Where did spring go? Winter seemed to hold on for so long this year, and now it feels like we skipped right by spring and into summer. It is technically spring, and summer is only a couple months away, but the heat has already arrived, and the humidity is not far behind. So, we have to find ways to beat the heat while running.
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Let’s just say, summer is not my favorite season. I’m more of a fan of fall and spring when the temperature ranges between 60 to 75 degrees. Not too hot and not too cold. But summer, although it can bring lots of sunny days, also bring the heat and awful humidity. The humidity just makes the heat that much worse and you often feel like you’re running through a sauna. And you sweat A LOT and it leaves you feeling drained. I really don’t mind sweating. I don’t feel like I’m working out hard enough if I can’t break a sweat. But the sweat when it just keeps dripping in your eyes and off your hands, and where every inch of you is soaked, just isn’t very pleasant.
Running in the heat is definitely challenging. You sweat more, losing precious fluids and electrolytes. You increase your chances of overheating, getting nauseous, your heart rate is higher and you are working harder to run the same paces you did in cooler weather.
So, you need to be prepared to deal with and beat the heat while running.
I’ve come up with 10 ways to help you beat the heat while running, especially during the hot summer months.
Here are 10 ways to beat the heat while running.
Run early in the morning or later at night when it’s cooler
The easiest way to beat the heat is to avoid running during the heat of the day, which in most places is usually around 2 to 4 pm. Try to run early in the morning, when it’s still dark, or later in the afternoon as the sun is going down.
I prefer to run early in the morning to get the run done for the day. Mornings are usually cooler. It helps if you are meeting friends, so you can have accountability to get out of bed in the morning. Because, lets face it, it’s really hard to get out of bed at 4 in the morning. All you want to do is hit the snooze and go back to sleep. But if you know you are meeting up with someone, you are more likely to get up to run so you aren’t letting them down.
Depending on where you live, it can still be pretty hot early in the morning. When I attended grad school in Arkansas, my husband and I met up with friends for our long runs at 5 in the morning to avoid the heat. But during the summers, it was still hot and so humid, that I was already in just a sports bra and shorts. It was often miserable. But it definitely beat running later in the day.
Then we came back and ate, showered and took a nap. Oh, the good old days.
Related post: 10 Safety Tips for Running in the Dark
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Staying hydrated when it’s hot out is very important. Try to drink at least 8 glasses of water during the day, and drink 1 to 2 glasses of water or sport’s drink after you run to help replenish fluids and electrolytes lost during the run. You don’t want to go into a run already dehydrated. I’ve done it too many times. It will affect your performance and slow you down, and put you at an increased risk of overheating.
I am not a fan of Gatorade because it’s too sweet for me. So after runs, I really like Nuun active hydration tablets. They don’t have the sugar of Gatorade, but have fizz and a good flavor.
Carry water or gatorade with you
When it’s hot out, you can get dehydrated and overheated pretty quickly. So, carrying fluids with you during the run can help keep you hydrated. You can also use the water to pour on your head or skin when you start to get hot. I like the small handheld bottles, because they fit easily on my small hand and don’t feel like I’m carrying anything. Plus they have pockets if you need to store anything.
One of my tricks to stay cool at the start of hot runs or race is to soak my hair with cool water. I have a lot of hair in a ponytail, so it tends to hold in the heat. Since heat escapes through the head, pouring water on it helps keep it cool, at least for a few minutes. It will eventually dry. How quickly depends on how hot it is outside. I also wet my skin before the run and will pour water on my neck during the run if I start to get too hot. I’ve also put ice cubes in the back of my sports bra to stay cool.
If you can’t carry water with you, try to run somewhere, like a park, that has water fountains nearby if you should need a drink. You can also drop water off at certain locations along your running route ahead of time, so you can have it when you will likely need it.
We used to drop it off on long runs around the 4 to 5 mile mark of an out and back route. So we would have it on the way out and then pick it up and carry back the last few miles.
Whatever way you find works best for you, just try to have access to it if you need it. It’s not a good feeling being out on a run when you start to overheat and don’t have any water with you. So be prepared.
For runs over 2 hours, I also like to take electrolyte tablets, like salt stick tablets, which are now chewable. I take one before the run and another one after an hour. This will help replace some of the electrolytes you lose while sweating, so you don’t feel as bad during and after the run.
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Getting out of the sun will be an easy way to beat some of the heat. So, try to find a trail nearby or at least somewhere that has trees throughout your run. Every little bit will help.
I run trails as much as I can once the temperatures start to heat up. It doesn’t really help with the awful humidity I have to run in, but they do provide shade from the blazing sun, and are usually a few degrees cooler. Plus it gives your legs a break from the pavement.
So, hit the trails to beat the heat. It’s a whole new adventure!
