The dog days of summer are not here yet, but it’s starting to get warm. Seemingly endless hours of daylight allows for more outdoor time, which is great. But, here in Atlanta, GA, and elsewhere, that means HIGH heat and humidity. And, with many gyms still closed, more runners are getting their runs done outdoors. As the temperatures rise, it’s important to know how to acclimate, and run in the impending hot weather.
How does Hot Weather Impact Me?
Given that, here are some tips on how to run in hot weather so your runs and workouts don’t nose dive. But first, know that your body must work harder to cope with increased heat and humidity. Therefore, adjust expectations and goals in terms of pace, recovery time, and workout intensity. An informative article on Runner’s World states a few key facts:
- Running in heat sets a number of physiological reactions — ones closely correlated to the fact that our muscles aren’t very efficient. It’s reported that ~80% of the energy our muscles produce ends up as heat. That’s great news for our cold weather runs; not so much for when the temps are high(er). Even with temperatures in the 50’s (Fahrenheit), we begin to become less efficient during our runs.
- Heart rates can increase as much as 20 BPM at the same pace when heat/humidity stressors are present. Plus, with warmer temps, your muscles receive less oxygen and therefore are less efficient—an important factor especially in longer races and runs.
- Given the above, there is a “slow down” factor, where we must adjust our pace to maintain the same effort level. This equals a range of 30-90 seconds per mile! That’s a pretty BIG difference.
- Even with a slower pace during hot weather, training can still be effective because it correlates to your heart rate achieved while training. When cooler temps/less humidity return, your quicker pace will also, possibly even faster after slogging through such tough conditions.
<< Related Topic: Sun Protection Tips for Runners >>
Tips to Cope with Hot Weather
Below are some tips on how to run in hot weather, but before that, know that your body has an amazing ability to acclimate to the heat, however uncomfortable it may be, and typically takes 8-14 days . During that time, your body adapts by sweating earlier and more profusely with exertion, and your blood plasma begins to expand. More blood plasma, means more fluids so that you will dehydrate less quickly (you may also gain 1-2 lbs due to an increase in fluids).
- Run when temps are lowest. Either early morning or later evening, but know that humidity is highest early in the day.
- Avoid direct sun if possible. “Feel like” temps in direct sun are 10-15˚ higher than in shade because of the radiating heat (solar radiation) of the sun.
- Lightweight (wicking) and light colored fabrics are a must.
- Hydrate! This can’t be ignored as your body cools itself by sweating. More sweat can equal dehydration with insufficient intake. Over time train yourself to consume more liquids to build resistance to dehydration.
Plus, it’s important to include an electrolyte beverage or supplement in or with your hydration (ie: Gatorade, Nuun tablets, SaltStick) to prevent electrolyte imbalances.
Not sure where to pack your hydration? A hydration vest is a great option.
- SLOW down. A slower pace, and running more by feel/heart rate are important. Additional walk breaks, or incorporating a run/walk split can help. When races return, remember this and you may fare better than your competitors who don’t adjust their pace adequately for higher temps, and suffer later in the race.
- Run inside (if possible). Set treadmill for 1-2% grade to more closely mimic outdoor running conditions.
Pre-cooling, What’s This?
Besides the above tips to run in hot weather, try pre-cooling! Pre-cooling is a technique used to slightly lower core body temperature before outdoor exercise. This allows you to exercise longer before reaching the critical temp threshold where you are forced to slow down.
Ideally, a cooling vest for 10-20 minutes prior to a run or during warm-up is most effective, but most of us don’t want to shell out $$ (although a highly rated version is available on Amazon for ~$30).
Option CHEAP: Two less costly ways to pre-cool at home.
- Freeze a PAPER CUP of Gatorade, or buy some freeze pops. ~10-20 minutes before your next run in the heat, eat the pop or Gatorade slushy. While this won’t cool your entire body quite like a cooling vest, you will see some benefits during your run.
- Grab a few hand towels and wet them. Place in freezer overnight and put them on your neck/head/back 10-15 minutes prior to your workout. It will be very cold initially! Put them back in the freezer, & put them on again after your run. There are some other “cooling towel” options; check out this reasonably priced brand.
What works (for me) when running in hot weather?
My experience with above less expensive methods … they are easier to do if leaving from home. I ran a 10K race last July 4th, and carting a slushy/ice cold towels with me wasn’t practical. What DID help, however, was munching on ice cubes prior to the race, and icing down my arms/neck.
I did use ice towels prior to my run the morning prior to the 10K, and it helped! Note: it’ll get your shirt wet, and the frozen towels can be a bit inflexible. I may invest in the above mentioned cooling vest given its low price. A whole summer of hot weather runs are left , and it will be nICE to make these hard runs a bit more bearable!