Just about every runner finds themselves running in the heat at some point during the year. Whether you run in hot weather year round or only during the summer, you’ve likely experienced some of the struggles it can bring.
Hot weather sounds really appealing when you’re struggling to stay warm in the middle of winter. But for runners, the arrival of summer means more than just enjoying the heat by the pool. Running in hot weather involves quite a bit of effort and struggle.
Is running in the heat safe?
It doesn’t take long for us to question our sanity on a hot run. The heat, humidity and sunshine quickly combine to create conditions that are less than favorable for physical activity.
After a few minutes of sweating, our heart rate increases and new runners find themselves wondering whether running in the heat is actually safe.
Luckily, with a few precautions, running in hot weather can be just as safe as running in any other conditions.
However, safely running in the heat does require a bit more preparation and awareness than other times of year.
Why is it so hard to run in the heat?
Running in hot weather alone is enough of a challenge by itself, but these temperatures often bring a few other conditions that make things feel even worse for runners.
This type of weather often means you’ll be running in the heat and humidity, with some sunshine thrown in as well. High temperatures mixed with thick air and unprotected sun exposure creates a struggle for just about any runner.
Conditions like these slow us down more than we may expect, as it takes significantly more work for our bodies to maintain our regular pace.
It’s no secret that body temperature rises when heart rate increases, but when this happens in combination with a rise in external temperatures, running begins to feel like an endless struggle.
What’s the hottest temperature you should run in?
Even if you’ve decided to continue on through the extra challenges of running in the heat, it’s important to always put your safety first. At some point, there comes a point where it might actually be too hot to safely run outdoors.
While this is rare, it does happen – especially in southern areas where temperatures really climb during the summer. In addition, if you have a pre-existing medical condition, it can be especially dangerous to run in hot weather. In general, most healthy adults who are running at moderate exertion can safely run in temperatures up to even 85 – 95*F.
Unfortunately though, there is no set temperature limit that designates what is “safe” for running for the general population. A number of factors will influence the degree to which you are able to continue running in hot weather. If any of these apply to you or the run you wish to complete, you’ll want to be extra cautious when running in the heat:
- Pre-existing medical conditions
- Child or elderly
- Long distance mileage
- Elevated resting heart rate
- Hard workouts
How do you run in hot weather?
The golden question. Learning how to run in the heat will help make your time on the run much more enjoyable and sustainable.
Many runners find that their pace is quite a bit slower when running in hot weather. It can be frustrating to notice that your usual effort produces much slower paces than you usually see. However, this is normal and in fact will help you safely continue running in the heat.
In order to be successful (and safe!) with hot weather running, it’s important to take some extra precautions when heading out. A few minutes spent preparing for your run will likely greatly pay off. Educating yourself by learning how to run in heat will not only keep you safe, but make running more enjoyable.
Here are a few tips for running in the heat to help you stay safe, consistent, and make the most of this hot season outdoors.
9 Ways to Survive Running in the Heat
Learning how to run in the heat will help you stay consistent and enjoy running year round. While the first few runs might require a bit of adjustment, these 9 strategies will help your body stay safe, strong and continue training even on the hottest days.
Dress for the heat.
One of the most important steps you can take to prepare for running in hot weather is to dress accordingly. Dressing in the lightest, least restricting clothes will help maximize air flow and keep you as cool as possible.
Breathable clothing can help make sure the breeze reaches your skin and helps prevent that uncomfortable sticky feeling. There are tons of clothing options for runners created specifically with lightweight, breathable fabrics to make this possible.
Related: What to Wear Running in Every Temperature
Be sure to wear light colors and avoid darks that will soak up the sun. Dark colors soak up extra rays and create extra heat against your skin on the run.
In addition, many runners opt for a visor when running in the heat to help keep the sun off their face. You’ll want to invest in a visor as opposed to a hat so the top of your head stays as cool as possible.
Adjust to hot weather gradually.
The worst thing you can do is to attempt to run your usual pace or mileage on the first hot day of the season. Your body will certainly be surprised by the change, and you’ll probably find that running feels significantly more challenging than even the day before.
A simple way to avoid this shock is to allow your body to adjust gradually. Lucky for us, the weather usually sets this up for us. Over time things start to warm up, until we find ourselves in the peak of summer.
