I love running in the summer, and I believe it’s a great time for outdoor exercise (and so is every season of the year).
But, exercising in the summer can be tricky, especially when temperatures soar. The harsh conditions can wreak havoc on your running routine as well as your body, especially if you don’t take the right precautions.
But fret no more. By the end of this blog post, you’ll learn exactly what to do to prevent summer running dangers as well as how to make the most of your training program.
But first things first, let’s look at some of the benefits of running throughout the summer months.
The Benefits Of Running In The Summer
Just in case you still have your doubts about summer running, here are eight good reasons to win you over.
- Good Weather – Because of the awesome weather, summer is a prime training season for most runners, recreational and elite alike. It’s also great for training for the fall race season ahead.
- Long daylight hours – In most regions of the US and Europe, it’s bright out by 5 a.m. ad stays light until 8 p.m. That’s a lot of hours you can spend running without worrying about staying out when it’s dark.
- Minimal Apparel – The summer season’s hot temperatures are the time for crop tops, split shorts, tanga, and sports bras. It’s also a lot easy to get prepared for a run when you wear less! Bare your skin season!
- Feel yourself getting stronger – Running in the heat may provide the same physiological effects as running at altitude, making you stronger and fitter in the process.
- Makes You Mentally Stronger – Of course, running in hot and humid conditions is it’s not an easy walk in the park, but you’ll get mentally tougher and more resilient because of it.
- Good for your brain – Research shows that sunlight and fresh air is good for psychological well-being and mental health, taming stress level, and improving your mood.
Why Running in the Heat is Hard
Heat can make running more problematic because of the increase in core temperature.
Of course, when you run—or do any form of exercise—your core temperature naturally rises. Next, your sweat glands produce sweat that carries the extra heat to the surface of the skin, where it evaporates.
But, when you run in the heat, your overall body temperature increases immensely, especially when you do for a long time. Once your body temperature flows over, your performance suffers—even when running at your normal pace.
Keep training in this state, and your body will go into survival mode, keeping the blood flowing to your skin and your vital organs, basically, keep you alive.
This mode causes many problems, including GI distress, side stitches, dizziness, and serious heat-related conditions such as heat exhaustion and heatstroke.
18 Strategies for Safe and Enjoyable Summer Running
Whether you are planning to train for a marathon this summer or are just trying to keep a consistent running routine, there are many measures you can take to make the most out of every run you do.
Here are some of them
1. Make the Right Adjustments
The secret to summer running success boils down to adjusting your performance expectations AND giving your body a break. Summer training takes a toll on your body. The elevated temperatures and humidity will have you moving slower despite increased exertion.
Don’t take my word for it. Research shows that even a 5-degree increase in temperature above 60 can slow your pace by as much as 30 seconds per mile. That’s a lot if you ask me!
As a rule, start your runs slower than you usually do. If you’re feeling strong halfway through, it’s okay to pick the pace a little bit, but don’t overextend yourself.
Run by effort. Judge your running pace by how difficult it feels instead of how fast you’re moving.
2. Acclimatize Properly
Your body is an incredible machine, but it needs time to adjust to hot weather conditions.
As this adaptation takes place, your body gets better at cooling itself in the heat by becoming more efficient at decreasing heart rate, reducing core body temperature, and increasing sweat rate. This is what’s going to help you keep on running at your normal pace.
Give your body at least a couple of weeks to acclimatize to summer weather conditions, increasing gradually the intensity and length of your runs. Sure, the few first sessions will undoubtedly suck, but it’s just a matter of time.
Throughout that period, keep your runs at a low intensity and not increase your mileage. Opting for a slow and comfortable pace or even taking a few walking breaks now and then maybe completely necessary.
Focus on short and easy runs before you do any speedwork sessions. Once you’re ready, you can up the ante.
3. Check the Heat Index
Before you reach for your running shoes, check out the National Weather Service’s Guide for the heat index. This index combines temperature with relative humidity, providing real-feel temperature.
Dial your pace back by at least one minute per mile if the temperature is about 70 degrees, while the relative humidity is above 40. Don’t run outside if temperature is above 96 degrees, and the humidity over 75 percent.
4. Check Air Quality
Another index that you should check out too—especially if you are living in a big crowded city—is air quality (AQI).
For instance, if the code is orange and you have respiratory problems, or air pollution sensitivity, then you might want to go easy—especially on days with extreme heat and high smog.
