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 hot weather safe?
After a few minutes of sweating, our heart rate increases and new runners find themselves wondering whether it is actually safe to run in this hot weather.
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 a struggle to run in the heat?
Running in high temperatures alone is enough of a challenge by itself, but hot weather often brings a few other conditions that make things feel even worse for runners.
These hot runs often involve humidity and sunshine in addition to those high temperatures, creating 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 our body temperature rises when our heart rate increases and our muscles start pumping, but when this happens in combination with a rise in external temperatures, running begins to feel like a struggle.
Many runners find that their pace is quite a bit slower when running in hot weather. Our usual effort produces much slower paces than we are used to seeing, which can feel quite frustrating.
How do you run in hot weather?
The golden question.
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 in the heat.
Here are a few tips to survive hot weather running, stay safe, and make the most of this season outdoors.
9 Ways to Survive Hot Weather Running
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.
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 hot weather 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.
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.
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.
Adjust your expectations according to the weather. Understand that running a 10 minute mile will probably feel significantly more challenging than it does in cool weather, and cut yourself some slack.
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 the 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.
Take things easy.
Running in hot weather 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.
Further Reading: 8 Tips for Running in the Heat