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8 Strategies for Running in Extremely Hot Weather

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  • Post last modified:September 26, 2023

Running In Hot Weather vs. Running In Cold Weather

It’s a breeze to stick to your running routine when the birds are chirping, the sun is beaming, and there’s a gentle breeze to keep you cool. However, as the temperatures rise and the humidity levels increase, even the most dedicated runners need to adapt their strategy. Running in hot weather can be quite challenging, especially if you reside in a region with high humidity and scorching temperatures.

Rather than letting your running shoes gather dust in the corner or resorting to treadmill runs only, keep your momentum going by learning how to adjust your run (and your recovery) for the hot summer temperatures. Below, we will explore why running in the heat feels so different compared to running in cooler weather and discuss the steps you can take to stay safe, well-hydrated, and injury-free.

No surprises here: The primary contrast between running in hot and cold weather is that your pace naturally decreases as the temperatures rise. Regardless of your identity and whether you’re an ultramarathoner or a newbie tackling your first 5K, research indicates that all age groups, genders, and running abilities are impacted by these steamy temperatures. Here’s why: When you run in the heat, your body redirects blood flow to the surface of your skin, allowing the blood to disperse and cool down. Once this dissipation occurs, your skin uses evaporation to regulate its temperature, initiating the sweating process. Diverting blood flow to your skin necessitates your heart to work a little harder to circulate the blood to a new location, resulting in a slightly faster heartbeat.

If you become dehydrated, your heart will have to work even harder to maintain proper blood circulation. Additionally, you may experience symptoms such as headaches, dizziness, fatigue, and more. (For your information, dehydration occurs when you lose more fluids than you consume, hindering your body’s necessary functions.) The increased strain on your heart translates to slower running paces as your body compensates for the warm weather. Interestingly, while humidity can make hot temperatures feel more oppressive, it has been discovered to have minimal impact on running speed.

Another disparity between running in hot weather and cold weather is the production of sweat. Not only do you sweat more in hot weather, but the sweating process also begins earlier in your run compared to chillier temperatures. Greater sweating leads to a loss of electrolytes, which are essential minerals that help your body maintain fluid balance and absorb important nutrients. If you lose more fluid and electrolytes through sweating than you can replenish through rehydration, you may be at risk of heat exhaustion. Heat exhaustion occurs when your body overheats and can manifest symptoms such as goosebumps, a weak pulse, and profuse sweating. In the worst-case scenario, heat exhaustion can progress to heat stroke, a life-threatening condition that can cause permanent damage to your brain and vital organs.

Lastly, running in the heat can affect your cardiovascular system. The elevated body temperature makes it more difficult for your body to effectively utilize oxygen, which in turn impacts your performance and increases the speed at which you become dehydrated or experience heat exhaustion.

Tips for Jogging In The Warmth

You’ll require more than good intentions for a safe, thriving jog in sweltering weather. After all, you’re more perspiring, sluggish, and have less oxygen accessible; that’s not precisely a recipe for triumph. However, with appropriate planning and the right equipment, you won’t have to abandon your jogging routine during the hotter months. The most significant errors that joggers make in hot weather include wearing clothing that traps moisture, hydrating inadequately, and disregarding the warning indicators for heat prostration and dehydration, according to professionals. Avoid any setbacks by adhering to these suggestions for a superior warm weather jog from beginning to end.

1. Strategize your jog for the coolest time of day.

It might appear like an obvious decision, but the last thing you want to do is make your jog as demanding as possible by doing it at the hottest, brightest time of day. “If the weather is hot, attempt to go out before sunrise (or after sunset),” suggests jogging coach Steve Stonehouse, NASM-CPT and director of education for STRIDE Fitness. “Heat is one thing. Heat and the sun beating down on you is another,” he adds.

There’s no specific temperature at which to cancel your jog, although it’s advisable to pay attention to your local weather service and cancel any jog based on their advice, notes Stonehouse. Wind can also influence your jog. “A pleasant breeze can help cool things down,” he says. “Other times, the breeze is just as hot as the temperature, and it exacerbates things.”

2. Energize with electrolytes and sodium prior to a jog.

It’s evidently crucial to continuously hydrate during a jog in the warmth, but proper hydration should commence before you tie your shoelaces. Starting approximately four hours before your jog, drink water enriched with electrolytes to get a head start on replenishing what you’ll ultimately perspire out; that way, you’ll maintain the correct equilibrium of fluids throughout your jog, as Shape previously reported. If you’ll be embarking on an exceptionally long jog or you’re planning to spend time in the warmth afterward, consume something high in sodium in the hours preceding your jog (such as pretzels, cottage cheese, or even just adding a pinch of salt to whatever you’re already consuming). The objective is to fuel your body with an abundance of sodium so that when you inevitably perspire, you’ll have sodium to spare. Plus, obtaining sodium from food (instead of solely from liquids) assists in lowering the risk of hyponatremia, also known as overhydration, notes Stonehouse.

