As many of you know I hate the heat. Lately in SLO, it has been unnecessarily hot (think 104 degrees with no air conditioning hot). Most of you probably live in places where the heat is a normal way of life, but for me… it isn’t. This is one of the many reasons that I moved 20 minutes away from the beach. The fact is though, that the heat is here to stay for a bit so I figure it is time to get acclimated… as much as I don’t want to. So, here are a few tips for staying cool during those hot summer runs.
1. Run early in the morning.
It is definitely the coolest part of the day, so I recommend heading out as early as possible to avoid the heat.
2. Hydrate like a mother!
Even if you don’t feel thirsty, drink at least 8 oz. of fluid each hour, and more if you’re outside or tend to perspire a lot. You’ll run better with adequate fluid intake, and you’ll feel better, too. By keeping your water storage high, you’ll also improve your body’s cooling mechanisms.
3. Acclimate slowly.
Don’t be a nut job and go out for your first hot run at 2 PM when it’s 98 degrees outside. For the first two weeks of hot weather, keep your midday running bouts to 30 easy minutes at most. (You can go longer on cool mornings or evenings.) In 10 days to two weeks, you should be fully acclimated.
4. Don’t wear black, dummy.
Wear light-colored, loose-fitting clothing. The former will reflect the sun’s rays better; the latter will enable you to take advantage of any breeze, including the one you make by running. The new sports-specific synthetics are better than cotton, too. They stay drier and wick moisture better than natural fibers do.
5. SPF the crap out of yourself.
Skin cancer is no joke, people! To protect yourself from skin cancer and other skin damage, use sunscreen liberally. Do so even on partly cloudy days; harmful ultraviolet rays are not blocked by cloud cover. Another benefit: Sunscreen can decrease your skin and body temperatures, so you’ll stay cooler during exercise.
6. Take water with you!
Invest in a handheld water bottle, a fuel belt or a hydration pack. This will prevent you from getting dehydrated on the run, regardless of how hot it is.
7. Cover your dome.
You lose a major portion of body heat through your head, which is bad in winter but good in summer. So on hot days, don’t cover your noggin tightly with a hat. Cover it, for sure, but with a loose-fitting hat, preferably made of mesh or some other breathable material.
8. Slow down.
Starting your run slowly is particularly beneficial on hot days. The slower you start, the longer you’ll keep your body heat from reaching the misery threshold. If you normally run at an eight-minute mile pace, for example, do your first mile at a 10-minute pace.
9. Head for Water!
Running near water—whether it’s along a river, lake or ocean—is usually cooler and breezier. And even if the air temperature is about the same, you’ll likely feel cooler just being near water.
10. Listen to your body.
Be very sensitive to the warning signs of heat illness, which, if it progresses, can be fatal. If you feel trouble coming on, you need to stop running, find some shade, get liquids and then find a ride or walk home. Following are signs of impending heat illness:
- Headache or intense heat buildup in the head.
- Confusion or lack of concentration.
- Loss of muscular control.
- Oversweating followed by clammy skin and cessation of sweating.
- Hot and cold flashes.
- Upset stomach, muscle cramps, vomiting, dizziness.
11. Lower Your Expectations.
In training and in races, you won’t be able to run as fast as you would on cool days. If race day comes, and it’s super hot that morning, ease back and treat it as a training run — and drink at all the water stops.
12. Watch What You Drink.
Both caffeine and alcohol are diuretics, which means they increase urine output. This puts you at greater risk of dehydration. Since hot weather is already causing you to dehydrate faster, be especially careful about your caffeine and alcohol intake in summer.
13. If it’s too hot, throw in the towel.
Some days are going to be unsafe for running, especially if you live in an urban area where air pollution is also a concern. On those occasions, consider skipping running altogether. Or run inside on a treadmill. Or hit the pool for some laps.
Sure, it’s going to be hot this summer. There is no way around that. But with some planning and a little imagination, you can minimize the downside and make it work for you. Stay flexible, have fun and, above all, be safe!