Good grief. It is HOT here in Oklahoma. I got up at 4:00 for a run this morning to try to beat the heat, but it didn’t really work. It was close to 80 degrees when I hit the pavement and muggy. Humidity is the worst. It makes me feel like I’m trying to breathe with a cloth over my head.
Running in the heat does this to me. (Sorry, I hope I haven’t ruined your appetite with this horrible photo!)
But more than just not being pretty, running in the heat can be dangerous. You know, dehydration, and stuff like that. So I thought today, since I’m dripping with sweat and running in the heat is on my mind, I’d give you my survival list for hot weather running.
- Avoid running during the hottest part of the day. If you’re like me and live somewhere that’s just hot 24/7 during the summer, you can’t avoid running in the heat, so pick the lesser of the evils. Run when it’s 80 degrees instead of 98. For me, like today, I get up super early some times. That may mean running in the dark which is a whole different ball game and a topic for a different post, but it’s also not quite as hot. Or I’ll run later in the evening, before the sun goes down completely. And sometimes I run on my treadmill. I have a treadmill with a fan in the garage. I open the garage door, strip down to just a sports bra and shorts, turn on the fan and get my miles in. It’s not much cooler, but it’s an alternative when my schedule only allows for a mid day run.
- Wear moisture wicking clothes. This is my standard for clothing for any fitness activity, but I find it especially helpful when I’m running in the heat. Have you ever been caught unprepared in a downpour? You know how your clothes just cling to you when they get wet? Yeah, I cannot stand that feeling, especially when I’m running and sweating buckets in the summer. So moisture wicking fabric is a life saver. It pulls the moisture away from your body so you don’t feel as wet. You can find shirts and shorts made of wicking fabric.
- Wear as few clothes as possible. I feel like I’m advocating for public nudity by writing that, but what I mean is to dress for the weather. I see people working out sometimes in sweatpants and hoodies with the hood on, just dripping sweat. I want to ask them what they think they’re gaining (anyone know?), but don’t dress like that for a run in the heat. You’ll keel over. I’d hate to use my CPR license when I’m not at work if I don’t have to. I live in racerback tank tops. I feel covered but with less fabric over my back, I don’t feel constrained by my shirt when it starts to collect sweat. For longer runs, I like to wear compression shorts, but for shorter runs I like to wear loose shorts.
- Wear a head band or cap. When I was younger, I never sweated when I got hot. My face just turned beet red and scared people to death. With age and fluctuating hormones, I sweat buckets now when I get hot. Being new to running, and especially running in the heat, I didn’t realize how much I would sweat until I finished a 5K a couple of years ago and was nearly blinded by sweat running into my eyes. I was miserable. My eyes were burning so badly I could hardly open them, and the only thing I had to wipe them with was my sweat laden cotton t-shirt or my sweaty hand. Not much help from either of them. Now, I don’t run without some type of headband or cap. I love Fit Chic headbands (check them out here). They’re light weight, moisture wicking, and they stay where you put them. I also really like my Headsweats cap (visit them here) . It’s also light weight and has a sweatband inside.
- Don’t forget the sunscreen! Whether you’re super pale like me or not, skin needs to be protected from those harmful UV rays. I like to use a sport sunscreen with SPF 50 because I’m really pale. Because sport sunscreen generally has a longer wear time before needing to be reapplied, I can make it through most runs with one application. And sport sunscreens are usually waterproof so it won’t come off when the sweat pops out. Don’t forget an SPF lip balm. Lips are skin too and are just as susceptible to developing skin cancer.
- Slow down. Runner’s World reports that every 5 degrees F above 60 degrees can slow your pace by 20-30 seconds per mile! No wonder I feel sluggish trying to run fast in the heat. I’ve learned to just go with it, though. Not every workout has to be a speed or tempo workout. Just accept that heat and running your fastest pace don’t mix well and slow down.
- Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate! Last, but certainly not least, hydrate! Running in the heat can cause excessive perspiration (aka, sweating like a pig) which equates to losing electrolytes, like sodium. Your body needs sodium, potassium, magnesium, calcium–electrolytes– to make muscles work properly. And in case you weren’t aware, your heart is a muscle. After running those however many miles with severe leg cramps during my marathon, I’m still learning how to hydrate to replace electrolytes. Hydration and replacing electrolytes are huge topics, so I’ll try to spend more time on that later, but if you’re a beginning runner, start with making sure you don’t go into summer runs dehydrated. Drink water throughout the day, every day, to make sure you stay well hydrated. I like to use the “pee test” to know if I’m getting enough fluid. If my urine is pale yellow, I know I’m well hydrated (TMI? Sorry.). During hot weather, I always take a bottle of water with me and drink when I feel thirsty. On long runs that last more than an hour, I take a sports drink (I like Nuun) with me for electrolyte replacement.
So here’s to running in the summer! Be safe. And find a route that takes you past a splash pad. Just have fun!
What are some of your favorite summer activities?
What tips do you have for keeping cool while being active during hot weather?