Athletics Magazine

Running in the Summer: How to Beat the Heat

By Brisdon @shutuprun

Quiet! Did you hear that? It’s the sound of runners complaining about the heat. Six months ago it was about the cold. We certainly are a predictable bunch of cyclical whiners, myself included. 

When I was racing in 90 degree heat on Sunday and doing the run portion of my triathlon, I started to get that weird goose bump/chill thing that signals the big “H” - heat exhaustion.  I had taken my Hammer Endurolyte Tabs (life savers – I use these during all of my summer races and even tape them onto my bike). I had tried to hydrate enough.  But when you are out there for hours in high heat with little shade, it can be tough to stay ahead of the game.

Fortunately for me, I was almost finished with the race and dehydration would not become a serious issue. After crossing the finish line a huge bottle of Gatorade an some time in the shade did the trick. However, it’s important to remember that once you are very dehydrated or are affected by heat exhaustion, it is difficult to come back. It could take hours and sometimes even days.

How to Run in the Heat and Not Die


So, be smart. Don’t take the heat lightly. Here are some tips to keep you running outside even in the hottest months.

  1. Run at 1:00 a.m.
  2. Steal a coffin from the local funeral home and fill it with ice. Plant it somewhere along your run for when you get overheated. I think ultra runner, Scott Jurek, did this at Badwater, so it is the hip thing to do.
  3. Soak your underwear in cold water, then freeze it. Wear it for your next run. Or, just stick ice packs down your pants.

In all seriousness, here are some tricks to try before you just shut up and run:

  1. Strip down. Wear as few clothes as you can without being arrested. Wear light colored, loose, wicking clothing.
  2. Run first thing, or after the sun starts to set. Avoid getting out there between 10:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m.
  3. Adjust your pace. Slow the heck down. Ideal running temperatures range from 50º-55º. For every five degrees above that, your performance can degrade 2%.  This means that if you are running in 75º  heat, your pace could slow up to 10%! Humidity might make it even worse. Don’t expect you can or will perform the same in the heat (from a study done at Team Oregon).
  4. Do 6 every 15. Try to take in at least 6 ounces of liquid (not including Bud Light) for every 15 minutes of running. Plan your routes where you can replenish your water, or hide it along the way.
  5. Think trees. Or, big buildings. Try to plan your route to include the most shade possible.
  6. Skip the beans and peanut butter. Avoid excess protein intake before and during the run. Protein metabolism produces extra heat (source).
  7. Run with your down coat. If you are planning a race in a hot and/or humid climate, try to acclimate first by mimicking race conditions the best you can. To develop and maintain acclimatization for a race in a warmer climate, assume that each layer of dry clothing or degree of coverage, (i.e. going from short to long sleeved shirt or from shorts to tights), is equivalent to 15 or 20 degrees in temperature (source).
  8. Replenish lost fluids and electrolytes after a run. Some people even weigh themselves pre- and post-run to gauge how much liquid they have lost. If you are doing especially long runs or are running for consecutive days in heat, add salt to foods and select foods high in potassium like bananas.

Where do you live? Are your summers to hot that running in the summer months poses a huge challenge? Colorado is generally pretty cool in the mornings for running. Lately, we have had a string of 103º heat, so even the mornings are a challenge. Usually, however, a run before 8:00 a.m is perfect around here.

Do you have any tips for running in the heat that I haven’t mentioned?

Have you ever been severely dehydrated or had heat exhaustion/stroke from running in hot conditions? No. Knock on wood.


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