Running in hot weather can create issues for runners. Whilst it’s lovely to soak up some sun whilst you run, there are risks like becoming sunburnt and getting to dehydrated which can be harmful. In this article we look at some useful tips for running in hot weather so you can safely and comfortably make the most of sunny running.
How does hot weather affect your running?
Heat and humidity, makes it harder for the body to move and therefore increases the required effort needed to run.
Running in hot and humid weather can result in sweating more, a slower pace and an increased heart rate which can be up to 20 beats more your standard running heart rate.
This means running at a pace you deem standard for yourself will feel much harder in hot weather and you will likely see a decline in your performance.
The risks of running in hot weather
The average person sweats between 0.8 to 1.4 litres during exercise, but on hot days fluid lost will be significantly more. This is because your body is working extremely hard to keep your body cool in the heat. Dehydration is a massive health risk which can lead to vomiting, nausea, diarrhoea, dizziness, fatigue and confusion. Not good.
Muscle cramps occur when the body loses large amounts of fluids and electrolytes. As you lose a lot of fluids and electrolytes through sweating during hot weather runs, you’re more likely to get cramps. Heat cramps can occur during exercise or even a couple of hours after the run is finished. These aren’t serious but they can be very uncomfortable so are best avoided.
Though some sun exposure is good, soaking up too many rays on a run can cause sunburn. Sunburn damages your skin and leave you looking like a lobster. Risks of sunburn include skin cancer, melanoma and pain. Ouch.
Heat exhaustion tends to happen when you run too hard in the heat, common with runners who haven’t adapted to the heat very well. Symptoms of heat exhaustion include a high core body temperature, nausea, headaches, dehydration and feeling overwhelmingly tired.
If you’re on a hot run and think you might be suffering heat exhaustion, do yourself a favour and stop running, get out of the sun, get yourself home and enjoy a chilled beverage. Better to be safe than sorry.
Fainting, or syncope, is usually caused by a lack of oxygen in the brain. Fainting should be treated as a medical emergency until the cause is known.
Symptoms can include falling, blurred vision, and confusion. Fainting can be caused from dehydration, anxiety and low blood pressure. All of which are things runners can experience whilst running in a hot & humid climate.
Perhaps the most dangerous risk of them all, heat stroke can occur when running in hot weather. Heat stroke is where your core body temperature goes extremely high causing symptoms like poor balance, confusion, clumsiness, lack of sweating, disorientation and massive feelings of fatigue. Not good!
If you think you might have heat stroke you will probably need medical attention to get the right treatment.
Treatment typically looks like a cold bath, air conditioning, chilled drinks, resting and eating mineral rich foods to restore your bodies mineral balance. Hopefully you never have to experience heat stroke as it can be very dangerous!
Here’s 15 tips for running in hot weather
1.Run during cool times of day
The hottest time of day tends to be around 12:00 PM to 4:00 PM, so be sure to run outside of this time window. On hot days, head out for your run first thing in the morning or during the early evening.
At these times of day its cooler, there is less Ozone in the atmosphere and your run will be much more pleasant. Also, if the sun is still out during your run it’s rays will not be as intense so your risk of getting a sunburn is significantly reduced.
2. Hydrate yourself
When you run in the heat, your body attempts to lower its core body temperature by sweating more. This means the hotter the weather, the more you will sweat. Increased volumes of sweat means losing more fluids and minerals, like magnesium and iron, which are crucial for normal bodily function. Even losing small amounts of fluids can drastically reduce performance quality and cause huge discomfort during your run.
Therefore, you should make hydration a priority during hot runs. Start of well by drinking a tall glass of water 5-10 minutes before you head off.
If you like running without a bottle restricting you, bring cash with you and purchase a bottle of water or a sports drink from a shop. Make hydration a priority and you will be fine whilst running in hot weather.
3. Wear appropriate clothing
Running in hot weather requires appropriate clothing otherwise you will run into some problems like overheating and feeling uncomfortable whilst you run.
Be sure to wear light colours which reflect the sunlight and reduce the amount of heat you will absorb. Be sure to run using synthetic fabric like polyester, which is used in most running gear. This material features loads of tiny holes which allow for proper airflow and suitable ventilation during hot runs. Just what you need.
Dark colours and cotton materials are a massive no-no when you’re running in the heat so ditch that black top for lighter colours light yellow, white and pink.
4. Run by effort, not by pace
Lots of runners like to run by their ‘normal’ training pace instead of how they are currently feeling when on route.
This is usually because runners are matching a pace standard for race training, or they simply need to run a certain pace to ensure they finish working out by a certain time. A good ‘normal’ pace for me to run at is about 7:25, which I can maintain with no issues in good weather.
However, during hot weather you should run by effort rather than by a pace standard. Start running, listen to how your body is feeling and speed up or slow down accordingly. This means you won’t be at risk of pushing yourself too much and doing some damage in the heat. It’s a great skill to run by feeling rather than pace, so be sure to hone it in the hot weather.
5. Don’t be afraid to stop
As mentioned in the risk section, risks such as heat exhaustion and heat stroke are much more likely when running in hot weather. If you so much as suspect you are going to encounter one of the risks mentioned above, it’s highly recommended you stop running immediately.
