How to Stay Safe and Comfortable When Running in the Heat
Tips for Running in the Heat
Running in the summertime provides a sense of freedom and enjoyment of the outdoors. However, the dangers of hot and humid weather can quickly transform an otherwise pleasant run into a miserable experience or worse – lead to heat-related illness.
Learning how to stay safe when running in high temperatures is crucial. Use caution and smart preparation, and you can continue to reap the mental and physical benefits of running even when the mercury rises. This comprehensive guide covers everything you need to know to run comfortably on hot days.
The Dangers of Running in the Heat
Why is exercising in heat potentially risky? When air temperature approaches skin temperature, the body has a harder time cooling itself through evaporation of sweat. Blood circulation increases to dissipate body heat, placing strain on the cardiovascular system. Dehydration from prolific sweating then creates an imbalance of water and electrolytes.
This combination of factors leads to an elevated core body temperature that can progress to dangerous heat-related conditions. Being aware of these risks is the first step toward preventing issues.
How to Dress for Running in the Heat
Choosing the right clothing is vital for running safely in warm conditions. Follow these tips:
Lightweight, Loose, Light-Colored Fabrics
Seek out lightweight, loose-fitting shirts, shorts, skorts and other garments made of thin, breathable technical fabrics. Light colors help reflect heat. Darker hues absorb the sun’s rays and get hotter.
Fabrics like polyester and nylon wick sweat away from your skin, keeping you drier and cooler than cotton. Opt for apparel with moisture management technology.
Reflective and UV-Blocking Fabrics
Specialty fabrics can provide added protection from the sun. Some reflective materials claim to block up to 50% of UV radiation.
Vented Hats or Visors
Shield your face from the sun with sweat-wicking hats and visors. Look for mesh panels and dark underbrims.
Protect your eyes from glare with UV-blocking sunglasses. Seek ventilated frames to reduce fogging.
Prevent irritation and discomfort from skin-on-skin rubbing with flat locked or bonded seams. Or apply anti-chafe balms to problem spots.
Sun Protective Accessories
Wear cooling accessories like sweat-wicking arm sleeves, neck gaiters or bandanas to protect exposed skin.
How to Hydrate When Running in the Heat
Proper hydration combats the excessive fluid loss from sweating in high temps. Follow these tips:
Sip every 20 minutes while running, and don’t just drink when thirsty. Schedule fluid breaks.
Bring water on runs over 30 minutes. Handheld bottles or hydration packs allow frequent drinking.
Check pre and post-run weight to gauge fluid loss and personalized hydration needs.
Drink More All Day
Increase non-running hydration on hot days. Carry a bottle for frequent sips.
For runs over an hour, a sports drink provides electrolytes lost in sweat.
Alcohol is dehydrating. Avoid heavy drinking when training in heat.
Eat Hydrating Foods
Fruits and veggies like watermelon, cucumbers and berries boost hydration.
How to Pace Yourself When Running in the Heat
Accept that your pace may be significantly slower in hot, humid conditions. Here are pacing strategies:
Reduce your pace by 20-30 seconds per mile. Don’t push the pace in heat.
Forget the Watch
Run by effort some days. Ditch pace expectations and just run comfortably.
Take Walk Breaks
Use run/walk intervals. Walk briefly every 20-30 minutes to cool down.
Run Early or Late
Train in the morning or evening when it’s cooler to allow for faster paces.
When possible, run on shaded surfaces out of direct sun to feel less heat.
Listen to Your Body
If overheating, immediately slow down more or stop completely to recover.
How to Avoid Heat-Related Illness
Heat illness encompasses various conditions like heat cramps, exhaustion, stroke, and rhabdomyolysis. Here is how to reduce risk:
Know the Signs
Learn symptoms like nausea, headache, weakness, confusion, and rapid heart rate.
Do not try to push through feelings of illness. Stop running and cool off.
Dehydration greatly increases chances of overheating. Drink regularly and adequately.
Wear Proper Gear
Lightweight breathable clothing and sun protection helps prevent illness.
Ease into running in heat. Don’t overdo duration or intensity if not acclimated.
Choose shaded routes, run when cooler, pace conservatively, and take breaks.
Have an Emergency Plan
Know where to access water, shade, and help if needed. Run in populated areas.
Tips for Running in the Heat for Beginners
For newer runners, heat and humidity present additional challenges. Here are some tips:
Begin with brief 20-30 minutes runs/walks 2-3 days a week in the coolest parts of day.
Listen to Your Body
Stop immediately if you feel overheated and gradually build up duration as tolerated.
Drink regularly in the days preceding long or intense runs to optimize fluid balance.
Embrace Walk Breaks
Walk for 1-2 minutes every 20 minutes to control heat buildup.
Wear the least amount of light colored, moisture-wicking clothing you are comfortable in.
Choose Shaded Routes
Seek shady parks and trails to avoid direct sun exposure for full runs.
Run with a Buddy
Recruit a partner so you can look out for each other in the heat.
Check the Forecast
On hotter or more humid days, opt for a treadmill run with cooler controlled conditions.
