Hot Weather Running Tips to Get You Through Your Run
Updated: Jul 22
When the temperature hits 80, 90, or 100+ degrees, your usual morning jog, tempo workout or long slow run becomes a very different beast. At best, it’s slower and more challenging; at worst, it becomes a kick-your-butt sufferfest of epic proportions that takes a while to recover from. But if you prepare for the workout, plan for the conditions, and get a few simple things right, you can make the most of it and live to tell the tale.
If it’s much hotter than you’re used to, avoidance may well be the best strategy. Get your miles in early or run indoors in an air conditioned space if you can. Avoid running in the worst heat of the day, if that's an option. While your body will eventually adjust to running in warmer weather, it takes some time. It takes about two weeks of daily exercise in the heat before your body adapts. But if there's no getting away from the heat, follow these tips and listen to your body.
First things first, wear as little as you can get away with. Ladies who like to cover up their legs, or guys who go for the compression tights under shorts thing – take note! All you need is shorts and a vest, as lightweight and breathable as possible, with a looser fit and good ventilation. Wear a hat to shield your eyes and head from the sun, and don’t forget sunscreen!
Adjust Your Pacing & Watch for Heat Exhaustion
You need to listen to your body and slow down if necessary. You cannot run the same pace and intensity in the heat as you can on a cooler day – the heat will place a huge added demand on your body. You’ll need to be flexible and adjust those workouts; forget about pacing and run by effort instead. For example, if a normal threshold interval is about a 7 on a scale of 0-10 of Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE), in the heat you’re simply aiming for the same RPE score of 7, not your usual pace – it will be quite a bit slower, and that’s totally ok.
Performance starts to deteriorate when the temperature hits mid-60s, so 90 degrees is not the time to attempt a PR. If you have a tough workout to get through, think about how to adjust it – the pacing will have to be flexible for sure, and maybe any rest or recovery periods need to be slightly longer (and in the shade if possible!). You’ll also need to hydrate more. Most importantly, pay attention to how you’re feeling. You know what your normal exertion feels like; tune in to your body for signs of anything unusual.
Familiarize yourself with the signs of heat exhaustion – and keep an eye on your friends too if running in a group. Some of the telltale symptoms include excessive thirst, rapid pulse, confusion or dizziness, headache, cramps, weakness, and pale, clammy skin. If you spot any of these signs, immediately stop the workout and do anything you can to cool down and rehydrate.
Hydrate to Prepare & Take in Electrolytes
You absolutely must hydrate properly – and when it gets hot, you need more than just water. You lose salt and electrolytes when sweating, and you’ll need to replace those. Pick a specially formulated electrolyte drink, or even coconut water, and consider chewable salt tablets if you’re having to run hard or long in the heat.
Increase your hydration as soon as temperatures start climbing, and prepare well for a weekend long run by drinking more (and getting enough electrolytes) all week long. You need to be sufficiently hydrated before you even start your workout to have any chance of finishing it without losing too much. You should also carry hydration on the run, even for shorter distances.
Take Every Opportunity to Stay Cool
One last tip for staying cool:
You’ll need to keep drinking it too, but water provides more of a cooling effect if you simply pour it over your head. When the temperature gets high enough, the water you drink won’t have much time to actually get absorbed by your body, as you’re likely to be sweating it out at a pretty similar rate – this is why you need those electrolytes. But tipping a cup of water over your head or pouring it down the back of your neck will help cool down your skin temperature as it evaporates. If you’re wearing a hat (as you should in the sun!) it will also help to trap some of the water.
Also take every opportunity to unleash your inner kid and run through sprinklers, splash pads, and garden hoses!
For virtual group coaching, accountability, more training tips and motivation, check out the Run Empowered running community and membership for women.