Whether you’re trying to stick with a training schedule or want to maintain your usual exercise routine, you can take steps to make running in the heat more bearable. Here’s 10 tips to help you outsmart the heat:
PART 1: Plan Your Run Wisely
1. Pick the right time to run
On hot days, early morning is the coolest time to run and air quality is best. Another option is running later in the morning or in the evening. Avoid the afternoon, when the sun is highest in the sky. It's the time when it's hottest, most humid, and air quality is low. Consider doing long runs, tempo runs, and speed workouts on the cooler days of the week.
2. Choose the right route
Switch to a shady route on warm days. Shade lowers the temperature you feel by several degrees and reduces sun exposure. Move your run from the streets to trails. You'll get shade from trees and escape the intense heat of black asphalt.
3. Plan a pre-cooling strategy
Scientists have found reducing body temperature before a workout can decrease heat stress and improve performance. ASICS athlete Deena Kastor has used a pre-cooling strategy before big events, such as wearing an ice vest and sitting in an air conditioned room. You can also try drinking an ice slushy ahead of time. Pre-cooling your body can delay the effects of heat on your body and help you perform better.
PART 2: Staying Cool On Your Run
4. Wear more (yes, you read that right)
Stripping down on hot days seems intuitive, but it can actually make the heat worse. You’re better off shielding your body from the sun with lightweight, light-colored technical fabrics. This helps to reflect, rather than absorb heat, and wicks away moisture from your skin.
You can also shield the sun by wearing clothing with UPF protection – this kind of apparel provides UV protection from fabric (UPF). A UPF of 50 allows only 1/50th of the UV radiation to pass through. You can also wear a running hat to cover your head and neck, and sunglasses to protect your eyes.
Sunscreen is important because sunburned skin doesn’t sweat as well, making it harder for your body to cool itself off. Sunscreen also keeps skin temperature lower.
5. Drink Up
Hydrate before, during, and after runs. This improves performance and makes running feel easier. On hot runs, try to drink at least eight ounces of water or sports drink 30 minutes before a run. Drink small doses while you run.
A few tips for staying hydrated during your run:
You can carry a water bottle, use a bottle with a hand strap, a belt, or wear a hydration pack with a water bladder (a belt or a pack can also help by holding gear you shed as it warms up)
If you don’t mind running loops, you can stash a water bottle on your route and come back to it
Plan a route around water fountains or other places to fill up
Don't forget to rehydrate after running. You need to compensate for fluid lost sweating, but be careful not to overdrink.
6. Adjust your pace
When it isn’t possible to avoid the heat, change your goals. For example, if you planned on a 19-kilometer long run at 10-minute kilometer pace, change the distance to 16 kilometers or the goal pace to 10:30. Likewise, for a workout of 10 x 400 meters at two minutes each, switch to eight repeats or 2:10 goal pace. Even after making such distance or time adjustments, the value of the workout won't be diminished because it will make runs on cooler days seem easier in comparison.
Running in the heat even at a slower pace also prepares you for any warm-weather races in the future. Your body will adjust and get better at cooling itself, and you can gradually increase intensity.
Acknowledge that blazing hot days are not the time to try to beat your personal record. You don’t have to feel like a slave to your running watch or your calendar.
7. Pour water on your head and body
Bring extra water so you can douse yourself. The refreshing feeling of cold water can make you feel a lot better.
8. Ice, ice baby
Use a bandana to hold ice cubes against your neck. Women can try sticking an ice pack or frozen water bottle in the back of a sports bra for cooling relief. You can also freeze wash cloths overnight and bring them in a cooler.
9. Always listen to your body
Be mindful of the signals your body is sending you. If feel really uncomfortable, dizzy, or lightheaded, stop and rest for a bit. While not common, if you push your body too far in the heat, you may be at risk for heat stroke or heat exhaustion.
PART 3: Consider Alternatives
10. When it’s just too hot – head indoors
It’s okay to acknowledge when the weather is too hot for running outside. You can still get in a workout outside by doing something different to cross train, such as swimming laps or a water hike. Head indoors to the air conditioning to tackle your run on a treadmill. Do something new and join an indoor fitness class such as spinning, yoga, or dance.
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