How to Run in the Heat: Tips for Summer Running

Training Tips

Running in the summer can make training really hard. Especially if you have a fall marathon, you know you need to get out there, but how do you do it without feeling like you are going to pass out at any second?

Well, firstly I would check out my article on summer running and what to wear at every temperature. I also wrote two other articles on running weather, which you can find here:

Adapting to Weather Changes: Wind

Adapting to Weather Changes: Humidity

On to today:

It is that time of year; the temperatures are high and there is a very short window early in the morning before the heat soars. I also like to remember on how I need to run by feel using an effort scale to make the most out of your runs when the weather wants to just kill ya.

This can make running somewhat difficult, as the sun beaming down on your head and the heat waves wiggling on the asphalt; make you feel like an egg on a frying pan.

Or is that just me?

How does running in the heat affect racing?

A study that analyzed over 1.7 million people in marathons all over the world over the course of 10 years, found that air temperature had the biggest impact on running performance.

There was a significant correlation of high temperatures with a decrease in performance in each of the 60 races analyzed.

This graph shows the difference in performances as a whole for Chicago marathon in 2002 and 2007, where temperatures were 5.4 °C (41.7°F) and 25°C (77°F) respectively. Paris temperatures in 2002 also show the impact of temperature as temperatures were 7.6°C (45.6°F) and 17.4°C (63.6°F).

You can clearly see that in 2007, when temperatures were higher, performances were impacted.

However, this time of year, it can be impossible to avoid the heat, especially on long runs, and race start times are set.

How can I get the most out of my training in the summer heat?

Here is my advice on how to handle running in the summer.

Run early in the morning or late at night

If possible, try to run/workout before the sun fully rises in the morning, or later in the evening as the sun is setting, to avoid the sun beating down on your head.

If you have a long run, be sure to start early so you only have a short amount of time in the heat.

I try to run in the heat of the day once per week as preparation for races that are on exceptionally hot days, but all my other runs are done early in the morning.

Run in the shade and avoid asphalt running in summer

If you must run/workout in the heat, it is best to go in covered areas as much as possible to limit the heat from the sun raising your body temperature even higher.

Areas with tall trees are the best places to run in summer, as the trees block the sun, and therefore the heat, which will make it much more comfortable.

Another big tip:

Avoid running on black top surfaces

When the sun is out, asphalt and other black surfaces will reflect the heat back up, making it even hotter. Try to stay on lighter colored surfaces, or grass as much as possible.

This is also a great opportunity to give your body a break from the pounding of hard surfaces.

What accessories make running in the summer bearable?

Wear a hat to keep the sun off your face, again keeping you cooler, and providing a psychological boost.

It is also important to protect your eyes by wearing sunglasses often. Especially when it is a clear day and there are plenty of reflective surfaces around the city/town.

What should I wear to run in the summer?

Try to select loose fitting, sweat wicking fabrics, that will pull the sweat from your body and onto the material. This will keep your body temperature down as it helps the effectiveness of sweating for cooling your body down.

Some people also believe it is better to wear a T-shirt in warm weather to take the sweat off your skin as it cannot evaporate fast enough.

I have created a guide for what to wear at every temperature, hopefully this will provide you useful suggestions.

Reduce warm up time for workouts/races

Your muscles will warm up much faster as the temperature rises, which may reduce the amount of time you want to spend running beforehand to prevent overheating.

A warm up is still important for waking up your muscles before a hard workout or race, but you probably don’t need to do as much as you would usually, unless you are trying to get mileage in.

I would still encourage you to do more miles for cool down than warm up, that way you can get the hard part in before it gets too warm, and then just suffer your way through the cool down.

Slow down your running in the summer!

Accept that running/training in the heat is much more strenuous on your body, as its priority is to keep your internal body temperature constant, therefore your performance becomes secondary.

You will likely feel as though you are working much harder to run a slower pace, that is okay, everyone else is in the same position. That is why I recommend using the effort scale to run by feel in the summer.

That way you will not freak out about the pace!

Even if you have multiple workouts in the heat, you will not lose fitness because once the temperature does drop, your body will be much more efficient.

Think of all those fall races where you will be able to fly!

Place ice cubes/cooling packs on your wrists and the back of your neck

This helps to lower your body temperature prior to a race/workout. This is only temporary, but can relieve some of the psychological stress heat brings.

I actually used this one when I raced in Texas, and found it was very helpful.

Use water cups for more than just drinking

If you are in a longer race where you have access to water cups or can swing by your house/an area where you can leave a bottle, drink as much as you can, and dump the rest over your head.

You guessed it….this helps reduce your body temperature, and feels very refreshing!

Rehydrate rehydrate, rehydrate

This is THE MOST important of all.

You will sweat a lot more in the summer, and will need to replenish that water as soon as possible.

Weigh yourself (naked) before you run/workout, and then weigh yourself (naked again) when you return. The weight you lost during the workout is how much liquid you need to consume.

On hot days you will also have to replenish your electrolytes. This is where I love to use Enduropacks to spray into any drink. Continue to drink lots of water until your pee is completely clear. Remember, you can use code TINAMUIR for 10% off.

References

Helou, Nour El; Tafflet, Muriel; Berthelot, Geoffroy; Tolaini, Julien; Marc, Andy; et al. PLoS One7.5 (May 2012).

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27 Comments. Leave new

  • I did not know that muscles warm up faster in warmer temperatures. Now that I think about it–it does take me a while to get on a good base in colder weather. Thanks for the tips, Tina!