When the temps start to heat up, you will likely start to run slower. You need to give your body time to acclimate to the changes. If you’ve been running in 40 to 50 degree weather, and all of a sudden temps jump to 80, you need to adjust your pace and slow down for the next few runs.
Often times, your paces may even be slower all summer. This is why marathon training in the summer can be frustrating. You think you are running slower than you should.
But trust me, once the temperature starts to drop and fall hits, you’ll notice a nice bump in pace. That is definitely one of the nice benefits of fall racing.
Wear light colored clothes and shoes
We all know black absorbs the light and white reflects it. So wearing black clothes and shoes during hot weather, especially if you are running during the middle of the day, will just make you feel even hotter.
Pick out shirts and shorts that are white or lighter color. I know you may not have as many color choices with your shoes, but if you can, go for a lighter color. Black shoes may look cool, but your feet will heat up faster in them and get pretty sweaty. Really sweaty feet will increase your chance of getting blisters. And that will slow you down even more.
Wear wicking fabrics
For hotter weather, you want to choose clothing that will wick away moisture. Most running clothes are made of these materials, so you shouldn’t have too much trouble finding clothes that work.
I know most people likely start out in their running journey in clothes made of cotton. You probably own several cotton shorts and t-shirts, so it makes sense to wear what you have. I started out wearing cotton, too, many years ago.
But when cotton gets wet, either from sweat or rain, it absorbs the water and gets bogged down and heavy. So now you are carrying around extra weight from your clothes.
Wicking clothes are also more breathable and will help you feel cooler than cotton.
This also includes hats. Wicking hats will be more breathable than a cotton one and much lighter.
Socks are another big one. Most people own lots of cotton socks. And we all likely started out wearing cotton socks, and some of you may still wear them. But I highly recommend investing in some running socks. Your feet will thank you. Soggy, sweaty socks cause more friction, which leads to blisters. Running socks are often made of synthetic materials that wick moisture so your feet don’t get soggy from all the sweat when you run. If you only invest in one item of wicking clothing, make it socks.
My favorite brands of running socks are Feetures and Balega. Between using these socks and body glide, I haven’t had a blister in a long time, and that includes during a snowy and muddy ultra, and several marathons. Running socks are more expensive than regular cotton socks, but they make a huge difference and are definitely worth the money.
Take walk breaks if needed
It is okay to take walk breaks when it gets really hot, or anytime really. If you need to walk, then walk. It will help cool your core temperature and decrease chances of overheating.
I’ve had to walk on several hot runs in the past. If you can time them to where you will be in a shady spot, that will help to cool you off. While you are walking is also a good time to hydrate, so you can focus on getting the fluids in your mouth and not all down your chin.
So, if you feel the need to walk, take a walk break.
Run short loops
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You can also beat the heat by running short loops, whether it’s in your neighborhood, at a park, or even at the track. It’s a bonus if the course is shaded.
As mentioned before, you can leave water out at a certain spot and take breaks when you need to if the temperature gets too hot. It also allows you to cut your run short without having to make a long trek back to your car if you are struggling and overheating or feel sick.
Adjust your workout
Running in the heat can make your effort feel so much harder than you are used to. You have to be willing to cut it back if you are struggling.
This is why I like to do a lot of my speedwork on the track, preferably in the mornings. It’s easier to gage your effort. On the track since you are usually aiming for a certain time for intervals. If it’s really hot and I am not hitting my times at all, I will either switch my goal to that slower pace, or cut the distance and number of repeats.
So, if my workout was 8 x 400m with 400 m rest (or jog), I may drop it to 5-6 x 400 m and stop for water between each one. Or I may add a longer recovery jog by breaking up the run into two sets of 4 x 400m with 400 m recovery and an 800 m recovery between sets.
This also works with longer repeats, tempo runs, and any other run you plan. You can cut the number of repeats or miles down or break longer tempos into shorter sessions with a recovery period in between.
If you have a 20 mile long run scheduled, but it’s going to be 100+ degrees and very high humidity, you should first consider running it earlier in the day. Or you should reschedule it for another day. If neither is an option, then you should follow all the tips listed above to help assure a safe run.
If the heat and humidity are just too much that day, it’s okay to postpone the workout. You won’t lose anything by doing that. You’re not doing yourself any good if you are struggling to complete a workout just because it’s on the schedule.
So there are 10 ways to help you beat the heat while running. Remember them when the forecast is calling for a hot day. If you can combine several of them, it will help even more.
Just be aware of your body while running in the heat. I’ve strained my body too many times by trying to run when it’s too hot and especially if I’m already dehydrated. It’s not worth it to get sick or overheat just to get your workout in or run a certain number of miles. Know when you should stop running. Your health is number one.
What are your best tips for beating the heat while running? Let me know in the comments.