8 Hot Weather Run Rules – Useful Tips For Running In The Heat
First thing’s first: Should you even run in heat and humidity? and should you run in the summer at all?
I love outdoor running throughout the year. I’ve had some great runs in all kinds of weather. But when it comes to favourites then warm, even hot, summer days will always be something I look forward to.
So, should you run in heat and humidity? Should you run in summer days at all, if you live in a warm climate? Or is it better to take a break and wait for cooler weather?
The short answer is Yes. And No, there is no reason to avoid running during the summer. But, and there is always a but… whilst running in hot weather can be a treat for aficionados like me, just like with any extreme outdoor experience it’s good to check out a few things and prepare well before setting off.
hot weather run do’s and don’ts – Basic things to consider when running in the heat
It’s all about simple preparation. If you have no health issues regarding going out in the hot weather then start with proper hydration, and choose appropriate hot weather running clothes first.
Hydration? What hydration?
Do not contemplate running in the heat after a heavy meal or without proper hydration – you wouldn’t last long out there. Hydration would need to be the top of your priorities with daily intake of water spread evenly throughout the day, every day. Ideally you would drink at least several litres per day.
Remember, you feel thirsty only after you’ve dehydrated so basically you should avoid being thirsty in the first place!
Even moderate dehydration when running in hot weather can cause confusion or worse, fainting, and with other favourites such as cramps, spasms, headaches and fatigue, you will definitely want to stay well hydrated and loaded up on electrolytes before negotiating those bright hot runs.
Note that gulping a bottle of water just before the run is best avoided – your stomach would rebel and most of it wouldn’t be absorbed by your body by the time the run is finished. (Read about ways to stay properly hydrated in my article on running hydration).
Can I wear my regular running clothes? Are hot weather clothes different?
When choosing your running clothes for your hot weather run make sure your top is loose and bright coloured in order not to absorb even more heat and dark colours are famous for doing that.
Shorts should be light and comfortable, avoid tight leggings. I personally prefer training tech clothing, I find it comfortable when hot as it wicks away sweat and dries real quick.
I would only wear a head cover if directly exposed to the sun, otherwise the less is more here.
Shades will not only make you look mega cool, they will also shield your eyes from all that brightness – remember to wear proper running shades that stay on top of your nose and don’t slip down through sweating!
What to eat before a hot weather run?
People usually eat less when it gets really hot, as running light over short distances feels more comfortable for me and most other runners. It is a good idea to try and eat as little as your body needs to get through the run, and not more. And do remember to stay hydrated at all times!
After the run you may want to treat yourself with your food favourites, and why not!
I’ve got hydration, fuelling and clothes all checked. Do I now just go out and run?
Not yet. If the weather is going to be really hot you should plan the timing of your run. There is no point risking sun stroke by going out at lunchtime and running in the middle of the road. I tried that (minus the road bit) but it was physically and mentally too demanding. You can actually feel the physical sensation or feeling of ‘weight’ of the oppressive heat and that could lead to sun burns and heat exhaustion.
Not worth the risk.
Try and plan to run in the morning before the sun goes over the horizon as that will be the coolest part of the day. You can also run after the sun goes down if darkness is your thing but be aware – the surroundings will have had an entire day to get really heated up and the temperature can still be uncomfortably high even though the sun has gone down.
If you are road running, that road asphalt will be piping hot by now!
Right, it’s the crack of dawn and I’m out there. Anything to remember?
If you are new to running in the heat, run much slower than you would normally do. Listen to your body, see how it feels, don’t push it, don’t start with a sprint, test the ground first. You will start getting very warm very soon and if you feel weak or uncomfortable slow down a bit more or simply walk.
I always carry a bottle of cold water and pour some over my head to cool down. It feels great.
What if I don’t want to run that early or after dark?
Well, then you can run during the day but you simply don’t want to be there when the sun is at its strongest, between 11am and 5pm (give or take, you’ll have to use common sense here depending on how hot it is out there, wherever you are). You should find a shaded path if possible, stay out of sun’s reach and carry that life-saving bottle of cold water.
Never forget to apply the appropriate sun screen lotion or cream protection!
Why am I sweating so much?
Because it’s hot and also because when running your working muscles are increasing your body temperature, hence you break sweat, a lot of sweat at times. And as your sweat evaporates you are getting cooled.
So all is good if you are feeling good during your hot weather run but do remember to always listen to your body! Any unusual feelings, slow down or simply stop!
I heard about humidity, is that good or bad?
Humidity is basically the concentration of water vapour in the air and that concentration goes up as the air temperature increases. Summer heat will sometimes bring high humidity and the higher it gets, the air is more saturated with water (‘sticky heat’, some call it). It makes it more difficult to cool off because your sweat will struggle to evaporate since the air is already very saturated. You may feel that breathing is more laboured too.
And beware, hot summer day and high humidity are good friends but you need to be sure that you are ready for their party before you join in.
Hot weather with high humidity can trigger panic attacks in those who are susceptible to them, so you should really know and understand your body before deciding to run in those conditions. Even if you give yourself the green light, when running in hot weather with high humidity go for a short and slow run.
Test the ground first before embarking on that imperious 5K sprint.
At times it takes me a few days to adapt to the local weather when I travel to a hot weather place in the summer. I used to run not long after the arrival but that would leave me feeling weak and light-headed afterwards. Good preparation is a must! This really is about better to be safe than sorry!
So, should you run in heat and humidity? The answer is Yes, but there are rules to follow. Should you run in the summer? Yes, but there are adjustments to make to your normal running routine. Summer weather does not mean you should pause and wait for cooler days – just like running in cold weather or high winds, running in the heat can be special if we prepare well and respect what nature is about to throw at us. This is not about competing with the elements or testing the body to extremes. It’s about trying a different run, slow or short, and if we get everything right it can be a very enjoyable experience.
As always, prepare well and listen to your body!
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