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How to Run in the Heat

JUN. 09, 2022
Running outdoors offers many mental and physical health benefits, but it's important to pay close attention to the weather when you do, especially if you live in a climate where it gets extremely hot and humid.
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Not paying close attention to the temperature can end with you becoming seriously ill. Stay safe, and follow these tips for running in the heat.

Person running outside

Opt for Lightweight Clothing

It probably makes sense, but you don't want to go out and run in your sweats when it's 80 or 90 degrees outside. Instead, opt for lightweight and loose-fitting clothing that provides your body some space to cool itself down. Choose light colors that don't attract the sun's heat. You'll also want to choose garments that wick moisture away, or you'll end up with wet, sweaty, and heavy clothing. If you can do so legally or comfortably, consider running shirtless or in a tank top or sports bra.

Man wearing asics gear

Wear a Hat or Visor

Don't forget to add a hat or visor to your wardrobe for those hot running days. It shades your face from the sun. Many runners will also dunk their hats in ice water before their runs to help keep themselves cool.

Apply Sunscreen

Make sure you wear sunscreen too, especially since you're most likely exposing more skin than normal. Opt for an SPF of 15 or more for protection from the sun. You'll also want to choose something that's sweatproof, so you don't end up with it running in your eyes or running off your body completely.

Run Early or Late

During certain parts of the year, you may need to adjust your schedule according to the temperature outside. On hot days, mornings are typically the coolest. If you can get up and run before the sun rises, you'll find it's even more comfortable. On the other hand, you may want to run in the late evening, just before or as the sun is setting. It may be warmer than the morning, but the humidity is typically lower, so it may be a little easier to breathe. Just make sure you take safety precautions if you do run in the dark.

Two People running outdoors

Find the Shade

No matter what time of day you run, try to pick a route that's shady. If you typically run on a sidewalk or street, switch things up and find a nature trail. Not only will there be more trees to keep you in the shade, but the terrain won't be as hot as concrete, and it won't be as hard on your joints.

Stay Hydrated

Hydration is important any time you run, but it's even more important when it's hot outside. It is recommended to drink 16 to 20 ounces a couple of hours before your run and another 8 to 12 ounces about 15 minutes after you run. Opt for water or a sports drink. For every 30 minutes you run, you'll need to drink about 3 to 5 ounces, so be sure to bring something along.

Pay Attention to Your Body

No matter what the temperature is outside, you should always listen to your body when you run. Pay attention to warning signs that the heat is too much for you. These might include:

  • Chills
  • Cold and clammy skin
  • Dizziness or feeling like you might faint
  • Headaches
  • Hot and dry skin
  • Muscle cramps
  • Muscle spasms
  • Nausea
  • Unusual or extreme fatigue
  • You stop sweating

These are all signs that the heat is affecting your health. If any of these symptoms occur, stop running immediately. Find a cool shady spot and sit down. Drink something. Monitor your symptoms. If they don't go away, call someone to come pick you up and take you home.

It's also important to know the signs of a heatstroke. Heatstroke occurs when your body overheats due to excessive physical activity in hot weather or spending too much time in hot temperatures. They are:

  • Body temperature of 104 degrees F or higher
  • Changes to your mental state, like delirium, confusion, or irritability
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Rapid breathing or heart rate
  • Red skin
  • Seizures
  • Slurred speech
  • Throbbing headache

If you believe you are experiencing heatstroke, call 911 immediately. This can be a life-threatening situation.

Women running outside in forest

Pay Attention to the Forecast

Make sure you follow the weather closely. Don't just assume it's going to be hot and cold at certain times of the year. And don't just look at the temperature; look at the heat index too. It could be 80 degrees outside but feel like 90. The Road Runners Club of America recommends avoiding outdoor runs if the temperature is higher than 98.6 degrees and if the humidity is over 70 percent. High humidity can actually make you overheat.

Take Your Workout Inside

If the temperature and humidity are high, or you just don't feel comfortable with the heat, it's okay to take your run inside for a day, a week, a month, or even the entire summer. There's nothing wrong with running on a treadmill or at an indoor track. It will help you stay in shape, even when mother nature isn't cooperating.