When temperatures are scorching, you’ll need to take some extra precautions before lacing up.
While running in the summer is great in some ways—you don’t have to worry about sliding on ice or snow, and the longer days make it easy to sneak in miles before or after work—it has its downsides, particularly the sauna-like heat and humidity. Thankfully, our bodies have adapted over centuries to survive in brutally hot temperatures (think: the plains of the Sahara Desert), with the help of a the state-the-art-cooling system called sweating.
But in the middle of summer—especially during a heat wave, like the one most of the country is expecting this weekend, which may see temps hovering in the 100s and higher—the heat and humidity level can clock in so high that no matter how much we sweat, we just can’t cool down.
[Want to start running? The Big Book of Running for Beginners will take you through everything you need to know to get started, step by step]
When this happens, it’s critical for runners to protect themselves from overheating while exercising outdoors, which can cause serious heat-related illnesses. To avoid these potential risks, make sure to listen to your body, be willing adjust your pace and distance as needed, and stay fueled and hydrated.
Here, we asked our followers on Instagram for a few of their own hot-weather running tips for keeping cool when the temps are blistering.
Important note: If you have extremely hot and dry skin (with no sweating), a rapid pulse, headache, dizziness, and/or nausea, you might be experiencing a heat stroke. The most common victims of heat stroke include young children and elderly people over age 65, but anyone can be susceptible. Learn the symptoms of heat-related illnesses and how to prevent them here.
1 Freeze Your Water Bottles
“I live in Florida. I freeze my Nathan handheld the night before. By the time I need water, enough has melted that I can get enough. I keep a spare in the freezer, so if I need more miles I can lap by the house and switch them out. I also soak my hat in cold water. And I make sure I drink some electrolytes when I get home.” —brandiburlingame
“Put two or three bottles of water in the freezer the night before—don’t worry, they will be fine after your first three miles.” —normavalenz1
2 Run at Sunrise (or Earlier)
“Running early in the morning helps tremendously. Eighty degrees at dawn and 80 degrees at sundown feel VERY different!” —mother.runner26.2
“Schedule your run to be finished at sunrise. It will be cooler and you will have a reward at the end!” —jengeorge331
“Join the 5 a.m. club!” —sfvrunner
3 Don’t Forget to Replenish Your Electrolytes
“Living in the Cayman Islands, it is always hot, but the summer is unbearable. You have to hydrate before, during, and after you run—and not just with water, as this will flush out too much sodium and lead to cramps. Electrolytes are needed in addition to water, in the form of sports drinks.” —7milefit
“Hydrate. Hydrate. And hydrate some more. I like to start hydrating two days before a long run. I also add some form of electrolyte tablet or drops. If you drink too much water alone, it will flush out your body’s electrolytes, which will not allow your muscles to absorb and use water efficiently.” —mother.runner26.2
“Pedialyte and salt tabs.” —bjpignat
4 Slow Down the Pace
“Embrace slower paces while still maintaining a solid effort.” —jessicahanley1
“Keep your expectations reasonable—you will likely be slower or go a shorter distance, but you still did something, which is something to be proud of.” —fivetenetstkd
“Slow your roll. Your pace will suffer in high heat and humidity anyways, so adjust your expectations and know your performance may not be your typical.” —dooley_noted_art
5 Plan Your Route Around Sprinklers
“If you’re in cities, run through public sprinklers in parks.” —tlfriedy
“Run through sprinklers as much as possible. Set up water bottles on the course, have friends or family meet you at a designated spot with hydration, or bring money and stop at convenience store for a cold drink.” —smallenbigs
6 Take Breaks
“When on my long run days, I periodically take a rest on the minimarket in the middle of training. Then I go into the market, and stand under AC or in front of refrigerator for minutes. Yes, seriously.” —taufanrs
“I stop whenever it feels right, even if that’s a quarter mile in.” —msnancydao
7 Wear Lightweight Clothing
“I wear hats and barely any clothing.” —faith12389
“Run naked.” —timjonesphoto
“Try a fuel belt that you can put your bottles in and a Nike tank top and short shorts so you aren’t super hot.” —c_stock_18
“Light clothes. No dark colors.” —young_jimbo
8 Opt for Shaded Routes and Trails
“Trail run!! Lots of shade and the ground stays cooler so it doesn’t put out as much heat.” —dandros66
“If you live in a city (like I do!), find a route surrounded by nature. City roads retain a lot of heat, even if you’re an early morning runner. Parks and rail trails will afford a few degrees of cooler temps and hopefully some shade!” —scrimmills
9 But If You Can’t Find Shade, Protect Yourself From the Sun
“I try to run in the early morning before the sun comes up and I carry a bottle of half Gatorade/half water. Also wear a sun visor and lots of sunscreen!” —themarathonmom
“Run early, wear a visor or cap, and you must wear sunscreen.” —nadiaabdulgahni
“Invest in sun sleeves.” —run3sixty5
10 Remember, It’s Okay to Stay Indoors
“I don’t run when its super hot. It’s just flat out miserable. My elliptical gets a lot of use during the summer.” —hikingismything4059
“I take the entire month of July off!” —adamguzman1991
“There is no shame in running on a treadmill or an indoor track when it is really hot and humid outside. It’s worth preventing heat stroke!” —reasonstogooutside
A true love for sports