I love running in cold weather, and essentially any season other than summer. Living outside of Atlanta, our summers can be scorchers. I much rather layer clothing to brave the cold, but alas, I don’t think our weather patterns care what I like! As such, I need to adjust my hot weather running attitude as the summer approaches. Care to join me?! Good! Here’s 10 reasons to run in summer, plus 10 tips to make running in the heat easier and enjoyable.
First, let’s improve our attitude by knowing the benefits of running in hot weather – when the heat and humidity make us feel more like limp noodles versus stellar athletes.
10 REASONS We Don’t Hate Running in the Heat:
- It will make us faster runners (come fall). Acclimating to heat may actually be more beneficial than altitude training in bringing on positive physiological changes. (According to Santiago Lorenzo, a professor of physiology at Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine.) Plus, a 2010 study found numerous cardiovascular/physiological improvements as a result of heat training.
Isn’t it cool that summer runs can help improve your performance for fall races?!
- More difficult runs are great mental training, forcing us to dig deeper.
- It’s easier to run in daylight during the summer, and run before work, or your day begins.
- It makes us appreciate the “perfect weather” runs that much more.
- Statistically speaking, we are less likely to have an injury while running in summer.
- Compared to the winter, where trails and paths may be poorly maintained, summer running has more options.
- Fewer clothes to wash, since you’re not layering!
- Less time to get ready to run (again, fewer clothes!).
- A vitamin D boost.
- An excuse to buy some new gear to keep your hydration in check, and/or keep you cool.
Perhaps this list doesn’t exactly pump you up to run in summer heat, but hopefully it’s enough to keep your training on track. If so, there’s some critical tips you need to know to make running in the summer heat easier, and perhaps even enjoyable.
10 TIPS to Make Running in the Summer Easier
Adjust Your Pace Expectations.
Without a doubt, our body works harder in hot/humid conditions. Our heart rate can increase as much as 20 beats per minute! Our muscles receive less oxygen (thus less fuel) as well.
And unfortunately, our muscles aren’t that efficient – as much as 80% of the energy our muscles produce leaves the body as heat! That’s great news for when we are running in cold temps, but this makes our hot weather summer runs more difficult.
Run more on effort, and less on pace. As best as you can, stop looking at your watch, and monitor your effort level. At minimum, do this during the time you’re acclimating to hot weather runs!
If you ARE looking at your watch, know your pace should be anywhere from 30-90 seconds slower/mile!
Give Yourself Two Weeks to Acclimate to the Heat.
Over this time, your body adapts by sweating more, and earlier. Your blood plasma also begins to expand so that you will dehydrate less quickly (you may also gain 1-2 lbs due to an increase in fluids).
During this two week period choose shorter/lighter sessions, and don’t push too hard while your body is adjusting.
Heat acclimatization is most effective with longer duration (one hour) runs at an easy effort, or shorter duration (30-40 minutes) runs at a moderate effort.
Beat the Rooster, or Chase the Moon.
Early a.m. or later evening are best options for cooler temperatures. Here outside of Atlanta, that still means 70-75˚ degrees with high humidity. Yet running mid-day when temps are in the 90’s can be dangerous.
Find Some Shade.
The temperatures you see on your weather app, the news, etc. is based on temperatures in the shade. Meaning, it’s hotter by as much as 10+˚ in full sun.
Lightweight, looser fitting wicking materials are a must.
Your running attire should include lightweight, looser fitting materials that wick sweat away from your body. I am a huge fan of Raw Threads as they have a bamboo blend that possesses an anti-bacterial quality to keep you feeling fresher longer. The bamboo blend also is great for wicking away sweat.
Consider Run/Walk Intervals.
Throw in some run/walk intervals while you’re adjusting to the heat. The walk interval will help moderate your body temperature. If you already use run/walk intervals, consider decreasing the run time as you acclimate, or during long/hot runs..
Be Smart with Your hydration.
You need to hydrate more! Since our sweat rate increases in hot weather (we sweat to cool ourselves, FYI), we also need to up our fluid intake while running and while at rest.
Include Electrolytes in Your Hydration or Fuel.
Nuun tablets, SaltStick, or these other options will help regulate your electrolytes — which is especially critical during hot/long runs. SaltStick and Nuun have three important electrolytes: sodium, potassium and magnesium.
Ice is Quite Nice.
As you battle the heat and humidity (humidity makes sweat evaporation more difficult), here’s a few ideas to keep your body temperature cooler.
Have a small cooler somewhere handy on your route (perhaps your car/home where you can loop back to) that has the following items: ice, a few towels soaking in cold water (or sponges), some frozen grapes. Put one of the towels around your neck while running.
Another option is to pour cold water over your head/neck on occasion (and/or your arms/wrists). Attempt to keep your feet dry though, as swollen feet (from higher temps) and wet shoes are a bad combination.
Make the most of your handheld hydration (or vest): fill your hydration bottle, or your bladder with AT LEAST 50% ice.
Accessorize the Right Way.
With sunglasses and a visor. Sunglasses help keep our face relaxed, thus wasting less energy (and protecting our eyes!). A visor allows heat to escape through the head much more easily than a hat.
But, if you’re like me (my hair looks awful in visors!), and always wear hats – choose ones with a mesh top to allow the heat to “head out!”
That’s a wrap. Use the tips for running in hot weather, and know the benefits of summer running. When the weather eventually cools, you’ll be so glad you kept consistent with your runs!