Summer Running Guide to Beat the Heat

FitSok Summer Running
Are spring's moderate winds winding down and summer-like temperatures heating up? What if you live in a climate where it's summer all the time? How do you make running possible in the heat?
As the weather heats up, many of us get a bit over-eager about soaking up some sun rays and enjoying the summer foliage or sights, but there are a few things we should all know and consider before we lace up and head out.

Is it Even Safe To Run In Summer?

You don't need to look far to see how many races and marathons are scheduled over the summer. For example, Hell of a Half Marathon is held near the foothills of the Sierra Nevadas in the middle of August, where temps can range from 104-106 F (40-41 C) early in the month to 99-102 F (47-39 C) near the end. Are hot-weather runners just built differently than the rest of us? Is it some superpower?
It isn't. Runners living in some hottest summer states, like Florida, California, Texas, Hawaii, Nevada, Georgia, and South Carolina, have adapted to the heat. Our bodies are incredible and can adapt to withstand exercise in very high temperatures when trained and prepared correctly.
Of course, other factors can contribute to whether or not running is safe in summer for everyone. Runners should consider their heart health, how hot it is, the clothing they will wear, whether or not they are hydrated, and how to stay hydrated on the run. Luckily you can mitigate a few of these factors.

The Biggest Risks to Summer Running

One of the most significant risks to summer running is exercise-related heat exhaustion. But that is an umbrella term for everything that can go wrong within your body when running in the heat. Here are all the reasons why a runner can experience exercise-related heat exhaustion.

1. Dehydration

Dehydration can lead to exhaustion, dizziness, increased urination, low blood pressure, muscle cramps, and headaches after running. In short: it doesn't feel terrific and is not fun.
Generally, the recommended intake is 8-10 cups of water per day as a baseline, then adjust from there. However, if you're incredibly active and do a lot of high-intensity exercises or are working out in a hot or humid climate and sweat a lot, you'll need to increase your daily hydration. Remember that hydration also includes milk, juice, coffee, tea, and other liquids—so plain water isn't the only liquid you need to meet hydration goals.
  • If it's been less than 12 hours between intense workouts, prehydrate about 4 hours before your next workout. Slowly consume 5-7ml of fluid per 2.2lbs (or 1 kg) of body weight.
  • If it has been over 12 hours since runs, prehydrate may not be necessary.
  • Some minor levels of dehydration can be expected during a prolonged workout, but with this in mind, if you tend to sweat profusely when running, the advice is to drink whenever you feel thirsty. Basically: drink a sufficient amount to prevent thirst.
  • If you need or are looking for an actual quantity of water to help plan your hydration, here's the average consumption: athletes should drink 0.4-0.8 liters per hour (L/h) or 8-16 ounces per hour.
  • Averages may not work for you since how much we sweat is highly individual. One way to check how much fluid you are losing during a run is to weigh yourself before and after (without going to the bathroom during the run or right after) to see if you've lost or maintained weight. If your weight remains the same and your urine color is not dark, you drink the right amount of fluids. If you've lost weight and your urine color is darker than usual, you must hydrate more.

Pick the Right Time

It's commonly the hottest time of day between 11 AM and 3 PM, so as a general rule, skip these times when running this summer or in the heat. Choose to run either in the morning or the evening. Running in the morning can be a fantastic way to set the tone for the rest of your day while beating the heat.

Pace Yourself

Doing your usual winter, spring, or fall run in hot weather can feel far more challenging. Our bodies use a lot more energy to regulate our body temperature when the sun is beating down on us, so it's natural that your athletic ability in higher temps will be lowered or even compromised. Don't waste that valuable energy fighting through the heat!
Instead, pace yourself. Go a little slower than usual, and accept that you may not be able to run the same way in summer than other seasons. It's imperative to always listen to your body, so take it slow in the heat.

Adjust to It

'Get used to it' might sound cruel initially, but acclimating to summer running makes it more accessible. To adapt to the hotter weather, some runners live in climates with changing seasons—such as spring to summer—as long as your run is consistent, your body is already working to adjust to the warmer temperatures.
However, if you've just moved to a new location and are unexpectedly plunged into searing temperatures or experiencing a heat wave, your best bet as a runner is to get out and run in the heat (with proper hydration, of course.) Generally, it should take roughly 14 days of consistent running to build a decent heat tolerance.

Other Important Summer Running Tips

  • Always wear sunscreen, if possible, year-round. Even when it's cloudy and raining, the sun's UV rays can cause severe skin damage.
  • Avoid alcohol. Alcohol is a diuretic, meaning that when you drink it, it causes your body to remove water at a much faster rate than other liquids.
  • Suitable clothing material can make all the difference. Avoid cotton, as it is an excellent sweat absorber, meaning it will leave you with heavy, wet clothes and sweat patches as you run. Try nylon or other moisture-wicking, breathable, loose, and comfortable materials.
With our summer running guide, you can hit the road, sidewalk, or trails during the heat! We hope we've made summer or hot temperature running more manageable and comfortable. Don't forget to pick up a pair of the best summer running socks at Fitsok!