7 Tips for Running in Hot Weather

Running in heat and humidity can put you at risk for dehydration, heat stroke, and other heat-related illnesses. Common sense is the key to avoiding problems, so be sure to follow these precautions.

Stay Hydrated

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The easiest way to avoid heat disorders is to keep your body hydrated. This means drinking fluids before, during, and after exercise. The body's fluid needs vary with exertion, climate, humidity, terrain, and other factors.

Fluid recommendations for runners are to "obey your thirst." You should drink when your mouth is dry and you feel the need to drink.

In training, drink before workouts and make sure you have access to fluids if exercising longer than 30 minutes. During longer workouts, some of your fluid intakes should include a sports drink (like Gatorade) to replace lost salt and other minerals (electrolytes).

Choose Clothing Carefully

Light-colored, loose-fitting clothing will help your body breathe and cool itself down naturally. Tight clothing restricts that process and dark colors absorb the sun's light and heat. Wear synthetic fabrics (not cotton) because they will wick moisture away from your skin so cooling evaporation can occur.

If you want to wear something on your head to block the sun, wear a visor. A hat is too constrictive and traps heat.

Run Early or Late

Try to avoid running between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., when the sun's intensity is at its greatest. If you must train during those hours, try to stick to shady roads or trails.

Early morning (before sunrise or right after) is the coolest time of the day to run since the roads have not heated up during the day. However, it is important that you take extra safety precautions during this time. Run without headphones, and wear reflective gear to stay safe on the roads.

Don't Push It

On a race day (or during any intense workout), take the weather conditions into account. Brutal heat and humidity mean that you should scale back your performance goals. Don't try to beat the heat. Focus on effort and not pace.

Hot and humid conditions are not the time to try to push your pace and try to achieve a race PR. Slow down, take walking breaks, and save your hard efforts for cooler weather.

Wear Sunscreen

Protect your skin with a waterproof sunscreen that has an SPF of at least 15 and offers broad-spectrum protection, which means it protects against both UVA and UVB rays.

Stick formulations are good for runners' faces because the sunscreen won't run into your eyes. If you're running for longer than two hours, you'll need to reapply. 

Make a Splash

Use water to cool yourself during runs. If you are overheating, splashing water on your head and body will cool you down quickly and have a lasting effect as the water evaporates from your skin.

Good spots to splash cold water are your head, back of your neck, under your arms, and the inside of your wrists. Just be careful that you don't get your feet wet. Running in wet shoes and socks could lead to blisters.

Get Educated

Be familiar with the signs of heat problems so you recognize them in yourself or in a running partner. If you feel faint, dizzy, disoriented, have stopped sweating, or your skin is cool and clammy, slow down or stop running, and get some fluids. If symptoms continue, sit or lie down in the shade and seek help.

By Christine Luff, ACE-CPT
Christine Many Luff is a personal trainer, fitness nutrition specialist, and Road Runners Club of America Certified Coach.