Most runners have that sweet spot temperature. You know the one: the perfect temp for your running. For me, the perfect run day is a cool fall morning. Anywhere between 45 and 50 degrees, just a bit of sun coming out from behind the clouds periodically, this is my ideal running temperature.
Sadly, not every day can be picture perfect weather for every runner out there. And surprisingly, favorite running weather is as varied as runners themselves. Often shocked to find out some people love to run in 90 degree heat, you really realize just how different people are.
If you are like me and you love a good fall run, summer running can be challenging. So how do you survive the hot, humid summer months? Excellent questions!
Running in the Heat? Acclimate Slowly
One thing that can help is to always run outside. While it seems kind of obvious, if you are always running outside chances are you will slowly get used to the weather. The same is true for cold weather running. As someone who enjoys running outside year-round, my cold threshold is considerably different than friends who hit the treadmill as soon as the mercury dips below zero.
If you’re doing it consistently, your body tends to get used to it and do better adjusting.
It is very important to hydrate properly when running in the heat. Since you are likely to sweat a lot, taking in fluids is essential to keeping yourself healthy. In addition, your body is a machine of sorts that requires fuel and fluid in order to keep moving properly!
While some people can make due with water, if you either sweat a lot or are working out for longer than 45-60 minutes, you may need some type of performance drink to restore calories and electrolytes. Whatever your go-to drink of choice, replacing that salt you have sweat out is important.
Avoid Mid Day
Choosing to run either first thing in the morning or late afternoon can help you beat the heat. Running before the sun is up has obvious advantages. One, of course, is it is likely to be cooler. Second, the sunshine adds to the difficulty of running when it is hot out. Lastly, getting the workout out of the way in the morning helps some people set the tone for the rest of the day.
Avoid running between 1:00 – 4:00 p.m. to beat the heat.
You can also beat the heat by hugging shade. Running trails is a great way to accomplish this. However, you also are less likely to feel any breeze that might be present, when running in the woods.
Running through residential areas may net you tree line shade as you loop up and down sidewalks or side streets. Also, certain times of day you can strategically choose your routes, knowing they are more likely to be shaded. One of my favorite loops isn’t too bad at 4:00 p.m. when I get off of work because it is shaded the entire way!
Something many of us neglects to do is put on sunscreen every time we head outside. Wearing sunscreen will help you on hot days, also. Even if it is early and the sun doesn’t seem that hot, the damaging rays are doing their thing.
Choose Your Attire Carefully
There are many things you can do to help beat the heat that starts before you even head out the door!
First of all, consider wearing less and lighter clothes, such as thin socks or mesh shorts. While that seems obvious, it still bears mention. Not all performance shirts are created equally. You may find that certain fabrics, fabric thickness, and weaves work better for you. Many runners also report that they prefer shirts with no or very little screen printing on them when running in hot weather. The more print, the hotter you will be.
Many runners wear belts of some sort for carrying necessities such as a phone or fuel. Workout clothing companies are getting smarter and are making shorts with large pockets for carrying these things. Believe it or not but some of the belts actually include a lot of fabric and can make you hot where they sit!
A hat or visor can help you on hot days by shielding the sun from your face. A visor gives you more moving air and may feel cooler. A hat does have a positive the visor lacks, you can drench it in cool water partway through your run.
Some women have found comfort in joining the sport bra club, and ditch the running tank all together during hot weather. While less fabric can keep you cool, don’t forget to sunscreen that skin that seldom sees the light of day! These are places you are likely to burn!
Warm-Up and Cool Down!
Give your body time to acclimate to the hot temperature, as well as time to cool down after. A nice warm-up is important before digging into every workout. You should make a conscious effort to take the first half or full mile a bit easier on every run.
Same for cool down. Too many of us just hit a dead stop once we have reached our goal. It’s important to cool your body down gradually. This helps prevent injury.
Visiting Someplace Hot
Have you ever done a destination race? Living in Northeast Wisconsin, I trained all winter for a half-marathon in Florida. I was ill-prepared for the 75-degree temp at 5:30 a.m. when we lined up to start. If you are traveling for a race in a different climate than your own, consider doing some training in a hot place.
For example, you could do some running on a treadmill in a hot place.
Is It Bad To Run In The Heat?
No, it isn’t bad to run in the heat. People do it all the time! But you would not venture outside on a -20 below day without proper gear and preparation, would you? The same is true for running in the heat.
Perhaps the most important thing is to be smart and listen to your body.
How Hot Is Too Hot For Running?
When discussing running in the heat it would be irresponsible to put a number on how hot is too hot (or how cold is safe or unsafe, for that matter). Truly, running is as individual as we are all. If you’re comfortable when you set out to run, then you’re okay.
If at any point you start to get uncomfortable, maybe it’s too hot? Maybe you’re pushing too hard? If you are an avid runner, even a recreational one, you probably know your own body. You should know what your personal threshold temperatures are, and how to prepare your body in any circumstance.
If you find yourself in a new situation, be it snow and ice or sun and heat, just be smart. Know the warning signs of heat exhaustion and heatstroke. Hydrate before, during, and after. Fuel properly. Tell someone your route and when to expect you back. Be safe and smart and you should be fine!