Tips for running in the heat

Running in the summer can be a drag and many people become frustrated because they are not running at the pace they want to or their running form is beginning to deteriorate. But don’t get frustrated because it truly is more difficult to run during the summer months due to certain weather conditions.  Understanding these changing conditions will allow you to train better and decrease your frustration with summer running.

As the summer begins to heat up, you will notice the increase in humidity. As humidity rises, our bodies have a harder time cooling down because our sweat, the body’s natural cooling system, is not evaporating as quickly from our body. When this happens, it leaves you feeling overheated requiring you to slow down. But even when the humidity is low, running in the heat still takes a toll. With dry hot air, the sweat from your body evaporates much more quickly resulting in you sweating more, which can result in dehydration leading to poor performance. As you become more dehydrated, your heart has to work harder at pumping blood throughout your body. This causes an increase in your heart rate even when you run at the same intensity resulting in you having to run slower to maintain the same effort.

Running under any of the above conditions, whether it is heat, humidity, or both causes increased energy expenditure at the same intensity causing you to fatigue quicker. As you continue to become more fatigued, you will start compensating for your less then perfect form, by having a shuffling running pattern. To help avoid any decreases in form, it is important to follow these tips to help you battle the heat and humidity.

  • Hydrate: Before, during, and after running. Hydration during the summer whether running or being active outside is one of the most important things you can do. Staying hydrated will help you avoid heat related illnesses, for example heat stroke, and muscle cramping. During the summer months, muscle cramps are more likely to occur due to the increased heat and depletion of bodily fluids from sweating. To avoid dehydration and muscle cramping, it is important to replenish electrolytes with sport drinks, like Gatorade, or by using salt packets. Restoring the fluid and electrolyte balance is a key part of the recovery process after running because you are restoring the body’s ability to function properly and optimally.
  • Be smart with clothing: When running outside during the hot summer months, make sure you are wearing smart clothing options by choosing lightweight fabrics and sporting lighter color clothing. You should avoid wearing cotton because it is a heavier fabric that retains water so when you sweat, the sweat is retained in your clothes making it harder for the body to cool down. Wearing dark colors, like black, attract sun and retain heat as well.  Wearing lighter color and lightweight fabrics, like microfiber polyester fabrics, will help keep the sweat off of your body, keeping you dryer and cooler on your runs.
  • Run early or later in the day: Running earlier or later in the day, will help you stay out of the sun and avoid the highest temperature of the day. Try to avoid running between noon and 3pm because that is when the sun is the strongest and the air quality is the poorest. Poor air quality makes it harder for you to properly breath so you end up expending more energy on trying to breath resulting in you fatiguing faster.
  • Plan your run: Planning your run is one of the most important things you can do. When running in the summer, you want to avoid spending too much time out in the sun so try to plan runs where you can spend some time in the shade and take a break from the sun. If you are planning to go on longer distance runs, plan to take water with you, like wearing a hydration pack, or plan your route where you know you will have access to water fountains if need be. Planning your run wisely will out you get to the most out of your training and help you achieve your running goals during the summer.
  • Run by effort level not pace. In the summer, you should be running around 30 to 45 seconds slower each mile then you would normally run during the fall or spring. The 30 to 45 seconds increase is to account for the increased amount of energy you will have to use will when running in the heat. Another great way to monitor effort is by monitoring your heart rate. Monitoring your heart rate will allow you to train at the proper intensities without the risk of over training or placing too much stress on your body before it is acclimated. You may have already noticed that during the summer, your heart rate is higher when training at the same intensity you trained at over the spring. The increased heart rate indicates the increased demand being placed on your body due to the warmer weather.  As you continue to train throughout the summer, you will notice that your body begins to acclimate and you will slowly be able to increase the intensity of your workouts.
  • Acclimate your body to the heat. Before going out and running 5 miles in the heat, it is important to acclimate yourself to running in the warmer, more humid months. It takes around 2 weeks for your body to acclimate to running in warmer conditions. You should ease into training by starting at a low intensity and see how your body respond to the heat. This is when you should utilize the rule run by effort not by pace. If you are new to running, you may want to consider walking two or three miles in the heat for one to two weeks and gradually transition to alternating between walking and running to begin to acclimatize your body to the heat. During this time your body will begin to adapt and you will begin to notice that your heart rate isn’t as high, your body’s core temperature has decreased, and you are sweating more.  As acclimation continues, you will be able to gradually increase your running intensity.

Make sure to follow these tips during the summer to help keep good running form as well as keeping yourself healthy and safe on the summer runs!

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