While most of us are already starting to check out back-to-school sales, runners know that the summer heat is still reaching its peak. But, there’s no need to put the trainers in the closet until it’s boot season again! Running in the hot months is totally do-able, but whether you’re new to running or a total veteran racer, it’s still good to remember how to take care of your body and mind as you rack up the warm-weather miles. Check out these tips for surviving summer running in the heat and humidity.
Hydration, Hydration, Hydration
Everyone knows that it’s important to stay hydrated, but often runners will forget that drinking is more than just during or after your run. As I’ve recently learned, simply being in the heat can suck you dry — especially if July temps turn you into a sweat machine. Be sure to hydrate all day long so that you’re not in deficit mode before you even lace up. Then, consider how long you’ll be running. If you’re only going out for a quick 30-minute run, there’s no critical need to bring water with you. Running for an hour or more on a hot or humid day will require some hydration. Opt for whatever is most convenient, but get those fluids in!
A hand-held water bottle works — look for one with a strap so you don’t compromise your running by worrying about holding it. Other systems include a wearable water belt, a camelback-type system, or even planning a route that passes water fountains. (Be sure that they work! Been there, done that!) Another fun trick for those ridiculously hot days is to freeze water in your water bottle before you run. (Be sure to prop it in the freezer so you don’t freeze the lid shut!) It will help keep your water cold longer into your run. Depending on just how hot it is, that could mean the difference between lukewarm water at mile one or lukewarm water at mile 0.03.
Lastly, if you’re training for something and will be running longer than 90 minutes, opt for a sports drink that replenishes electrolytes. Gatorade, Nuun, or other similar drinks. Test it all out — sports drinks can upset sensitive tummies!
Get Time On Your Side
Now that you’re properly hydrated, be sure to think about when to hit the streets. Early morning is still the number one choice for most runners looking to avoid heatstroke. In all honesty, it’s crazy the difference it makes! If you’re not a morning person, or if the morning shift is already taken by your spouse or by other work or family obligations, evening running is also a good one. There’s probably still some leftover heat from the day, but shadows are longer and the setting sun is good for at least a few degrees of relief. Just be sure to wear reflective gear anytime you’re running without daylight, and be sure to run in areas where you feel safe.
No matter when you actually step out the door, try to find a shady route. When all else fails, a treadmill in an air-conditioned gym isn’t a bad option. (Insider tip: Find one with a TV and Netflix!)
Look the Part
Regardless of the time of day, proper clothing will make a difference, too. Now is not the time to break out those fancy black tights that shape your legs for you. Now is the time to find lightweight tops and bottoms and avoid dark colors. Look for material that wicks the sweat away from you (meaning, avoid 100 percent cotton t-shirts, shorts, even socks). You can find great quality sportswear at running specialty stores, but your go-to summer running tanks don’t have to be pricey — Target has some inexpensive options that work just as well.
You’ll also want to cover your head. A hat or visor with a brim is a good idea. Again, try to stick with white or light colors, but keep the underside of the brim dark so it doesn’t reflect the summer light into your eyes. And lastly, don’t forget your most important fashion accessory — sunscreen! You definitely want to keep that skin safe out there in the sun, so slather it on well before you start sweating!
Get Your Mind Right
Even with all these physical adjustments, there are no promises that you’ll have the same awesome run that you would have in 50-degree weather. Don’t forget that you’ll need to adjust your mental game, too.
For starters, lower your expectations. If you’re determined to get out there on a 90-degree day, acknowledge that your run might feel tough, or that your pace will slow. It’s normal, and it’s OK. Runners can lose 15 seconds to a full minute per mile (or more) in the summer heat.
Also, know that taking walk breaks — even when you’ve never done that before — are helpful to combat overheating. You’re still taxing your body the way you would on a harder winter workout because of the strain from the heat, so you’re not losing fitness by giving yourself a bit of a break. You might also consider purposely running slower, or picking a shorter route. On days when you have no choice but to run at noon and temps are already in the 90s, cut back and run two-thirds or even half the planned distance.
Finding ways to distract yourself will also help you handle the heat. Create a new summer playlist. Run at the beach while you’re on vacation. Find a friend or running group. It is absolutely true that misery loves company — especially among runners! Drive to a new running route. Reward yourself with post-run ice cream or slushies. Find the neighborhood ice cream truck and chase it a few miles, then treat yourself at the window — totally hypothetical suggestion, we’ve never done that! Sometimes the promise of a cold beer after an evening run is enough to take you home.
If all else fails, channel your inner coach. Remind yourself that you’re doing good things for yourself. Use power words or mantras to repeat over and over. Words and phrases like:
- I am strong.
- I am powerful.
- I’ve got this.
If those don’t work for you, try: There’s ice cream waiting for me.
Understand (and acknowledge) that the run may not feel as good as you’d like, and picture yourself killing it anyway. It might sound cheesy, but visual imagery really does help. See yourself sweating, struggling, and conquering the miles despite the heat and misery, and your body will remember that when you’re actually out there.
While most folks spend their free hours in the summer trying to find a beach, you’re one tough cookie who wants to keep running — albeit safely. There’s no reason to put your running shoes away until the first pumpkin spice latte shows up on the street. Follow these tips and you’ll survive the summer and reap the benefits in the fall!
Picturing a yummy, refreshing margarita at the end of your run? Check out our recipe for Perfect Homemade Margaritas!