When the code is read, avoid exercising outdoor. If you insist running in the orange or red zone, make sure to take as many precaution as possible.
5. The Right Clothing
The heat makes you sweat more than usual. Having the right clothing can help as it lets your skin breathe, pulling moisture away from your body and letting it evaporate much faster.
Go for lightweight, loose-fitting clothing. These will help reflect heat and let your body breathe and cool naturally. Also, keep your running outfit light in color as this helps reflect the sun’s rays. Dark colors absorb the sun’s rays and can you to overheat much quicker.
Some of the best technical fabrics out there include Coloma, Dry-Fit, Lycra, and Nylon.
Here are the main running gear items you need for a safe and comfortable summer workout experience.
- Running Shorts – Go for longer, loose-fitting styles to protect more of your legs against the sunlight and also help you keep cooler by providing more ventilation.
- Running Shirt – Look for a shirt that provides all of your running needs—sweat-wicking, reflective details, zip pocket, etc. This helps control your body temperature and decrease the risk of chafing and blisters.
- Running Socks – Choose wool blends that are made with at least 60 percent merino wool and Spandex for stretch and Nylon for durability. These socks are specifically designed to keep your feet cool and comfortable.
6. Sunglasses and a Hat
These two items aren’t just accessories. In fact, a hat and sunglasses area must if you’re looking for more protection from the sun rays.
A good set of running sunglasses helps protect your eyes from the sun’s harmful UV rays. It’ll also help prevent headaches caused by squinting or excessive exposure to bright light.
Choose lightweight running sunglasses. These models usually offer better protection than casual ones, and won’t bounce around or slip while running. Running sunglasses also protect your eyes from the sun from every angle.
When it comes to headgear, make sure it’s made of technical fabrics to help wick the sweat away from your head. It also should fit smoothly (not too tightly) a stay put while running.
If I had to pick, I’d reach for a visor because most hats can be too constrictive and may trap heat. Look for a visor with a sweatband that helps absorb sweat, preventing it from running into your eyes.
7. Fight the Chafe
Chafing—whether it’s skin-to-skin or skin-to-clothing induced—can be worrying in the hot season as the build-up of sweat makes the friction worse.
Here’s how to manage it right. Apply lubricants, such as Body Glide or petroleum jelly on hot and chafing-prone areas. Problem spots include the inner thighs, the underarms, and the nipple.
Heard about nipple shield? Grab them before you run. These come in two variations, one that looks like a band-aid, while the other is made of silicone.
8. Protect Your Skin
Sun’s radiation not only takes a toll on your performance, it also causes severe damage to your skin, even increasing your risk of skin cancer. In fact, according to study, runners are at a higher risk of skin cancer and other skin damage than other athletes.
Why? Because the average runner, and in most cases, spends more time outside and wearing less clothing than the average Joe.
That’s why sunscreen is almost as crucial as water during hot weather runs. You want to protect your skin after all, don’t you?
Before you brave the heat, apply a waterproof sunscreen that has an SPF of least 40 and provides broad-spectrum protection, shielding against both types of ultraviolet radiation, UVA and UVB.—the two most damaging forms of ultraviolet light.
Rub on the sunscreen at least 15 minutes before you head out the door. And be sure to lather it up even on partly cloudy days since harmful sun rays. UV are not blocked by cloud cover. Then reapply it during your long runs. You’ll be sweating a lot, and with that, you’ll lose most of the sunscreen.
9. Run Early (or Late)
When running outdoor, plan your runs before the sun comes up or at least before its peak time. That usually means running when temperatures are the lowest, ideally in the early morning or late evening.
The hottest part of the day—and most dangerous—is usually between 10 pm and 4 p.m. You shouldn’t run around that time unless you’re an elite running prepping for a crazy endurance race, such as Marathon Des Sables, or when your life depends on it—like when you are chased by a wild animal.
In most parts of the world, the morning is the coolest, most serene part of the day, making it the ideal time for a workout. Even in the hottest summer, it cools down drastically by dawn. Log in your miles then, and you’ll feel accomplished about it all day.
You can also choose to run at night, but if you do too much close to bedtime, it may keep you from falling asleep.
10. Pick the Right Route
Adjusting your running routes makes sense when the sun is burning in the sky. Avoid running on asphalt and concrete because these two retain heat and radiate sun rays into your face in a similar angle, making you overheat much faster and tire sooner than you would like to.
Instead, run on grass or trail and gravel paths. A park is a great option too.
