Spring is here and summer is coming. Which is awesome in a lot of ways: longer days, warmer temps, and a lot of winter training begins to pay off in races. But to be sure that you are ready for the change in seasons, check out our top tips for running in the heat.
If you’ve got a race coming up in the middle of the summer, you’re going to need to acclimate. It takes most people anywhere between eight and 14 days to acclimate (think: decreased heart rate, decreased body temperature, increased sweat rate, etc.). They are all adaptations that your body makes in response to working out in the heat. Which means if you’ve been doing most of your training in an air conditioned room on a treadmill, you’re going to have to spend some time outdoors getting your body ready.
When it comes to running in the heat, try to be flexible with the time of day that you run (early mornings or evenings). After all, it’s difficult to get motivated to lace up when it’s noon and the sun is at it’s peak. In addition, try to be flexible with the kind of workout that you do. If your training plan is calling for a long run on a day that’s sweltering, consider adjusting your schedule so as to do it on a day with some cloud cover and or lower temps. Or, just slow your pace down and train within safe limits.
Hydrate before you start working out
If your urine is dark yellow or brown, you’re probably dehydrated. Make a point to drink throughout the day, especially before and after workouts, so that your urine is light in color. It’s not a bad idea to keep a glass of water by your bed as well (especially if you’ve had alcohol or caffeine throughout the day.)
There’s all kinds of ways to carry fluids on a run these days. Everything from packs with bladders, to hand-helds, to belts, to vests, etc. Pick one that works for you and take it with you. It’ll help you not only go longer but stay safer on runs in the heat. If you don’t want to carry anything with you, be sure your run has some water fountains along the way or stash some beforehand.
Drink sports drinks
Water is great but on longer runs you may want to consider a sports drink that has electrolytes in it. Drinks like Gatorade, have not only sugar in them but sodium and electrolytes like sodium and potassium that can help you replace what you lose in your sweat. If you’re going to be working out in the heat, for longer than an hour, or at high intensities, a sports drink might be a better call than just plain water.
Watch your caffeine and alcohol intake
We love coffee and beer and wine and liquor. But both caffeine and alcohol are diuretics which will cause you to urinate more than usual. Doing so can lead to dehydration. Be sure to replace lost fluids anytime you’re drinking coffee, soda, tea, liquor, beer, wine, etc. Happy hours are always a lot of fun but if you have an important workout planned for the next day and it’s going to be hot out, think twice before you put these things in your body.
Head for the trails
Ever gone for a run in the summer on the road and felt like it was literally throwing heat up at you? It is. Do yourself a favor and hit the trails. Many of them offer natural shade and can feel ten to fifteen degrees cooler. Bonus points for finding a trail that’s near a stream or lake when you can jump in and cool off post-run.
Protect yourself from the sun
Lather up in sunscreen of at least SPF 30 and wear a visor or hat to keep the sun off your face. Also consider sporting some sunglasses. If you don’t wear either regularly, they make take some getting used to, but they’ll prevent you from soaking up dangerous and harmful rays. Another thing to try out is a Buff which you can wear around your neck and keep wet. It’ll keep you cool and also keep the sun off your neck.
Choose your clothes wisely
Reach for clothing and gear that’s moisture-wicking, lightweight and light in color. There’s tons of great choices that have mesh, vents, synthetic fibers and more that are designed to keep your core temp as low as possible. Some people like to wear as little clothing as possible on hot days but remember that in doing so you’re exposing your skin to the sun. If you want some recommendations on some running gear, look HERE.
The summer is also a great time of year to try new things like cycling, swimming, kayaking, surfing, pool running, stand up paddle boarding. The list of activities is almost endless. Chances are you’ll never break up with running, but choosing different activities might help you find something new to love, help break up the monotony of running, strengthen different muscle groups and keep you out of the heat on days when running feels like a chore. We’re getting a bike rack put on our van soon so we’ll be able to bring them with us on our trips from now on.
Know the signs of heat exhaustion and heat stroke
Listening to your body is one thing, but paying attention to it is another. Be sure that you are aware of the signs and symptoms of heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Stop if you experience dizziness, confusion, a headache, nausea, poor balance and a lack of sweating. Any and all of these should be taken seriously as your body is trying to tell you something. Failure to listen to the warning signs can be dangerous, and in some cases, fatal.
Tips for Running in the Heat Recap
Though running in the heat can present some unique challenges it can also be a great confidence booster (especially if you’re training for a fall race and can expect cooler temperatures). With a little bit of planning and flexibility, working out safely in the heat and running in the spring and summer months can still be fun. As always, be sure to check with your doctor before deciding to start up a new exercise program or routine.
Interested in other running articles? Be sure to check out our Best Women’s Running Gear as well as our piece on the Best Places to Run in Florida. We’ve also got one on Running Motivation in case you need a little something to get you going. If you’re traveling around, no worries. Check out our Van Life Workouts for the days when you don’t have enough time to get in an actual run.