Many of my runs have been spent outside under a boiling sun. Especially in the summer, when I tend to run much longer distances than I do during the school year, the heat can take a toll on your body. When I ran a half-marathon in July a little over a year ago, the heat was at a record-breaking high. Runners all around me were passing out and being carried away in stretchers. It’s important to listen to your body at all times but it’s especially important in conditions your body isn’t used to. Whether that be extreme heat or extreme cold.
Here are some tips I’ve picked up over the last few years for running in hot weather.
- Drink plenty of water before, after and during your run. Water is important. I don’t care if you don’t like the taste or prefer Gatorade, just drink water. It’s what keeps your body going on 90-degree days. Make sure you’re hydrated before you go out, and stop for water during your run too.
- Run earlier or later in the day. I spent three summers getting up to run at seven a.m. for cross-country training. It’s still hot around that time, but nowhere near as searing as it is after noon. I prefer running around dusk or when the sun is starting to set. That way, the sun isn’t right overhead beating down on you, plus it’s starting to cool down.
- Stop if you aren’t feeling right. No one is going to judge you for stopping once or twice (or more) during a run on a hot day, especially if you’re running in the middle of the day. You can always start running again if you feel like you’re up to it. Don’t put yourself at risk for heat exhaustion just because you don’t want to mess up your pace. I fainted once during cross-country practice and I wish I had just stopped to take a breather instead of continuing on.
- Wear weather appropriate clothing. If it’s 85 degrees out, wear shorts. Don’t go out wearing pants or a long sleeve thinking that you’ll be okay. Ten minutes in you’ll wish you had changed into that breathable tank top. And if you want to take your shirt off, then take your shirt off. Who cares what the neighbors think. Chances are, they don’t care either.
- After your run, make sure you’re getting enough salt. You lose a lot of salt when you sweat for a long period of time. You have to replace it but don’t go crazy. A ton of salt still isn’t good for you.
- Try to find shaded areas to run. Trails are great in the summer because the shade from the trees blocks most of the sun, making it cooler. Also, it’s a nice change of scenery.
- After your run, make sure you eat something. There’s been a few times where my blood sugar has plummeted after a long run, leaving me feeling nauseous and weak. Even if you don’t feel like eating, you have to try something small. You will feel way better later. If you really can’t stomach food after a run, try Gatorade, a protein shake, or chocolate milk. The sugar in any of these will make you feel better quicker.
- Don’t worry if your times seem slower than usual and if you’re not running as far as you want. I always run slower in the summer because of the heat. While I like to think that years of running in summer and early fall heat has given me a decent tolerance for high temperatures, I still find that I can’t go as fast or far as I would like. That’s okay; heat can be difficult to run in. Plus other factors, such as humidity and dehydration, can also have negative effects on your runs. You have to do what’s best for your body, not your training plan.
- Run on the treadmill. If you don’t have time to run later in the evening or in the morning, and it’s dangerously hot outside, run indoors. Maybe it’s not your desired method but it’s better than nothing. Sometimes the heat is too much and you have to find different ways to get your miles in.
Summer is a great season to get miles in because most people have more time and fewer excuses. There’s no snow to have to maneuver around, and it’ll never be too cold or icy to get outside. However, I wouldn’t recommend signing up for long races in the summer. That’s best to leave for the fall or spring.