I don’t know about the weather where you live, but it is freaking HOT in Winston-Salem. HOT & HUMID. I love running outside but with weather like this, but it can be downright dangerous (especially if you’re running while pregnant!), not to mention miserable. But with a few easy tweaks to your running routine, hot miles can feel a little better. And, maybe, just maybe you’ll grow to like them.
When I’m not focused on my pace (Tip #7!), I am able to appreciate just how much I’m sweating which is oddly satisfying. Did you know that as sweat evaporates it cools you down? Although, I do love my summer runs in Utah when I don’t finish my runs completely drenched!! I guess it’s fair to say I just love running, period.
Here are a couple common questions I get from readers and followers about running during the summer months.
Running in hot weather isn’t bad. But being dumb or lazy about it can be bad. Especially when you aren’t adapted to the heat (and altitude, if your up high!). When it’s extra hot out, you sweat more, which can lead to dehydration faster. And dehydration can go very bad very quickly. You need to carry fluids (see tip #1!). There are some important things to consider when you’re ready to run in the heat, which I share more about below.
Heat and/or humidity, simply put, make running harder. Both elements tax the body and, combined, they especially tax the body, increasing your heart rate more quickly.
That means your heart is beating harder for the same pace you’d run in cooler temps. And that means your run will feel harder and/or you won’t be able to hit your normal paces. Tommy quickly learned a few years ago in February when we visited Palm Beach, Florida, right after he took up running. (Later that summer he ran his first half marathon!)
Here’s everything I employ when running in the summer to stay safe and a little more sane!
I drink 16 oz of ice water with LMNT (for electrolytes) before I run and I carry water on my run, even for distances I normally wouldn’t. In the cooler months, I rarely carry water with me on runs shorter than six miles. But in the heat, I always run with water or LMNT. In general, if it’s hot, you’ll want something with electrolytes rather than just plain water since sports drinks are designed to help keep you hydrated better than water alone. Headache, dizziness, nausea and lightheadedness can be common if you aren’t careful to hydrate and eat something.
In hot temps, you will dehydrate more quickly and will need to rehydrate along the way. This is the water bottle I carry – the hand strap is makes it very comfortable to bring along, and it hold 18 ounces. I keep my water bottle in the fridge so it’s cold when I head out since cold water (vs. room temperature) helps keep your core temperature low. (You could also soaking your hat at the start of your run to help you stay cool.) If you can stop by a water fountain on your runs, that’s great too.
Remember if you aren’t sweating when it’s very hot and/or humid, that’s a symptom or sign you are dehydrated. While you may not be dripping in sweat (especially if you live in a dry climate), pay attention to areas where you can confirm that you are actually sweating (e.g. hairline, waistband, bra straps). Sweating is crucial to keep you cool; when sweat evaporates from skin, it also helps remove some body heat. And if that process isn’t happening because you’re dehydrated, you’ll overheat more easily, and you may end up in a scenario where you need emergency medical assistance. You can actually learn how to calculate your sweat rate, if you think that might be helpful (it looks complicated to me, ha!).
Aside from being hydrated, make sure you’re fueled before you head out. Remember, all runs will feel harder in the heat so you’ll want to make sure you aren’t running on empty.
In the summer, I like a couple dates or a banana with peanut butter. Giddy Up Bites from Run Fast Eat Slow are great too – I keep them in the freezer. Cold food, cold water, happy me. Making sure you’re well-fueled is also a key to avoid muscle cramps, heat cramps, and heat exhaustion which are common in extreme heat. These are my favorite things to eat before a run.
Wear something lightweight, breathable and sweat-wicking (light colored helps too). I wear a visor most days to keep the sun off my face. A visor — rather than a hat — ensures heat can escape my head. I also try to stick to my rotation of breathable tanks.
If I’m going for sunglasses, they’re always Goodr sunglasses since they don’t slip down my face even on my sweatiest days and the price can’t be beat.
And please, for the love of all that is good and wise, don’t wear cotton, especially if you live in a humid environment. Cotton fabric will trap the heat escaping from your body, hold onto your sweat and moisture, and make you hotter. If you’re careless, you could suffer a heat stroke. Be wise about what you’re wearing!
After having three friends in their late 20s get melanoma, I take SPF seriously. I apply sunscreen before any run where I’ll be in the sun for any amount of time, even in the morning. I like Beautycounter Mineral Sunscreen. It doesn’t leave that crazy white cast that some zinc-based sunscreens do, it’s sweat proof and safe (for our bodies and for the reef) so it’s a win all around. Even if your run is in the shade on a trail, wear SPF.