Tips for Running in the Heat for Advanced Runners
For experienced runners training for a race or chasing a goal, balancing performance and safety in the heat becomes key. Here are some pro tips:
Gradually expose yourself to running in heat over a period of weeks to adapt.
Accept that your pace and endurance may be compromised and adjust goals accordingly.
Know the Course
Study race courses for shade, aid stations, and areas to cool off if needed.
Use the treadmill or wear extra layers during acclimatization runs to simulate race day heat.
Race Early or Late
When possible, choose cooler race start times in the morning or evening.
Consume easily digestible carbs and electrolytes the night before and morning of races.
Hydrate by Thirst
Drink to satisfy thirst in the final days leading up to races to avoid overhydrating.
Pay close attention to body signals and ease up at the first sign of excessive heat strain.
The Best Time of Day to Run in the Heat
Plan summer runs during cooler times of day to avoid the worst of the heat:
The air is typically coolest in the hour just after sunrise. Get your run in before 8-9am if possible.
Temperatures start dropping again in the hour before sunset.
Heat peaks from around 10am to 4pm when the sun is highest. Avoid running then unless essential.
Some days cool faster than others. Note daily temperature patterns in your area.
Run When Feels Best
Pay attention to when conditions feel least oppressive in the summer and plan accordingly.
If it feels too hot in the morning, postpone to later. Listen to your body over absolutes.
Where to Run in the Heat
Carefully choose running routes and locations using these criteria:
Seek shaded routes with plenty of tree canopy to block direct sun exposure.
Parks and Trails
Run in areas with an abundance of vegetation for shade like wooded parks and trails.
When running in neighborhoods or on roads, use sidewalks with mature trees.
Lighter colored surfaces like dirt trails absorb less heat than black asphalt.
Routes along creeks, lakes, or the ocean can provide cooler pockets of air.
Loops or Out and Backs
Run routes where you regularly pass by water sources in case needed for cooling.
Direct sun reflecting off concrete sidewalks, plazas or buildings creates excessive radiant heat.
What to Bring When Running in the Heat
Be prepared with these supplies:
Hydration is essential. Carry water if out for over 30 minutes.
For longer runs, a sports drink provides sodium to replace sweat losses.
Carry sunscreen and sunglasses and wear a hat, sleeves, etc. Reapply sunscreen every 2 hours.
Wetting a special cooling towel can provide a burst of relief by lowering your neck temperature.
Have your phone to call for help if needed, especially when running alone.
ID and Emergency Cash
Carry identification and small bills in case you need to stop for water or get assistance.
Know where you can cut a run short to find shade and hydration if you begin overheating.
How to Cool Down After Running in the Heat
Properly cooling your body temperature after hot weather running helps recovery. Try these tips:
Drink 16-24 oz of fluid for every pound lost during your run to rehydrate.
Take a Cool Shower
A lukewarm to cool (not cold) rinse removes salt and lowers body temperature.
Soak in a Bath
A relaxing tub with cooler water helps bring down your core temp after a hot run.
Chill Your Pulse Points
Apply ice packs or cool compresses to neck, groin and armpits to efficiently cool blood.
Eat Water-Rich Foods
Fruits and vegetables like watermelon and cucumbers aid rehydration.
Nap in Air Conditioning
Resting in a cool environment allows your body to recover faster.
Lightly stretch sore muscles using cooler down dog and child’s pose.
When to See a doctor
Seek medical treatment immediately if you experience:
- Confusion, loss of consciousness or seizures
- Vomiting and inability to keep fluids down.
- Rapid heart rate, shallow breathing
- Body temperature exceeding 103°F.
- Dark urine or inability to urinate.
Call your doctor promptly if you have:
- Muscle cramps lasting over an hour after stopping running.
- Intense headache, dizziness or fainting
- Nausea, diarrhea or continuing to feel ill after cooling down.
Should I run in the heat with a mask on?
Wearing a mask may trap heat and restrict breathing. Run very slowly or consider an alternative like the treadmill on extremely hot days when masks are needed.
What should I wear to protect my skin from the sun?
Opt for UV-protective clothing including shirts, arm sleeves, hats and neck gaiters made of tightly woven fabric labeled with an ultraviolet protection factor (UPF).
How can I avoid chafing in the heat?
Chafing thrives in hot, wet conditions. Use anti-chafe balms on problem spots, choose high-tech moisture wicking apparel, and shower immediately after runs.
Should I drink a sports drink instead of water when running in heat?
For runs longer than an hour when significant electrolyte loss occurs, a sports drink with sodium is helpful. Otherwise, water is fine.
What is the best way to treat heat cramps?
Stop running and sit in a cool place. Gently stretch and massage cramped muscles. Drink fluids with electrolytes. Seek medical attention if cramps persist.
With a few extra precautions, you can safely continue your running routine through hot and humid weather. Listen to your body, adjust your approach, and respect the additional physiological challenges of heat and humidity. Proper hydration, clothing choices, route selection, pacing adjustments and awareness of overheating warning signs are key. By implementing the strategies in this guide, your summer running can remain enjoyable and incident free. Just remember to listen to your body and use good judgment when conditions feel dangerously hot. Stay safe and keep running all season long!