With summer season in full swing it’s hot, and it takes extra effort to get out running in hot weather.
Experience has taught me that running in the heat can be a good idea, especially when prepping for races. I turned up for an Ironman in 2015 with unexpected race day temperatures at 38 degrees Celsius (100 Fahrenheit). It was unusually hot, but the race was on so the hot summer running paid off.
Whilst running your personal best in hot weather is almost certainly off the cards, continuing your regular runs in the summer heat will maintain your fitness, but consider these steps to make your run safe and enjoyable.
1. Listen to Your Body & Train Based on Heart Rate Zones
If you typically train on pace this is probably where you will find a big challenge.
When running in hot weather, you and your body will need to work significantly harder to run at your usual pace. Whilst you may succeed to maintain your usual pace you will be working harder to do so. You will be pushing your heart rate much higher than you do on a cooler day.
Accepting the heat and adjusting your run will be the first big mental step to consider. It may even be worth a rethink of the run entirely.
Instead of running on pace, heart rate zone based training may be better when running in hot weather. This will be a way for you to to listen to your body and respect its limits.
With an increasing number of sports watches incorporating HR sensors you will only be left with the job of understanding your own heart rate zones and finding a plan to suit you. An increasing number of training plans incorporate heart rate zone training. If you do not already use one, now might be a good time to switch.
When you switch to heart rate zone based training your pace may slow. When setting out on a heart rate based plan, stop thinking about pace entirely. You will feel like you can go faster. Instead respect your heart rate and run within your bodies limits. It will pay off on your fitness in the long run.
2. Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate
This is good advice for any time of year. If you are plan to go running in hot weather, increase your intake of fluids starting the day before. With a likelihood for increased sweating during a hot run, you will be losing more fluids and minerals that need replenishing.
In order to replace the minerals lost in your sweat, drink electrolyte based drinks before, during and after your run. Ensure that you are striking a balance between the loss of fluids and your intake. Water alone may bot be giving you everything your body needs.
Get used to running with a water bottle. I know many people who choose not to. When running in hot weather this should not really be negotiable. There are an increasing number of hydration packs that aim to make your life as a runner easier.
Here are a few suggestions:
Tip: Save yourself some drink for when you finish your run. Typically this is when the heat suddenly hits so having some of your drink left at this point is always good.
How much should you drink? This depends on how much you sweat. It is worth using one of your runs to understand your sweat rate so that you can adjust your consumption to your own personal body needs.
Camelbak offers insight to understanding your hydration needs based on sweat loss.
3.Pick a Hot Weather Friendly Route
Whilst this may not matter on a regular day, on hot days you will want to spend as much time as possible out of direct sunlight.
If you have a forrest nearby this is always a good option. Being able to hide from the sun in nature is ideal and will offer a cooler run. Alternatively finding a route that might offer a breeze, especially if it’s a cool breeze is a great option. I have found that my local path under the trees by a lake sometimes offers this, with the breeze picking up over the lake. However, be aware, without the breeze a lakeside run can get very hot.
Avoid any runs in city centres where you will be faced with concrete, glass reflections, traffic and pollution. Instead try make it to local parks where the chance to find some fresher air is slightly higher.
4.Choose Your Time of Day Wisely
Getting into morning running is a good idea, and evening runs once the sun sets can bring some cooler air.
If you live in a place where both day and night remain consistently hot the choices get tougher. Sure, getting out of direct sunlight helps, but evening runs can bring a pressing heat and also brings out the mosquitoes (depending on where you live), and we know mosquitoes love runners!
I keep an eye on the weather map and any drop in temperature. I also keep on the lookout for moving trees and a cooling breeze. A rain shower is always good with the possibility that the moment after the rain may bring a brief moment of cooler air.
If you are training for a race there are other things to consider. When doing a triathlon (especially long distance) you will most likely hit the run around mid-day. If so, you will need to train for running in hot weather. If your race day is in a hot location, practice in the heat. Understand how to manage a hot run, don’t be surprised and discouraged on race day.
5.Protect Yourself Against the Sun
This is no different to any other day in the sunshine, but when you are running in hot weather you may not feel the sun in the same way as you do when lying on the beach. When you are on the move you will feel a breeze initially giving you the impression the sun is not hitting you. Don’t be fooled, getting your sunscreen on is a must.
A running cap that can absorb sweat and protect your head and sunglasses are my go to accessories, not only to protect yourself but a cap can also be a useful tool to keep you cool. Try dipping it in some cold water whilst on your run.
It is important is to keep your body as cool as possible on both the outside and the inside. Combine shade, sun protection and hydration to keep your system functioning.
Jeroen is a keen runner and triathlete. With over 10 years of experience training and participating in races, simply for the joy of sport he has turned to sharing his experience through the articles he writes. As a founder at Loop Social Sport Jeroen has focused his passion on creating a community of like minded individuals who not only train together but also motivate newcomers to take up sport, whether in person or via this blog.