3. Don moisture-absorbing, fast-drying textiles.

Save your cotton for another time and choose fast-drying materials, such as nylon or polyester, when jogging in the warmth.

I consistently propose individuals undergo training in any sort of artificial, moisture-absorbing substance as it will aid in preserving the dryness of your skin,” clarifies Stonehouse. He advocates for abstaining from anything that comprises pure cotton, since that fabric will retain moisture and perspiration, resulting in a moist and uncomfortable jogging experience. Not only will moisture-absorbing substances assist in maintaining the coolness of your body, but socks constructed from polyester or nylon will aid in averting another frequent predicament runners encounter: blisters.

In addition to wearing appropriate attire, do not skimp on sunscreen to safeguard your skin from the sun’s harsh rays and decrease your chances of developing skin cancer. Cover all exposed areas with a minimum of SPF 30, which is what the American Academy of Dermatology recommends for daily use, as Shape previously stated. Seek a sweat-proof SPF that can endure your exertion.

4. Condense your warm-up.

While it may seem counterproductive to shorten your warm-up as it has a crucial role in activating your muscles and safely preparing for a productive workout, it’s acceptable to scale back when running in hot temperatures. “Typically, the purpose of the warm-up is to increase blood flow and prepare a muscle or system to work,” explains Stonehouse. “In warmer weather, the blood flow is already increased, so preparing that muscle or system to work usually won’t take as long.” He suggests active or dynamic movements pre-workout (such as lunges or squats) instead of just static stretching (such as touching your toes).

5. Familiarize yourself with the indications of heat exhaustion and dehydration.

You might be tempted to tune out to your playlist or chat with your running partner to avoid fixating on the heat, but you should remain vigilant for any signs of heat exhaustion or dehydration. Signs of heat exhaustion include headache, dizziness, muscle cramps, unusually rapid pulse, and feeling queasy or nauseous. Symptoms of dehydration include extreme thirst, dizziness, irritability, dark or concentrated urine, and dry lips, mouth, and/or eyes. If you observe any of these symptoms, do not attempt to push through – it’s much safer to stop immediately, cool down, and hydrate.

6. Stay hydrated throughout your run.

While carrying a water bottle or taking breaks during your run may be inconvenient, it’s imperative when running in hot weather. “The thicker your blood is, the harder your body has to work to push it through the [circulatory] system,” advises Stonehouse. Hydrating throughout your run will prevent your blood from thickening. “The more hydrated you are, your blood is thinner and will circulate much easier,” he adds. And when your blood circulates smoothly, your muscles receive the oxygen they need to complete that final distance without becoming too breathless.

If you’re worried about grasping a slippery water bottle in your hand while you perspire all over it, rest assured that there are alternatives. For quick, convenient access to your water, try a handheld water bottle that attaches to your palm. Or if you dislike holding anything while running, wearable running vests allow you to hydrate without using your hands. Experiment with a few different water bottle alternatives to find the most comfortable and functional one for you.

7. Conclude with stretching and cold water immersion.

Conclude your hot weather run with static movements and thorough stretching, as recommended by Stonehouse.

Focus on your hamstrings, shins, pelvis, and quadriceps for an accelerated recuperation (your lower limbs will express gratitude for the tender loving care).

Additionally, contemplate diving into frigid-water immersion, which can hasten recovery, according to Stonehouse. “Plunge into the pool, undergo a cold shower or even submerge yourself in an ice bath… whatever aids in lowering your body’s core temperature swiftly is exceptional,” he states. By reducing your core temperature, you’ll avoid that dreaded heat fatigue and return to your customary body temperature securely.

8. Persist in consuming and rehydrating after your run.

Your run may be concluded, but your hydration should persist. Prioritize consuming electrolyte-enhanced water in the hours following your hot weather run to restore what you lost via perspiration. You’ll also obtain other supplementary advantages of electrolytes; for instance, the electrolytes potassium and magnesium can assist in averting muscle cramps.

In addition to replenishing with electrolytes, you might discover that you’re desiring salty foods following an exceptionally sweaty run. If so, regard this as an opportunity to practice intuitive eating. This particular craving is your body’s way of notifying you that it requires those electrolytes back as soon as possible — so go ahead and indulge in sodium-rich foods such as a handful of nuts, canned fish, or even a sushi roll with soy sauce.

Despite the elevated temperatures, you can still accomplish your mileage. By hydrating appropriately before your run, restoring lost electrolytes, and wearing heat-friendly, moisture-wicking attire, you’ll be able to tackle your summer running objectives with assurance.