Hot weather can pose a new problem for runners – running in the heat is very different from cool conditions.
If you’re finding it hard to stick with your running schedule in the summertime, you’re not alone.
Even if you get up early on a Saturday morning, you’re still likely to finish a long run sometime around 11 AM or noon – the peak time for heat. Since the heat doesn’t subside until the sun does, it can still be hard to get run in after work around 6 or 7 PM.
So you’re wondering if you should skip it or learn to run in hot weather. The answer is: never give up on your goals and dreams.
Whether you’re training for an official race or just trying to stick to a running schedule for better health, never quit halfway to the finish line.
Is It Safe to go Running in the Heat?
Many countries are experiencing heat waves this summer. Britain has seen many days reach 32 degrees Celcius or more. But that’s nothing compared to Spain at 40 degrees Celcius and major wildfire battles in Portugal. In the US, 90% of the country’s population endured a heatwave this July.
So questioning the safety of running in hot weather is understandable. But take this into consideration: marathons and ultramarathons are still happening in some of the hottest regions of the world.
Every year, athletes run the Marathon Des Sables in the Sahara desert of Morocco. Temperatures can reach 50 degrees Celsius during this 5-day run. In July 2020, the Badwater ultramarathon took place in Death Valley, California with similar temperatures in a 135-mile race.
What is their secret?
The human body is capable of adapting to extreme temperatures. Each one of those race contestants invested time, not only training for distance and strength but enduring the heat.
Dangers of Running in the Heat
If you don’t take careful precautions while running in hot weather, you can put yourself in serious danger of heatstroke. Symptoms of heat exhaustion include:
- Muscle cramps
Have you ever wondered why your face turns red after running hot weather? Your body needs to maintain a core temperature of about 37 degrees Celcius.
If that temperature starts rising, the blood vessels dilate to allow more blood to the surface of your skin to cool the sweat. But if too much blood goes the surface, you won’t have enough to pump through your muscles, which puts a strain on your heart.
So learning to run in hot weather is important for your goals, but also for your protection. Always take the necessary preventive steps to make sure you finish the run without harming yourself.
8 Ways to Learn to Love Running in The Heat
1. Do It Every Day
The best way to acclimatize your body to hot weather is to run in it every day for 14 days. With regular exposure to high temperatures, your body reduces the extreme protective measures it takes to bring your temperature down.
That means you’ll sweat more, and you won’t lose as many electrolytes in the sweat. Your body will keep your resting temperature a little cooler so it doesn’t rise as high while you’re running.
Running in the heat is NOT like ripping off a bandaid. If you’re not used to it, don’t plan to run a 10K under the sun.
Start with a short distance and then work your way up. As you run day after day, you’ll get used to running in the heat and it won’t feel so oppressive.
Side note: as you get into hot runs, you should be mindful of runner’s nipple – chafing that begins to irritate when running with a sweaty shirt!
2. Carry a Wet Towel
While you’re adjusting to the heat, bring a wet towel to wrap around your neck. If you’re running near water, you can make quick stops to re-wet it, giving you periods of relief as you go.
Some people don’t like the wet towel solution. It can feel like stepping from an air-conditioned room into the hot sun; it comes as a shock. But even as the cold leaves the towel, the moisture can still help you stay cool.
Since the neck is one of the hottest areas of the body, the wet towel can trick your body into thinking it’s cooler than reality, reducing sweat and boosting your mental attitude.
3. Bring Lots of Water
Since dehydration is the biggest danger when running in the heat, ample water supply is non-negotiable. But water isn’t just important for your health. It’s a great way to keep yourself feeling refreshed and peppy throughout the run.
There are techniques to hydrating as you jog through the heat that make it more effective.
Drink often and little. Instead of stopping a few times for big gulps of water, stop frequently while you run for a small sip. This way, each sip will refresh you. When you drink a lot at once, you end up with cramps and nausea. In this case, too much of a good thing is a very real problem.
If you have enough water, you can also pour it on your body, not just in your body. But be careful with that – you don’t want to go overboard and use up all the necessary hydration.
4. Slow Down
You can’t expect to keep the same cadence you would while running in cool climates, especially while you’re acclimatizing.
Your body is doing extra work to keep your core temperature down and reserve energy for hydration. On top of that, the mind is exerting itself even more, keeping you calm and preserving your motivation.
So go easy on your body. It’s already doing a lot behind the scenes. If you don’t want to end up collapsing, take your run at a slower pace.
5. Choose Your Route Carefully
It’s exciting to think about adjusting to the heat and accomplishing your goals no matter what. But even so, avoid direct sunlight while running where possible. Target shady areas that keep the sun from beating on you directly.
When it’s hot, find a spot to run near the water or on a trail in the woods. Use trees to your advantage and take cover from direct sunlight.
6. Pick the Right Time of Day
The sun’s most intense heat is from 11 AM to 3 PM. So avoid that time segment if you can. Many people choose to get up early and run at sunrise. During the hot summer, it’s already toasty at 6 AM.
Running in the morning helps with your motivation. It’s a special time of the day that you’ve designated to run. You probably got up early just for that. So you’re not as likely to skip it.
When running is the first thing you do during the day, your enthusiasm is higher. Hot summer days can be languid and lazy. By the end, it’s hard to find the push you need to go workout.
So if you run in the morning when you’re bright and busy-eyed for the day ahead, you’re more likely to stick to it.
7. Wear the Right Clothing
Appropriate gear makes a huge difference while running in the heat. Here is the best clothing you can wear on the run:
- Lightweight shorts and tank top: Nylon fabric is ideal. It’s light, it’s flowy (to catch the breeze), and air flows through it easily.
If you suffer from chafing on your thighs during a sweaty run, high-quality spandex is a better option for your summer running gear.
But whatever you do, avoid cotton. It’s the thickest, most sweat absorbing fabric of them all.
- Visor vs. hat: Protecting your face from the sun is a safe precaution to take. But you’ll feel cooler in a visor than you will with a hat. The visor gives you that extra ventilation, instead of closing in your hair in a tight space.
- Vest or backpack: For all the extra water (not to mention little nutritious snacks) you’ll be bringing, plan for somewhere to carry them. Some people carry a small backpack like a Camelbak for supplies, but a vest is a cooler option.
Running vests have pockets spread across the whole garment so you don’t have to hold all the weight of your supplies in one sweaty area. If you plan to do a lot of hot weather running, buying a vest is a smart choice.
8. Use Sunscreen
Nothing will stop you from running in hot weather more than a sunburn. Always apply sunscreen before heading into the heat, especially on your face.
You never notice you’ve been burned until it’s too late. By that time, your body could be at risk of overheating, exhaustion, or migraines.
Now You’re Ready for Anything
It takes steel determination to train yourself to run in the heat. But once you learn to love running in hot weather, nothing can keep you from doing what you set out to do.
When you develop habits that make the heat more bearable, you’ll find that it’s not a chore anymore. Now, “I can’t run because it’s too hot” is no longer a part of your vocabulary.