I love running in the summer… It’s the perfect time to go outside and hit the pavement.
That said, if you live in a hot climate, then you already know how hard it is to hit the pavement when temperatures—and humidity levels—soar. In fact, running in the heat can be a real problem, especially if you aren’t careful while exercising in regions with soaring temperatures and humidity.
Of course, our bodies are amazingly adaptable and are equipped with a natural cooling system that helps us deal with the heat—that’s actually why we sweat.
Nonetheless, this built-in cooling system can flop if we’re exposed to hot temperature for too long. That usually results in heat-induced illnesses, such as heat exhaustion and heat stroke, which are dangerous problems and should be taken seriously by all runners.
The Science of Summer Running
Here’s the good news. Running safely in the hot season is not rocket science.
Here’s what I have learned from my years of experience running through the hot months. Apply the following seven strategies to ensure that you train safely and efficiently under the sun through the summer months.
Note- I’d like for the record to clearly stated that I’m not a doctor—nor do I play one on TV. I just happen to have a lot of experience with summer running and love to share my tips with you. Please consult with a certified physician before you attempt any of the strategies shared below.
1. Make the Right Adjustments
The secret to summer running success boils down to adjusting your performance expectations AND giving your body a break (especially if you’re taking walking breaks or cutting it short).
Why is this so important?
Summer running is much more draining than on a chilly day, and it does tire most trainees more quickly. The scorching temperature, add to that the humidity, will have you moving slower despite increased exertion.
Don’t believe me? Okay then. 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!
Here’s what you need to do. While your body is adjusting to the heat, give your training a break. Don’t fight it— slow down.
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.
What’s more? Run by effort. Judge your running pace by how difficult it feels instead of how fast you’re moving.
In other words, slow the heck down. Leave your Garmin watch at home and forget about speed.
2. Dress The Part
If you live in a relatively hot and humid region, you’ll want to wear as little as possible.
Stay away from cotton (this includes socks and hats, as well). Once cotton gets wet, it remains wet, turning into an uncomfortable and scratchy material.
Instead, go for running gear that’s light in color, lightweight, and made with high-performance fabrics that wick moisture away from your skin, to the outer surface where it evaporates. This not only helps you stay comfortable but also improve performance.
Consider wearing a hat, glasses, and shades to protect your skin and face from sunlight and the heat.
3. Hydrate Like Crazy
The human body is made up of more than 60 percent water. We also tend to lose roughly 2 to 3 percent during physical exercises, especially on hot days.
So, as the mercury climbs up, it’s vital to maintain your fluid tanks by keeping your body well hydrated.
In general, aim to drink at least three liters of water per day, even when you’re not exercising. That means drinking plenty of water before, during, and after your run.
The no-fail hydration strategy is to keep a water bottle with you throughout the day and take small sips every 20 to 30 minutes. Your aim to stay well hydrated throughout the day—not just when you’re exercising.
When it’s over 80 degrees or planning to run for more than 60 minutes, carry with you a refillable water bottle around with you, and as soon as it’s empty, fill it up again.
Or, at the very least, plan your running routes along fountain, convenience stores where you can hydrate on the road.
Once you return home, drink another two glasses of water immediately and try to stay well hydrated throughout the rest of the day, too.
4. Adaptation is The Name of The Game
Sometimes all you need to do is to be a little bit patient. For that reason, give yourself a couple of weeks to adjust to the increased temperatures.
Sure, the few first sessions will undoubtedly suck, but as time goes by and your training progresses forward. During this adaptation period, your body will become much more efficient at regulating your heart rate, decreasing core temperature, and boosting your sweat rate.
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 may be completely necessary.
5. Look for Shade
Concrete and asphalt retain heat and radiate it back upward. That’s why it’s always hotter in the cities than in surrounding areas.
To stay safe during your summer runs, try to stick greenways, trails, and streets with lots of trees for shade.
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.
6. Run Early or Late
Picking the right time of the day for your run is essential during the hot season months.
When running outdoor, make every effort to head out the door 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—when the sun’s rays aren’t as strong.
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.
Whatever you do, steer clear of running in the midday heat—that will only make training more excruciating, and you don’t want that.
7. Fight the Chafe
Chafing—whether it’s skin-to-skin or skin-to-clothing induced—can be troublesome in the hot season as the build-up of sweat makes the friction worse. That’s why the friction between the skin and the heat of the day results in inevitable chafing.
The solution is quite simple.
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.
8. 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.
Summer running has plenty of risks. It’s no easy walk in the park. A mix of heat-induced illnesses can strike any runner who’s too aggressive on a hot summer day. That’s why it’s crucial to keep a keen for an eye on the red flags.
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
If you’re suffering from one or more of these symptoms, stop running and head somewhere cooler ASAP. 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.
To err on the side of caution, plan all your early summer runs near your house or through urban areas where you could get help in case the worse happen. You don’t want to be crawling miles to get back home.
There you have it!
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?
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.