If you must run throughout the city, then plan your course along tall buildings to create natural shade, and even running through parks as a tree might provide you with a little bit of coverage.
You can also consider running near water bodies, such as rivers, lakes, and ocean. This usually creates slightly breezier, making it feel a few degrees cooler than it is on summer days.
For extra safety, make sure to let your friends and family know about your running route, always carry an ID, a phone, money, and a list of emergency contacts at all times. Better be safe than sorry. You never know.
11. Hydrate All Day
When jogging in summer, your body tries to regulate your body temperature by sweating more. This causes to lose more fluids and minerals (such as iron and magnesium) more than usual. These losses can really impact your performance and health.
That’s why proper hydration is key for safe summer running. Keeping your body well hydrated helps prevent a handful of the symptoms of running in the heat, such as stomach cramps, lightheadedness, and headaches.
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, anything exceeding 60 minutes, carry water with you in a water belt or pouch or plan out your run course along with 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.
12. Pre-Run Splash
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 run.
The premise is simple: the cooler your body temperature is pre-run, the longer it takes for you to start sweating. That, in turn, helps you run a lot longer before reaching a critical temperature threshold.
Again, don’t take my word for it. According to a German study, pre-workout showering improves athletic performance in the heat, because it reduces core body temps and heart rate.
Another study published in Sports Medicine, pre-cooling not only regulates body temperature during training but also improves performance.
Before you run in the heat, do 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 you 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.
13. Proper Warm-Up
Start off your runs with a proper warm-up—at least 10 minutes of slow jogging—then stick to an initial pace that’s slower than your average tempo. This can prevent overheating early in the run, helping you stave off premature fatigue, even muscle cramps, and injury.
In other words, the slower you start your runs, the longer it will take for your core body temperatures to reach the misery threshold.
So as a rule of thumb, start your runs slower than you usually do, or used to do in the spring or under cooler weather temps.
14. Take A Cold Shower
Once you’re done sweating and stretching, jump in the shower. This is how you put out the fire after a strenuous summer run.
Just don’t go too cold if you’re not used to it. 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.
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.
15. 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 of 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 a painful ice burn. Instead, wrap your ice in a gel ice pack or a towel.
16. Listen to Your Body
While the above tips are all you need to survive summer running and help you stay cool for running on hot days, the most important thing you need to do to stay safe is to simply listen to your body. Some days your body will not be able to handle the heat, and that’s perfectly OK.
Here are some of the symptoms you need to watch out for:
- An intense headache
- Muscle cramps
- Excessive sweating
- Dry throat
- Elevated heart rate
- Extreme fatigue
- The chills
Ignore these red flags, and your condition may worsen, requiring medical intervention. And you don’t want that.
17. Treat Heat-Induced Issues Right
If your body has crossed the safe threshold, STOP RUNNING immediately, find shade and rehydrate either by drinking water or a sports drink. But of course, water is the best over the other.
Heat-induced illnesses, such as heat strokes or heat exhaustion, are no joke. These illnesses could turn into serious health or life-threatening conditions if you don’t take the right treatment measures.
Go home, drink plenty of water, take a cold shower, or a sponge bath, and get into an air-conditioned room if it’s possible. You can also try spraying yourself with cool water and wrap your body in cool, damp sheets to cool yourself down.
If symptoms have not subsided within an hour, then seek medical care right away. Some of these overheating symptoms can be life-threatening, requiring treatment.
18. Have Fun & Don’t Stop
In the end, how much you enjoy your runs will be the deciding factor.
Therefore, make sure to add a fun aspect to your summer runs. The more you enjoy your workouts, in spite of the heat and humidity, the more consistent you are going to be.
Make your training program more enjoyable by doing the following:
- Come up with workout playlists around your favorite songs.
- Run with a buddy
- Set small, and achievable goals with plenty of recovery in between
- Take plenty of recovery between hard runs
- Reward yourself for every run you complete this summer
- Do most of your runs on pristine and breathtaking routes. Take your runs to the beach if it’s possible.
- And have plenty of sponge baths. Or maybe with a bath bomb!
There you have it! We finally reach the finish line.
The above guidelines are my go-to tips for surviving hot summer runs.
While most of these are simple,
Now it’s your turn.
What are your go-to measures during summer training? Comment, tips, and tricks are really welcome!
Do you have any summer running tips to add?
I’d love to hear from you in the comments section.
In the meantime, thank you for reading my blog.
Keep Running Strong.