Is it Normal to Run Slower in Hot Weather?

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Been for a summer run, and found you’re moving at a turtle’s pace? Is it normal to run slower in the hot weather? Are there any steps you can take to maintain your usual pace?

Hot weather and runners: A funny relationship

Everyone loves hot weather, but it can be a problem for runners.
Everyone loves hot weather, but it can be a problem for runners.

Hot weather often generates excitement. Lovely views, clear skies and the luxury of putting your washing out without worrying about the rain. However, if you’re a runner the hot weather can mean something different.

Extended spells of hot weather can be troublesome for runners. Everything seems to take 10 times more effort, the air feels heavy, and the world moves slower.

Sumer runs require preparation. You smother yourself with sun cream, chuck on some loose fitting clothes, and maybe top the summer look off with some shades. The 30 plus degree heat often means you’re sweating before you leave your front door.

Slower times

You put yourself into the scorching world and go for your run. Pushing through the humid atmosphere the going is tough, and each mile feels like a major achievement.

After your well-deserved shower and glass of water (or sports drink!), you chill out and check your Strava stats for the run. Hang on, something’s not quite right… You’re an 8 minute a mile runner, but you have 10 minutes a mile average.

It’s completely normal to run slower!

Slow and steady wins the race.
Slow and steady wins the run… Especially in the sun.

If you’re like most people, you probably run slower in hotter temperatures than you’re used to.

Hot air and high humidity can make it feel like you’re running through an invisible jungle of resistance. You must push extra hard and muster up all your willpower to get through your run (which is usually a walk in the park during normal weather!).

The human body works around the clock to maintain an internal temperature of 37 degrees, the optimal temperature for bodily processes to take place effectively. During hot weather, the body works over time as it disperses sweat across your skin to maintain this cool temperature.

The body focusing on keeping itself cool means it is harder for it to maintain high-performance exercise.

Of course, you can condition your body to deal with the heat after weeks – maybe even months – of training and exposure to the conditions. But for the most part, hot weather usually takes us by surprise and our bodies don’t cope very well.

What can I do to maintain normal times?

Now we’ve established it is totally normal to run slower during hot weather, there are steps you can take to maintain your usual pace. Though you should listen to your body (more on this later), there are measures you can take to quicken the pace.

Avoid peak sunlight hours

Running in the early morning or the late evening is a great way to avoid the sun during peak hours.
Running in the early morning or the late evening is a great way to avoid the sun during peak hours.

The sun is at its most intense typically between 10 AM and 3 PM, though this can extend a few hours either way.

Running early in the morning (before 9 AM) or late in the evening (after 7 PM) means avoiding the blistering glare of the sun at its most intense. Doing so means you stand a better chance of maintaining your usual pace.

Stay hydrated

The human body depends on water to function. It’s as simple as that. Water is used everywhere in your body, in every organ, cell and tissue. It’s essential not only for peak performance but for survival.

Humans naturally lose water through processes like going to the toilet, sweating, breathing and digesting food. Running in the hot weather increases your bodies demand for water; after all, exercising in the heat is sweaty work.

Before heading out, drink a tall glass of water and wait 5 minutes for your body to take it in. Bring a bottle of water or sports drink with you to replenish lost fluids. Not only is this best for your safety, it will increase the likelihood of achieving a decent time.

Wear loose-fitting clothing

We’ve all seen that one crazy person who insists on running through desert-like conditions with a long-sleeved top and sports leggings. If you are one of these runners, I have a question for you: Why?!

Humans keep their body temperature down, by perspiring heat away from their body. Wearing loose fitting clothing on your runs will allow your body to breath.

Don’t become a lobster

Loose fitting sports gear means lots of skin is exposed to the sun. If you’re not careful, too much sun means your skin will cook away in the heat and you will eventually resemble a tender, pink lobster. Not what you want after a workout.

Get the suncream out, apply it before you set out, and protect your skin. It takes just 5 minutes. You’ll thank me later!

Listen to your body! Stay safe.

Our bodies have evolved to tell us when somethings wrong. We feel pain when we accidentally cut our self or break a bone, feel more lethargic than a sloth when we have the flu and feel the need to feast relentlessly when we’re starving. Our bodies are good at telling us when we need to do something.

If you’re feeling out of breath, tired and in huge pain, your body is yelling: “take it down a notch!”

Slow down, catch your breath and take it easy. There’s no need to run hurt yourself in the name of maintaining your usual running speed. Seriously.

Don’t burn your engine out

Thinking you can "run through the pain" in hot weather, is an easy way to burn engine out. Take it easy!
Thinking you can “run through the pain” in hot weather, is an easy way to burn engine out. Take it easy!

If your driving and the engine starts screaming at you, it would make no sense to push through it and “hope for the best”. The engine will probably blow. However, if there is another gear to go up to you raise the gear and the car will be fine with the increased speed.

If you can’t go into a higher gear and your body is in extreme pain, do yourself a favour and listen to it.

Enjoy the summer run!

Remember, it’s normal for your running to be slower in the hot weather. Try to avoid peak sunlight hours, listen to your body drink water and – most importantly – enjoy running in the hot weather.

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