Ways to Stay Cool While Running in the Summer Heat
Runners often dread summer.
You even hear negative ideas like, “I just can’t run in the heat” or “Nobody runs well in Summer.” But the fact is that unless you plan to take months off from running, you will need to continue training through the Summer.
Fortunately, with a little planning and being smart, you can not only continue to run in the Summer but thrive. Here are some useful tips for making your summer run more productive and less painful.
Why Running in Heat Hurts
They say, “No pain, no gain,” but often the pain is your body’s way of communicating that something isn’t going well. Your body depends not only on sweat for cooling, but that isn’t the only way you stay cool.
Blood circulation distributes fluids throughout the body for cooling as well. As the heat increases, your body must circulate those fluids faster, creating more work for the heart.
Between 75 and 90 degrees, your heart rate will increase up to 10 beats per minute. That’s a lot of extra work going into keeping you cool rather than simply running.
One of the primary means of reducing body temperature is sweat. Sweat cools the body through evaporative cooling. As sweat reaches the surface of your skin, it evaporates, which cools your body.
But two big obstacles can make this process inefficient.
- As your body heat rises, you may produce more sweat than can evaporate, leaving sweat running down your arms, back, and face. Excess sweat does little to cool your body.
- With higher humidity, sweat can’t effectively evaporate into the air. This means more sweat is likely to roll uselessly off your body rather than evaporate and help cool you. And as you lose liquids and become dehydrated, your heart has to work that much harder to keep liquids circulating.
How Can I Stay Cool?
Staying cool during summer runs involves planning ahead, being smart, and following through.
Proper hydration is the best overall way to improve your running and stay cool in the heat. Hydration starts days before your run, continues through your run, and extends after you finish. Staying properly hydrated for days before your run ensures your body has the blood plasma it needs to easily hydrate your body when demand is high.
Don’t forget to include necessary electrolytes in the days before running as well. In the hour or two before your run, drink plenty of fluids, especially cold fluids, to not only hydrate your body in preparation for your run but also help pre-cool your body. This will help prevent dehydration and give your body time to process fluids before your run begins.
As you run, drink plenty of fluids. Either carry water with you or plan your route around convenient water sources such as water fountains, gas stations, or other places to get fluids. And don’t forget that hydration doesn’t end with your run. Replenishing those fluids you lost in the hours after your run is important for keeping fit for the next run.
It may seem counterintuitive to take a shower before your run. But a cold shower taken 15-20 minutes prior to running in the heat can be just the thing for keeping your body cool.
Pre-cooling, as it’s known, involves taking steps to cool your body’s core temperature before adding a significant heat load. Studies have shown that pre-cooling can improve your performance, and help you reduce the perceived effort required to run in the heat.
A cold shower and drinking cold water leading up to the run could be just what you need to make your next summer run less painful.
Dress for the Heat
Which is better for running? Tights or shorts? Experts agree that light colored, loose fitting clothes are the best for helping your body stay cool.
In general, you want fabrics that allow air to pass through. This helps sweat evaporate and keeps you cool in the heat. Excess sweat rolling off your face and arms does little to help keep you cool and simply stings your eyes and makes your hands slick.
A good sweat headband can reduce those distractions and keep you cool. As your sweatband absorbs the sweat, it can actually aid in keeping you cool as that sweat has time to evaporate. A sweatband that keeps hair out of your face allows more air to cool your face as you run as well.
Plan Your Run
Sometimes the best course of action is to avoid the heat altogether. Running in the morning or early evening when it is cooler lets you keep up your routine without the punishment of the sun. But if you know you will have to run a race during the heat, planning ahead can help.
It takes about two weeks for your body to really acclimatize to the heat. Begin training in heat at least that far in advance to let your body grow accustomed to the demands of the heat. And remember, proper hydration all through the day will aid your body through this process.
There is no reason why you should have to give up running just because it is getting hot outside. And by planning and taking the proper precautions, running in heat can not only be safe but can improve your total fitness.
By hydrating properly, dressing for the heat, and planning ahead through pre-cooling and other means, you can not only endure summer runs but enjoy them.