, and this puts you at a higher risk of dehydration. It makes you more prone to heat stroke and heat exhaustion—two conditions to avoid at all costs.
Make sure that you drink plenty of water before, during, and after your runs, making it a goal to drink at least 8 to 12 ounces at least 30 minutes before any exercise, so your perspiration system is in tip-top shape.
On long runs, meaning anything exceeding 60 minutes, make sure to carry water with you in a water belt or pouch, or plan out your run course along locations with water fountains, gas stations, and city parks. Try to down another 8 to 12 ounces for every 20 minutes you’re exercising, or even more depending on your personal needs and preferences.
For the full guide to proper hydration, check my post here.
Take A Cold Shower
Once you’re done sweating and stretching, jump in the shower. This is by far the most effective and fastest way to put out the fire after a strenuous summer workout.
It’s important that you avoid the temptation to fight one extreme with another. Taking the cold plunge can be a little shocking, and once you get out of a shower that’s too cold, your body may try to generate heat to compensate for the sudden loss.
Instead, stay comfortable by starting with tepid water, then gradually turn the temperature down as you get used to it. Lukewarm water is more tolerable, and just as effective at helping you bring your body’s core temperature down.
Ice Your Pulse Points
For a more focused cool-down approach, try placing ice packs or running cold water on the back of your neck, wrists, chest, abdomen or feet for up to 30 seconds each.
Why and how this works is no mystery. These are pulse points, and applying cold to them brings your core temperature down quickly because large quantities of blood run close to the surface of these areas. By cooling down your blood, you drastically cool the rest of your body.
Just be careful with this approach. Do not put ice directly on your skin since this can result in painful ice burn. Instead, wrap your ice in a gel ice pack or a towel.
Listen To Your Body
The strategies above are all you need to bring your core temperature down after a hot run, but don’t be surprised if after you’ve used them, your body still hasn’t fully cooled down.
When you’re running, it’s important that you err on the side of caution and listen to your body. If you notice any symptoms of heat-related illness, stop your run immediately. That’s the cardinal rule, especially while running in the summer when the risk of heat stroke and/or heat exhaustion is highest.
Symptoms of heat-related illness include:
- Nausea or vomiting
- Dizziness or lightheadedness
- Excessive sweating
- Extreme fatigue
- Intense headache
- Increased heart rate
- Muscle cramps
- Trouble breathing
- Low blood pressure
Ignore these red flags and your condition may worsen, requiring medical intervention. And you don’t want that.
Now it’s your turn. Do you have any favorite cooling strategies and tactics you’d like to share with us?
I’d love to hear from you in the comments section.
In the meantime, thank you for dropping by.
Keep Running Strong