Don’t be embarrassed or ashamed, safety first! Grab a chilled drink, stick to the shade and take a light stroll home. It’s better to stay safe rather than to push yourself in the heat.
6. Wear a heart rate monitor
Running in hot temperatures means your body works harder to function and perform which naturally drives up your heart rate.
Whilst an increased heart rate can be good for building fitness and losing weight, an extremely quick heart rate can be a health hazard which can lead to horrendous consequences like stroke, heart attacks, fainting and so on. Not good!
A good way to monitor your heart rate and ensure you are not pushing yourself too much is by wearing a sports heart rate monitor. These are handy devices which typically strap to your chest whilst running and allow for incredibly accurate heart rate readings.
The monitors connect to smart phones and GPS running watches so you can analyse heart rate data during and after your run. Perfect for making sure you don’t push yourself and your heart rate too high whilst running in hot weather.
I personally use the Garmin Premium Heart Rate Monitor but there are loads of other decent monitors out there. Find one that works for you and wear it for hot weather running!
7. Bring some electrolytes packed sports gels, bars or mineral tablets
Sports gels, bars and mineral tablets are fantastic for replacing lost electrolytes during a run. Runners often have an increased demand for certain minerals, especially during hot runs where the body sweats minerals out at a higher rate and volume.
Therefore, I’d always recommend stocking up on some mineral replacing supplements and taking a few with you for quick consumption during hot runs. I personally prefer energy gels, but energy bars and mineral tablets are also a great option.
For more information on energy gels for running, check out the following blog post:
8. Wear sweat proof sun screen
Sunscreens are essential when running in hot weather. Sunscreen protects your skin against UVB and UVA radiation from the sun, meaning your skin stays healthy and your risk of developing conditions like melanoma and skin cancer will be drastically reduced.
As you’ll be running in hot weather you will sweat much more than usual. Using a sweatproof sports sunscreen is critical for ensuring your protection doesn’t slip off your skin whilst running.
9. Eat mineral packed post-workout snacks
Running causes, you to lose minerals in the form of sweat. As you sweat lots more during hot weather running, you lose more minerals than usual.
After you finish your hot weather run be sure to replace lost minerals with snacks like dried fruit, bananas, vegetables, chicken and salmon, for some suggestions.
10. Be prepared to reduce weekly mileage
Running long distances requires lots of effort and energy, meaning your body must work harder to maintain longer spells of running. This effort and energy is considerably higher when running in the heat which increases your risk of encountering heat exhaustion, heat stroke, dehydration and so on.
Try reducing your weekly mileage during hot weather running to lower your chance of experiencing one of the risks mentioned above. If you run 40 miles a week, try running 30 miles a week. If you run 20 miles a week, consider running 15 miles a week.
Lowering your weekly mileage allows your body to adapt to the heat without over exerting itself too much, keeping you safe and giving you a good workout.
11. Consider running indoors
If it’s ridiculously hot outside and you’re sweating just by walking, you may want to consider running indoors. Sometimes it’s better to go for a nice air-conditioned treadmill in a gym or a track in a running club that’s inside.
If the temperature suddenly shoots up, your body will probably find it incredibly difficult to adapt and you will probably run into issues like heat exhaustion and dehydration. Spare yourself the risk of doing some damage and run indoors instead. It can be nice to mix it up from time to time anyway!
12. Take your mobile phone with you
It’s always good practice to take your mobile phone with you during hot summer runs.
Taking your phone means you can call a friend, family or (if appropriate) the emergency services during an emergency like having heat stroke, heat exhaustion or even if you’re really hydrated and have forgotten to take a drink or money with you.
It’s better to be safe than sorry so please take your phone with you when running in hot weather.
13. Bring cash with you
You never know when you might need to use cash whilst running and the chances of needing to use it are much higher during hot weather runs.
If you are dehydrated or hungry mid-run, use your cash to purchase a drink or snack from a shop.
Staying hydrated and comfortably topped up with food means your body will have the right minerals and fluids to function properly and maintain physical performance.
Put cash in a pocket, in your phone case, in a running belt, in a lightweight running pack or just hold it. Whatever works for you!
14. Do trail running
Hot weather is the perfect time to take a break from heat conducting concrete roads and opt for the cool shade of the trail locations like forests and woods.
Trail running will keep you cool, lower your risk of sunburn and can also provide a nice break from road running. Give it a try during hot weather.
15. Don’t aim for a race PB
One of the easiest ways to injure yourself during hot weather is to aim for a personal best when participating in a race.
If you are taking part in any event like a 5K, 10K, half marathon, marathon or even an ultra-marathon, don’t aim for a personal best. Chances are you will over exert yourself and risk encountering a health issue like dehydration, heat stroke or heat exhaustion which can all cause extreme discomfort and damage to you.
Instead, take the race easy and enjoy it. Run at a relaxed pace based on how your body is feeling. Take your time and soak up the atmosphere.
I find running at a relaxed pace for races in hot weather is a great reminder as to why I love running so much. Everyone is in good spirits, people are smiling and enjoying themselves, and you are doing the sport you love.
Take it easy during the hot months and don’t aim for a race personal best.