In the summer when the temperatures reach their peak more people choose to skip their daily runs in order to prevent heat stroke and to avoid the scorching sunlight. But if you want to stay fit and active and stay true to your running schedule, there are ways to incorporate your daily runs even in the hottest summer days.
Here are some tips on staying cool and safe when running in the heat:
- Stay hydrated!
Nothing is more important for your health and wellbeing than making sure you are properly hydrated before, during and after a run. This is especially crucial during the hot summer days. To stay on the safe side, make sure you drink 500ml of water, electrolyte drinks or diluted fruit juice one to two hours prior to your run. Then gulp up another 150ml right before you set off. Your urine color should be pale yellow which means you are properly hydrated.
While you are running or racing you should intake several sips of water or an electrolyte sports drink every 10-15 minutes. Carry your own water rather than just rely on the water stations. You can also consume sports gels every 45 minutes. It is especially important to consume sufficient amounts of sports drinks if you are running for more than 90 minutes, because the minerals and sodium lost due to perspiration need to be replaced before damage to your body is done and before you suffer from the consequences of dehydration.
Once you finish the race or are back from your training run you should make sure that you drink all the water or other drinks needed to restore the weight lost from lost water during your run. This is why it is recommended that you weigh yourself right before and after a race.
Many experienced runners train to hydrate more before a race. This means teaching the body to consume more filtered water or electrolyte substitute solutions than it normally can, in order to ensure that the proper sodium and water balance is maintained throughout the race.
Experts Nathan Morris and Ollie Jay of the University of Sydney’s Thermal Ergonomics Laboratory suggest that pouring water on your head as you are running helps stay cool and hydrated  . A 250ml cup of water poured on your head will remove 45 calories of heat while if you drink the same amount only 9 calories of heat will be removed.
Mix the drinking and pouring of water on your head in order to ensure that you stay safe and well throughout the run or race on a hot day.
- Find shadier routes and paths
If you are going for your daily run, make sure you take the time to plan your route in a way so as to remain in the shade for as long as possible. Make adjustments to your regular route or choose a shorter loop if it is located in the shade for your training in the summer heat.
- Run pre-dawn or in the evening
Get up an hour or so earlier, so that you can go out for a pre-dawn or early morning run before sunrise. The temperatures will be way cooler and the air will be fresher in the early hours of the day. If you can’t manage that, try going for your run after sundown in the evening hours.
- Get acclimatized to the heat
If you are training for a race which will be held in hot conditions, it is a good idea to do some acclimatizing beforehand. There are a number of studies suggesting that sauna significantly increases athlete’s ability to endure exercise in the heat (check here  and here ). Add a 5 to 30 minute sauna to your daily program (do it gradually increasing the number of minutes day by day), or run with a sauna suit, long sleeves and leggings so that your body gets used to running in the heat and so that your performance will not be faltered due to the higher temperatures on the day of the race. Remember to stop with the acclimatization two days prior to the race in order to not overstress your body.
- Set your pace accordingly
As the temperatures rise, you may want to slow down your pace in order to ensure that you will complete your run or race successfully. People who weigh more may need to slow down even more due to the excess sweat which causes the body to lose most of the water and sodium essential for the proper functioning of the muscles and the wellbeing.
- Dress appropriately
Wear summer running clothes made of moisture wicking, breathable microfiber or other light technical materials and in lighter colors, so as to reflect rather than absorb the direct sunlight. Also don’t forget to wear a legionnaires cap, UV protected shades, a vest and other protective clothing to keep you safe from heat stroke. You may still want to wear long sleeves and pants in order to keep your skin protected from the UV rays. Don’t forget to wear ultra-light, moisture wicking socks and lighter and breathable running shoes to keep your feet from sweating, slipping and blistering.
- Don’t forget the sunscreen
No matter how well protected you think you are by your clothing, never forget to wear good quality sunscreen to keep your skin protected from the harsh sunlight while you are running on a hot summer day!
- Remember that running in the heat is difficult and harder than in optimal weather conditions
Running in high heat and humidity can have short term and long term impact on the performance during a workout or a race because the body needs to cope with the heat and humidity and work harder to cool down. The higher your core temperature becomes during a run the worse you are going to feel physically. Plus, due to the extensive perspiration and evaporation of the water and sodium from the skin, more blood is diverted to it to help the process which means that less blood and thus oxygen reaches the muscles you need for running. This leads to a similarity of running in the heat to altitude training, when the efforts to maintain or increase the pace rise dramatically.
The recovery process is also affected by excessive heat. Not only will your running performance be affected, but so will the recovery process following a run or race due to high temperatures. When you are done with your run, your body will need more time and energy to cool down and repair the muscles, which means you may need more recovery time than usual when you are training or racing in the heat.
Overall, you shouldn’t give up running or racing in the heat (unless a doctor advises you against it), but you need to take extra precautions to stay safe, healthy and to perform as well as possible when the temperatures are scorching. Hydrate properly, acclimatize yourself, adjust your pace, wear the proper apparel, use sunblock and stay in the shade if possible, so that you can not only survive a run, but perform when practicing or racing in hot conditions too!
1. Nathan B. Morris, Ollie Jay. (2016) To drink or to pour: How should athletes use water to cool themselves? Temperature 3:2, pages 191-194.
2. Stanley J1, Halliday A, D’Auria S, Buchheit M, Leicht AS. Effect of sauna-based heat acclimation on plasma volume and heart rate variability., European Journal of Applied Physiology, April 2015, Volume 115, Issue 4, pp 785–794
3. Scoon GS1, Hopkins WG, Mayhew S, Cotter JD, Effect of post-exercise sauna bathing on the endurance performance of competitive male runners, Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport , Volume 10 , Issue 4 , 259 – 262