However, if you find yourself with a random hot day ahead after a season of cooler weather, be sure to adjust your expectations and slow things down until your body has time to respond.
Create a hydration strategy.
The single most important thing you can do to stay safe when running in the heat is to stay hydrated. While dressing right and preparing your body are certainly important, staying hydrated is necessary.
Plan to take water with you on every single run – even if it’s a shorter run. Bring along a handheld water bottle, wear a fuel belt, or plan your route where there are water fountains.
Develop a hydration strategy that allows you to take in water at least every few miles to help your body stay hydrated. The hot weather increases the amount we sweat, which makes drinking water more essential than ever. A general rule is to consume 1 ounce of water for every minute of activity. Therefore, a 60 minute run requires an extra 60 ounces of water, etc.
Educate yourself on heat stroke.
Running in hot weather can be safe, with the proper precautions. However, having knowledge of heat stroke and the physical sensations you might experience beforehand is key to your safety in hot weather. Understanding how to run in heat means that you know what dangers to watch out for.
Know the symptoms of heat stroke and stay tuned in to your body during every hot run. If you feel dizzy, nauseated or chilled – stop immediately. Head to a shady place and take a break to cool off.
Heat stroke can be serious, and is not all that uncommon. Create a game plan for what to do if you ever were to experience these symptoms, and always be aware of your body’s signals. If you’re unsure in the moment, it’s always better to play it safe.
Run based on feel – not pace.
Between the heat, increased sunshine and humidity, it’s really no surprise that running feels more difficult in hot weather.
Adjust your expectations according to the weather. Understand that completing a 10 minute mile will probably feel significantly more challenging when running in hot weather compared cool weather.
When running in the heat, you’ll want to run based on feel rather than pace. Start your run without looking at your watch and try to maintain the same amount of effort as you do throughout the rest of the year. If you do check your watch, be aware that the pace it reflects might be slower than you’re used to – but that’s okay.
Aim for early or late runs.
A great strategy to use when running in hot weather is to run either early in the morning or later in the evenings. Try to avoid running midday to miss the peak temperatures and hours of sunshine.
Running when the sun is directly above you only increases the heat you feel, not to mention the damage it can do to your skin when out for longer runs.
Luckily, most of us experience the hottest weather when the hours of daylight are longest. This makes it much easier to run later or earlier in the day without having to head out in the dark. It may not be ideal, but it will definitely be worth it to avoid running in the highest heat.
Plan a route with shade and water.
If you’re stuck running in hot weather each day, try to find a route that has plenty of shade and multiple places to access water. Look for trails in the woods or paths that have plenty of trees.
Even small patches of shade on your route can make a big difference on a clear, hot day.
In addition, try to find a route that passes a few water fountains or local gas stations where you could stop to refill your water bottle or get a glass in an emergency. If you end up with a little more water than you need, pouring just a small bit on your head can feel immensely refreshing in hot weather.
Protect your skin and eyes.
Keeping your skin and eyes protected from the sun is not only safe, but it helps reduce the effects of the heat as well.
Be sure to always wear sunblock in hot weather – even when it’s cloudy. Put a layer on your face and don’t forget about other exposed areas, such as the shoulders, arms and legs.
Wearing sunglasses can also make a huge difference in your comfort level. Protect your eyes from the sun with a lightweight pair of athletic sunglasses to help avoid having to squint for a large portion of the run.
Related: The Best Running Sunglasses of 2021
Take things easy.
Running in the heat and humidity might initially sound glamorous, but it is certainly far from it. However, the extra vitamin D and time outside is just about always worth the efforts.
Spend a little extra time preparing to be safe on the run, and remind yourself to cut your body a little slack. Regardless of what type of shape you are in, hot weather running requires extra effort from your body.
Try to avoid completing hard workouts and extra long runs in the heat of the day, and take things easy on hot runs. Slow down, listen to your body, and cut yourself a little slack. Training in hot weather, even if it’s slower, will set you up for success once the temperatures drop in the fall.
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Monday 13th of July 2020
Super helpful tips! I use the app run keeper which also gives me a running index for the day so I can determine whether or not it's worth is based on the weather conditions.
Runnin' for Sweets
Tuesday 14th of July 2020
Thanks for reading! And that's a great idea! I'll have to check out that app :) always helpful to have something more than just a temperature to go by when deciding whether or not to run and how hard to push.
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