Running in the heat requires caution, especially when it is also humid. With a heat wave in progress across the United States as I write this, I thought a few cautionary tips were in order!
Heat presents a danger to runners because, running in hot weather causes rather high amounts of electrolyte loss and can lead to dehydration, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke. To stay safe when it is hot out, follow these tips.
Running in The Heat
(1) Slow Down: A commonly cited set of figures is that, for every 5 degrees over 65, you should slow your pace by around 10 seconds per mile. There actually are some rather complex formulas on the exact amount of speed loss at certain temperatures, but the lesson for here is simply not to try to run fast in hot weather. Most likely your body will slow itself for you, making running at your normal higher paces very difficult. Don’t try to fight that and take it slow and easy!
(2) Run Early in the Morning: By running early, you beat the hottest temperatures of the day and also avoid the most sun. If you can’t run early, try running later after dark, or in shaded areas. Early morning is usually much cooler than after sunset during a heat wave.
(3) Wear Light Colored, Wicking Clothing: Now is not the time to wear cotton, which will simply soak up your sweat, become heavy, and hold moisture against your skin. You want light clothing that will wick the sweat away and help it evaporate, which in turns helps to cool your body. The same fabrics are not as uncomfortable and will work to evaporate liquid if you choose to wet them down with water to cool off. Road Runner Sports offers lots of great clothing options for hot weather.
(4) Bring Plenty of Fluids and Electrolyte Replacements: Drink water and bring Gatorade or other forms of electrolytes, with you. I love Nuun Tablets for easy carrying and for shorter runs where I don’t want the sugar from Gatorade. GU is also an easy to carry solution for adding electrolytes, but be sure to take it with plenty of water to avoid stomach upset. When it is hot, I carry Gatorade in my Helium Fuel Belt (read previous Helium Fuel Belt review) and I plan a route that passes water fountains. If running long, I carry either Nunn Tabs or premeasured Gatorade powder with me and mix more up at the fountains.
(5) Wet Down Hats or Clothing: Another great reason to plan a course that goes near fountains is to be able to soak your hat or clothing with water to help cool yourself. The relief is often short lived, but rather welcome at the time! You can also try starting out with some ice cubs under your hat.
(6) Stop at Signs of Trouble: If you begin to feel lightheaded, dizzy, nauseous, or weak, STOP! Get yourself to a cool place and take in fluids and electrolytes. If you stop sweating, this is a medical emergency and you should seek help immediately.
(7) Run Indoors. As boring as it might be, during times of hot weather, often a run on the treadmill or an indoor track is the best option if that is available to you.
Stay safe and don’t be a warrior in hot weather. Overdoing it will harm your training, not help it!