One of the best things you can do is run in the off hours — early in the morning or later in the evening, especially for long runs. The sun will be much more intense from 11am-3pm and oftentimes, 5-6pm can be the hottest time of day. If you can get out early in the morning or wait until a little later in the evening, it’ll help a lot. You can check your weather app for the heat index and plan your run accordingly.
When I was doing two-a-days while training for the Boston Marathon, I had my second easy run in the evenings and it quickly became a favorite way to unwind after a long day.
In the winter, you start slowly to allow your body extra time to warm up in cooler temperatures. And in the summer, you want to start slowly so your body temp and heart rate don’t spike as early on in your run. That will help your run feel a little better for a little longer.
A good rule of thumb is that your pace will be about 20-30 seconds slower than your “normal” pace. But some days, you may run 90 seconds slower. Or more. It’s ALL OKAY. Just slow down. It’s not a big deal. I promise. If it helps, brag on Strava about how much slower you can run when it’s hot – make that your claim to running fame.
And remember that EVERYONE is slower in the heat. It’s science. It’s not just you. This calculator is handy to see how the conditions will impact you on any given day. And the Dark Sky app will show you what time of day the Dew Point is the lowest. (Side note: It’s one of the few apps I’ve paid for because it’s super handy when planning runs around wind, rain, temps, everything. I find it’s more accurate than the iPhone weather app.)
Run by effort, not your typical pace in high temperatures. If you have an easy day, run a pace that allows you to say complete sentences. If you have a workout, either adjust your interval/tempo pace or run the effort you should be feeling for the particular intervals. Don’t let a training plan override common sense.
And don’t be too uptight or stubborn to take walk breaks. I often take walk breaks during summer runs. It’s usually only 30-60 seconds but it helps a lot to have a little breather.
If you’re not feeling strong, SLOW DOWN! And if you feel dizzy or lightheaded, STOP RUNNING IMMEDIATELY. Take the heat seriously. If you’re not feeling better after slowing down and drinking some water, seek medical attention.
If you can find a running buddy, it really makes the most miserable conditions a bit more tolerable!
If you don’t have anyone to run with, make sure you let someone know when you’re running and when you plan to be back. This is a good habit for all your runs – not just hot ones. I always let my husband know my running plans, including when I’m leaving, roughly how long I plan to run and the route I’m taking.
The goal with this is to keep your core body temperature down as much as possible. If you ever watch elite runners during a race, you will likely see this. I pour it on my head and down the back of my neck. It might seem intense or silly, but it seriously helps! Some people swear by putting cold water on their wrists.
I employed this strategy during the 2019 Boston Marathon and it’s part of the reason I felt strong the entire race, even as temps rose.
Bottom line – be smart. Your life doesn’t depend on hitting a certain pace or distance. But it can be life threatening if you don’t pay attention when your body is screaming at you. There will always be another run.
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13 responses to “10 Tips to Not Hate Running in the Heat”
Catching up on your posts (work has been crazy!), and this one is so fitting right now! Started my 16 miler this morning at 78 degrees with 98% humidity and finished at 84 degrees. It was tough! These tips are great! I’m hoping that training now will make running in Utah in September feel magical! haha
oh oof! Where did you have 98% humidity? Certainly not in Utah! ha!
September running in Utah is the BEST.
Central Texas! There’s no way to escape the heat or humidity during the summer. You get one, the other, or both! 🙂
I’ve been enjoying your blog especially as I am about to move to WS! 🙂
So great! I am ridiculous about protecting my face, but sometimes I don’t like hats because I want more ventilation (even with dry-wick materials). When I was doing late summer 20 milers on the hottest Chicago days, I’d put my hat in the freezer overnight to at least keep my head cool for the first hour…
oh that’s a great idea to freeze your hat!! I wear a visor for more ventilation!
Is there a heart rate “threshold” that you try and stay under while pregnant? Trying to figure out how safe it is in the first trimester with the heat and humidity in Mississippi!
My doctor didn’t give me a heart rate threshold, but everyone’s pregnancy is so different that you should ask your doctor for guidance specific to your situation!
Great article! Thankfully our summer in Arkansas has not been too hot, but I’m glad that you wrote an article that I can refer back for the days that I’d be concerned about heat stroke. When I first started running we had a really hot summer and ended up having a heat stroke after running one morning. I learned my lesson the hard way. I wish that I would have had an article to refer to then. Thanks for this!
Gosh that’s scary!! I hope these tips help you in the future!
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Great tips, especially about running with someone or telling them where you are. NYC gets so humid in the summer, it can be miserable. It makes me appreciate the cold winters more and my dog can run with me when it’s cooler too:).