If you’re a runner, you may daydream of training in the cool summers of Maine, or Michigan. But the reality is that many of us are stuck with hot summers across the Midwest or South. Heat and humidity may be your running companions. You may finish a run feeling as though you climbed out of a pool, soaking wet.
If you must run in the heat, here are five ways to protect your health and enjoy your run:
1. Be wise in your timing – Run when it is coolest, usually in the early morning. Getting up at 5:30 a.m. may not sound too appealing, but the joy of running in cooler air will more than compensate for the inconvenience of rising early. Most people find once they adapt to the new schedule, they love the quiet, the beautiful sunrises, and the rush of energy that carries them through the rest of the day.
If you are a serious runner and you need a second run – Use the evening hours. This method has a couple of potential drawbacks, however. In many places in the south, the temperature doesn’t begin to fall until after dark, and you may find your energy waning in the evening.
2. Dress for the weather – In the cold of winter, you make sure you stay warm enough. So do the same in summer. Wear a minimum amount of light clothing, like a sports bra or t-shirt and spandex shorts with thin running socks. That will also help you avoid chafing. Consider a cap and shades if the sun will be out.
3. Hydrate and get replenish salt – One of your top health concerns is hydration. Sip on water from the moment you get out of bed, and replenish your system with water and electrolytes before and after workouts. Eat water-rich foods like melon and celery, and use plenty of salt.
Stop and take advantage of water fountains along your running route. For longer runs, you might stash a bottle of Clif Bar’s Electrolyte Hydration Mix at a point you will pass.
4. Adjust your workouts – Experts say the ideal running temperature is in the low 50s Fahrenheit. If you run too far out of that range, your body will have to exert more energy to achieve the same running times.
Adjust your pace, your interval times and the length of your rests in response to how you feel. Don’t use arbitrary goals without checking in with your own best guide: your body. Some of the best runners in the world come from Africa, where they frequently run in high temperatures. They are masters of “running by feel.”
5. Appreciate the challenges – Hot and humid conditions, much light high altitude, are tough for runners. Adapting to the challenges of running in those conditions makes you a better runner, prepared for whatever the weather throws at you.