  • don't even get me started on humidity and heat

  • I have gotten much better over time at running in the heat. That being said, I still aim to be outside by 7:00 am the latest although I have been able to do it later in the morning but it definitely affects my speed (which is fine)…One problem I do have is the first heat of the season – that throws me and it does take time to adjust to. It didn't help me for that Fitness mag half back in April that's for sure since it was super sunny and warm for that time of year – was not used to it!

  • Great tips, as usual! We've had an unusually cool summer here… I've actually been chilly the last few mornings! So I can't complain- I did the crazy heat thing the two years we were in Tx. 🙂

  • I need to start running with a visor. The sun is bright after E's nap time, but at least he gets shade from the stroller's sun shade.

  • Tina- Excellent post. You provided some really solid tips for those of us struggling through summer training. I can't wait until Fall arrives and we all run like superheroes.

  • Gianna Alvino
    August 15, 2014 1:51 pm

    All great tips! I think the biggest is getting out and beating the sun/heat. I went out around 11am last weekend and oh that sun was beating down! The mornings this week have felt like fall though! There were a few weeks that were really warm but we kind of lucked out on a crazy hot summer here in NYC (in my opinion compared to last year)

  • My body is terrible at dissapating heat. I definitely find exposing my neck, ankles, and wrists key to staying a touch cooler. Great tips Tina!

  • Thank goodness you stopped talking about cool things that are happening in your life and got back to serious matters. Nobody wants to know anything about your life 😉
    All joking aside, excellent as always. It is so weird though, we haven't had real heat to have to deal with up here! I'll keep it for next summer though, hahah.

  • I have to admit that I'm a complete wimp when it comes to the heat… and it doesn't even get that hot here! I honestly couldn't imagine training in it, but you offer some really great tips — I would have never even thought of the asphalt one, but yeah… that stuff is crazy hot!

  • I hate running in the heat. Especially when it's heat + humidity. What sunglasses do you run in? I keep thinking I should get a pair… but now that season is almost over haha.

  • an egg frying is a very apt description. When I did a race just last weekend, the other racers were saying how much easier it was because the temperature was cold. I guess the year before it had been crazy hot and what a difference it makes. You feel like you've been hit by a two ton truck

  • Lauren Edwards
    August 15, 2014 3:45 pm

    Thank you so much for this! Especially with this past winter being so cold and then it switching to major heat and humidity so quickly, it was kind of tough for me to adapt. Right now we've had cooler than normal temps, but I'm not holding my breath that those will last.

  • Tina@GottaRunNow
    August 15, 2014 5:24 pm

    Yesterday I ran from one shady spot to the next one to stay cooler. When I ran the Kona Marathon, I ran with ice cubes in my mouth.

  • Great advice!! Heat is not my friend, I much rather run in colder weather.

  • Julie DenOuden
    August 15, 2014 6:35 pm

    Great tips! One of the things I do not miss about living in Philly was the various weather I dealt with while running!

  • Honestly I hate running in the heat and because I have been running at the crack of dawn, it is hard for me to try and run while the sun is up! Crazy right? I'm like a vampire now “no sunlight”. LOL. The weather is changing here a little sooner than expected so we are having a GOOD OL' TIME running in the coolness. It's just so nice. 🙂 Great tips!!!

  • Great tips!!
    I used to love running in the heat but lately (age, I guess!) I can't handle it. I'm running an ultra in 4 weeks that starts at noon – I hope it isn't brutally hot that day!

  • The heat really affects me. I prefer it to be raining or really cold. The heat just tires me much quicker. I usually run with my hair wet and aside from drinking water I tend to pour some on my face and body to help we cool off.

  • Great tips! I could of used this post a couple years ago before the Boston Marathon! That was the hottest race I have ever run and I was so unprepared for the heat (in April?!). What helped me the most was putting ice cubes under my baseball cap – so thankful people were handing the ice cubes out that day!

    I crossed the finish line, but my stomach and body in general was sick feeling for the next week. Heat definitely takes it's toll!

    Amy @ http://livinglifetruth.blogspot.com/

  • I feel like our season of heat and humidity has passed. It's been feeling like fall a lot this past week. Who knows, maybe it'll turn warm again?

  • These are such great tips – and much needed as I look at running in 80* temperatures and 80% humidity tomorrow AM for my long run… ughhh. 🙂

  • I ran that race too! It was a tough one — my personal worst, as I like to say. 😉 But the best part was that everyone went into it with a very similar mentality. It felt like we were all out there for one very hot long run together!

  • Cassie @ Rural Running Redhead
    August 16, 2014 4:42 pm

    Great tips, Tina! Once in a hot marathon, I dumped Gatorade on my head because I am bad at listening (the volunteer clearly shouted “Gatorade”). That was not as refreshing as water. 🙂

  • Heather @fitncookies
    August 17, 2014 1:02 am

    Great advice! I try really hard to get my run done early in the morning or later on in the day when the cool weather sets in. I also look for shaded areas!

  • I've been so fortunate this summer!! The heat and humidity hasn't been bad at all. Still, over the winter winter months I forget how much heat and humidity affect running and it catches me off guard every summer. All of a sudden my pace dips and I'm wondering what the heck? Ahhh…it's heat and humidity 🙂

  • Kim @ BusyBod
    August 18, 2014 6:46 pm

    Luckily around me is has been much cooler this year for runs, but I still so appreciate the tips! I am very bad about always doing the same thing and not adapting for conditions, etc., which I'm sure does not make things easier on my body!

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