How to Prepare for Running in the Heat

In case you weren’t aware, it’s finally getting warmer, and we are getting hot weather.  Although, if you are anything like the Northeast, our weather went from 30 degrees to 80.  It feels as though there wasn’t much middle ground!  Hopefully, your body adjusts faster than mine.

Running in the heat and humidity can be a challenge.  Even though it’s usually more enjoyable than running in the cold, there are a lot of difficulties and obstacles you face by running in the warm weather too.

So How can you Prepare for Running in the Heat and Humdity this Year?

Stay Hydrated:

This is probably the most essential advice!

It doesn’t mean drink a liter of water directly before your run.  It means staying hydrating throughout the day.

Drink more water before, after, and during your run.  Also, don’t forget that you also lose electrolytes while running in warmer conditions.  During the warmer months, it’s important to add salt tabs or Gatorade to the mix too.  Figure out your sweat rate and find a sports drink that works for you. By hydrating appropriately, you can avoid muscle cramps and run and race safely in the heat.

Every runner has their own personal preference of what works for the stomach and system.  I am fortunate that most any electrolyte drink works well for me. I need to remember to drink it.

Adjust your Run for the Temperature, Heat, and Humidity:

Don’t be ashamed to back off pacing or dial it back because it’s hot.  Run by effort, heart rate, and feel, not based on what the workout pace should be at ideal conditions. Also, avoid running in the hottest parts of the day. The goal is to feel good during your workouts, not take it out too fast and find yourself with heat exhaustion.

For example, on Sunday, I had a tempo run scheduled.  It was 85 degrees, and while my pace was “supposed” to be 6:45, I ran 7:18 and was struggling.  Was I upset?  No!  Was I injured?  No.  I adjusted my pace accordingly and ran by effort and heart rate.   It’s essential to take note that running in the heat affects your body and you won’t hit the same paces as running in ideal conditions. There is no point to run too fast and suffer from heat exhaustion or heat stroke. I know when the heat and humidity are effecting me when I get a headache or nausea.

Don’t be afraid to dial back workouts either. Instead of doing a tempo run for 30 minutes, maybe try 20 minutes until you’ve adapted to the heat.

Wear Appropriate Clothing:

You could run naked, but that would end up being sunburnt and uncomfortable.  Don’t forget to wear sunscreen as well as moisture-wicking clothing. Your sweat evaporates, so find clothing that can help keep it off your body. I’ll have to do a current post of running apparel I love this season but in the meantime here are some things not to forget:

  • Hat (to keep the sun off your face)
  • Moisture-wicking and noncotton clothing: including a top, sports bra, shorts, underwear, and socks.  Cotton anything will absorb sweat and become heaving, causing blisters, chafing, and who knows what else.
  • Sunglasses: To keep your eyes protected
  • Body glide and sunscreen (because chafing stinks)
Be Flexible with Your Schedule:

Whether you need to run inside or run early, don’t be afraid to change your plan.  Run at the best time of the day. Until you are adapted to the heat, run in the coolest part of the day

You aren’t a hero if you run in 100-degree heat at high noon!   In the winter, typically running at lunchtime is ideal but that isn’t usually the case over the summer.  That’s normally when it’s the hottest.  Don’t be afraid to change the time of day you run or where you run.

There is no shame in running on the treadmill, especially when it’s the safest option.  You can usually find me there at least once per week. Plus by running inside, you can stay cool and keep your core body temperature lower. If you are unable to start running until later in the afternoon, you can do that safely inside.

In case you missed any of the previous weeks Running Store and Training:
Thoughts While Working in the Running Store
Should Race in Racing Flats?
Are You Getting Enough Protein for Running?
Why 5ks are the Best
How Alternating Shoes Can Benefit Your Running:
How to Transition in Minimalist Running Shoes
Should You Wear Running Shoes Outside of Running?

Questions for you:
What are some tips you have for running in the heat?
Do you like summer or winter running better?