7 Tips for Running in the Heat
Race season is in full swing, and this week is crazy hot. Summer races are happening, and fall races are just around the corner, including Twin Cities Marathon, which means you’re probably putting in a good amount of miles. How do you handle running in the heat? If you’re like me, treadmill running is hardly an option, especially for long runs.
Here are some tips to help you get through these hot days without letting your training slide.
The Risks of Running in the Heat
Running in the heat is not only more difficult, it can be dangerous. When your core temperature rises, your body tells your brain to “Slow down” or “STOP!” When this happens your level of enjoyment probably starts to drop and you are thinking to yourself, It’s too hot out here. This is miserable. I want to be done! You might decide to cut your run short at this point (probably the right decision to make), or maybe you try to overcome these nay-saying thoughts with positive thoughts; I can do this. I’m stronger than this heat. I will finish this run!
This can get dangerous – heat exhaustion, heat stroke, and even death can occur if you let your body’s core temperature get too high. How can you avoid letting the heat get the best of you, and still avoid heat injuries?
Here are some tips for healthy and happy running in the heat.
1. Run in the morning
Perhaps the easiest and best solution is running at the time of day that is coolest – sunrise. Conversely, the hottest time of day is usually right around 4:00 or 5:00 pm, so running right after work is not the best idea on a hot day. If you can, plan your runs right around 6:00 am on really hot days. It might not always be cool at this time, but at least it’s cooler than the afternoon and evenings.
2. Get cold before you run
Take an ice cold shower, eat something cold (like a Popsicle or Freezy), or if you’re driving somewhere crank the A/C in your car. Doing this right before your run can help drop your starting core temperature, which means it will take longer for your core temperature to rise to uncomfortable or unsafe levels.
3. Run slower than normal
A simple and maybe obvious technique is, slow your pace. Since heat can add stress to your body, a slower pace does not necessarily mean you’re giving less effort. You might be running slower than usual, but your effort level might be higher than usual, which means your body’s core temperature will rise faster. Realize this when you’re running so you don’t push yourself too hard. Listen to your body. Run at a pace that feels like your normal pace, or even a little slower.
4. Bring a frozen water bottle and stay wet
It won’t stay frozen long, but while it is frozen you can hold it on your joints (elbows, knees, wrists, etc.) where your blood is closest to the surface of your skin. Also, as it melts, pour the cold water on your head and neck, a little at a time so it lasts throughout the run. If you’re running past one of the many lakes or rivers in Minnesota, or even just a fountain, dip your hat in the water. When it’s hot, wetter is better.
5. Wear a cotton shirt
Dry fit gear is meant to wick sweat away from your body and keep you dry. Since you don’t want to stay dry when it’s hot, wear a light weight cotton shirt. This will retain water, keeping you wetter and therefore cooler during your run. Also, make sure it is light colored so it doesn’t absorb additional heat from the sun.
6. Stay hydrated
This might be obvious, but it can’t go without mentioning. Hydration is essential to your health, and keeping your body cool. Start your run hydrated, hydrate during the run and of course re-hydrate after the run. Drink as you are thirsty. If you’re not sure if you’re drinking enough on a long run, try weighing yourself before and after your run. If you’re losing more than about 3-5% of your body weight, you should probably drink more during your run.
7. Listen to your body
In the end you have to listen to your body. Getting through a hot run can be rewarding, but ignoring what your body is telling you can be dangerous. Following these tips can help you run smarter in the heat, but they aren’t a substitution for common sense. Stay cool and enjoy yourself!