...is rarely as fast. Your lungs are burning and sweat drips down your ass...

(the above words are to be sung out loud to the tune of: "Summer Lovin" from the musical Grease - I dare you!!)

Ok my warped sense of humour aside, running in hot/humid conditions can deplete your energy levels faster than unnecessary apps can drain the charge from your smart phone. And it can be even more annoying.

Heat Load

Dealing with heat and humidity puts a large extra energy use load on your body. Not to mention the loss of fluids through sweat.

Let's be clear here too - it's not just about running in the Summer months, although that's when it's at it's most obvious here in the Northern Hemisphere (I live in the UK). This same additional load can happen suddenly in early Spring and is often the cause of poor performance for athletes running an early Spring marathon like Boston, Paris or London. As an un-seasonally warm race day can leave your body reeling. 

It takes time to acclimatise to heat. At least a couple of weeks and if you don't run often - probably more like 4 weeks.

So when you've been used to running in very modest temperatures through the winter months - to suddenly be hit with what is equivalent of a balmy Summer afternoon - you've got little chance of dealing with that extra heat load efficiently. The sensible thing to do in these conditions is just to slow down and put your new marathon PB on hold until next time.

This phenomenon incidentally is why I much prefer an Autumn marathon. As at least then you would have trained through the Summer months and experienced running in the heat. So an unseasonably warm Autumn day will not be such a shock to the system.

It's not all bad news though. There is some research that indicates that you can achieve quicker and greater fitness gains by training in the heat - but that's probably best saved for another blog post. For now let's concentrate on giving you valuable information for making the most of your Summer Running...

Top Tips for running in the heat:


Slow down

This is a tricky one for some to understand, but because of the extra energy load on your body. It's really not advisable to try to maintain a set pace that may be stipulated in your training plan - to get you to a certain race time and your coveted new PB. 

Trying to nail those faster paces is going to feel harder than normal (because it is) and you'll also take longer to recover and possibly not get the intended benefit from your training. So, when it’s very hot, stop using your pace as a guide and go on effort. Which will most likely mean that you will slow down - learn to be ok with that.

Lightweight technical clothing

I'm old enough and have been running long enough to remember the times before "technical' clothing was a thing. Back then cotton was the main t-shirt fabric and wearing a cotton t-shirt to run in the heat sucks big time.

Cotton gets soaked with sweat and doesn't dry quickly, it clings to you, can rub/chafe and it stretches - which could reveal parts of your anatomy that you'd rather keep covered in public. 

Modern technical fabrics are far more comfortable to wear, they're lighter, more durable - but most of all they wick the sweat away from your skin and dry very quickly.

Another thing to consider is that some lighter colours (especially shorts) tend to show sweat stains more than darker ones. This can sometimes make you look like you've had a bladder control malfunction.

Hydrate

It's HOT! - you're going to sweat - lots! Make sure you are well hydrated before you go for a run. If you're going running first thing in the morning. Get up a little earlier and have a drink. You can dehydrate overnight, as you loose moisture through your breath as well as sweat.

If you're going to be running for more than an hour - get some electrolytes in too to replace the salts oozing out of your sweat pores. For runs over an hour, I would also suggest taking a drink with you.

Putting your drink in the fridge overnight or popping a few ice cubes in it, will help cool you down too and may make you want to drink more.

Don't run with a bottle in your hand - it has a negative impact on your running form. Far better to run with a bottle belt or a hydration vest/back-pack.

Something else to be aware of is that your sweat rate actually increases as you get fitter. So as you train for your goal race, the amount you need to drink to stay hydrated will also increase - at least in theory. It's worth bearing this in mind, to make sure you drink enough whilst running long distances in the heat.

Avoid maximum temperatures - run early

Try not to run at mid-day or early afternoon when temperatures usually peak. Some runners prefer to run in the evening, but I much prefer to get up early and get my runs done at the start of the day. It's much quieter and cooler then. Especially if you intend to run on a tarmac road or footpath. Because those surfaces absorb the heat of the sun during the day and radiate it back out in the evening/night. So it will be much cooler come morning.

If you get out early enough, there's less need to apply sunscreen to exposed skin. As you shouldn't be in the strong sun long enough to burn. That said, it's always better to play safe and apply some - just in case you have a mishap and end up walking back or taking longer than you expected, because you took a wrong turn and got lost (both of which have happened to me in the past). Make sure your sunscreen is water-proof, so that your sweat doesn't wash it off.

Choose shaded routes

If you can plan running routes that are shaded and ideally for a couple of added bonuses - alongside some water (sea/river/stream/lake/pond) where there is also a breeze.  A personal favourite of mine is to run along my local canal.

Running next to water is great, but a lot of biting flying things like to spend time near water too. So consider applying some insect repellant, especially at dusk/dawn.

Appropriate headgear

As I'm follicully challenged, I always wear a peaked cap in the Summer months. It stops my scalp getting sun-burnt and protects my eyes from bright light (and sweat from dripping in them too). 

However, if you have a fulsome head of hair you may prefer to wear a visor. This will help keep your head cooler.

Wear sunglasses

Squinting in bright sunshine will make the muscles of your face work harder than they need to and could also lead to a headache. Not something you need to contend with whilst training. Another advantage I find is that they stop bugs flying into your eyeballs and reduce the amount of pollen getting in there too - a big bonus if you're a hay-fever sufferer like me. 

Head indoors or cross train

If your schedule/work or family commitments won't allow you to run late or early, or you don't have suitably shaded routes - consider opting for a treadmill in an air-conditioned gym. Or alternatively swap one or two of your runs for a bike ride or a swim instead.
It's very easy to let your training lapse in the Summer months too. Lets face it, sitting in the Garden with a cold beer after a tough day at work is much more appealing than getting your kit on and pounding the streets working up a sweat.

But with a bit of planning and making sure you take the appropriate steps and have the right kit, running in the Summer months can see you achieve the biggest fitness gains of the whole year.

Don't miss out on that opportunity.

And don't miss out on the opportunity of getting more valuable advice like this - sign-up to the Running Directions newsletter below if you haven't done already.

About the author 

Coach D

Hi, I'm Dave. I'm a UK Athletics qualified and licensed Coach in Running Fitness (CiRF) and Endurance Event Group Coach. I coach groups and individuals of all abilities both online and in person.I particularly enjoy coaching beginner and improver runners in the 40+ age range.I'm also a regular recreational runner and I've been competing in races from 5k to marathon distance for over 30 years.

{"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}

The Able Runner


Do you want to avoid injuries & nail those PBs?  

Get This Free PDF

Download my top tips for being a happier, healthier & faster runner. Distilled from over 30 years of running experience.