Nothing feels better than putting away all your winter running gear for the summer. Yes, you get to banish your heat tech to the back of your closet, but don’t celebrate for too long — summer running has its own challenges. The sun’s rays can be draining, so it can be tough to make the most out of your run. It can also be dangerous. The extra stress the hot weather puts on your body can put you at risk for dehydration, heat exhaustion, and even heatstroke, which can be life threatening, according to Mayo Clinic.
But there’s a way to keep your runs strong and safe, even if it’s sweltering outside. We asked running coaches for their best tips for training when going outside feels like you're walking into an oven.
How Hot Is Too Hot To Run?
According to the Road Runners Club of America, temperatures above 90 degrees Fahrenheit are likely to elevate our heat stress risk. With that said, New York Road Runners coach and distance runner Melanie Kann says it’s about more than just temperature. “It’s important to look at the humidity as well, to get an idea of what the overall effect of heat will be on the body,” she says. Since the body uses moisture (AKA sweat) as its main temperature regulator, you may also want to check the heat index, or the “wet bulb” temperature to see if you’re comfortable running in it. Again, be cautious and consider staying on the treadmill indoors if the index is above 90 degrees.
How should you prep for run in the sun?
Peloton instructor and distance runner Becs Gentry says she recommends starting your run at the coolest part of the day. Check the weather forecast, and plan accordingly.
Like most occasions in life, it’s important to wear the right outfit when you run in the heat. “Pick pale colors, and light sweat-wicking material that covers more of your body than you would think,” Gentry says. Although the classic Nelly wisdom says “it’s getting hot in here, so take off all your clothes,” that's not always the case with running in roasting temperatures. “Direct sunlight onto the skin elevates your body temperature quicker,” Gentry says. She also recommends a hat and sunglasses, and, of course, sunscreen.
Gentry notes that you should be ready to adjust your pace in the heat. “If you’re training for something specific, make more time in your schedule to complete the distance so you aren’t pressured to run faster to complete the workout.”
Hydration is the key to summer workouts.
“Hydrate well beforehand, and make sure to take in plenty of salt so that your electrolytes can stay in check,” Kann advises. “Our bodies give off lots of salt when we sweat. The salt and other electrolytes such as sodium, potassium, and magnesium will help your body retain fluids and stay in balance.”
What should I do after a warm weather run?
“Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate,” Kann says. Gentry adds that you should always follow up with a stretch, and take a cool shower to bring your core temperature down.
There are other ways you can treat yourself after a run in the sweltering heat: “I always find a popsicle is a great post-run treat,” Kann says. “It’s also nice to apply cool compresses to your pulse points, like your wrists, and the back of neck.”
What's a good hydration plan?
If you’re in a city park, Kann suggests planning your routes around water fountains so you always know where a water source is. It’s also a good idea to carry water with you. “There are many bottles out on the market that strap onto your hands or your waist, so you don’t even feel like you’re carrying anything,” Kann says. “If it’s a particularly long run, I may carry an electrolyte sports drink with me instead, or even stop to buy one on the run.”
Again, you should also plan to hydrate before and after your run. “It’s a good idea to stay ahead of your thirst on a really hot day so that you don’t become too depleted,” Kann says. “And, as always, with all conditions, listen to your body. If it doesn’t feel good, it’s probably not good for you.”