Summer training isn’t ideal for runners. If you want a decent run, you’ll need to get up early and hit the road or you’ll be dealing with high temperatures and high humidity. For some this isn’t realistic so running in the sun becomes the only way to get an outdoor run in.
Even with all the pains of running in the heat there are some benefits of running in the heat. The body can adapt to the high temperatures and high humidity. This type of training will pay dividends when you hit the road for some fall races when it’s cool.
The reason why you should embrace running in the heat is because it will teach your body to shed heat during a cooler race in the fall which will allow you to keep up a faster pace. When you run in the heat it causes the body to increase blood volume to bring more blood to the skin to cool you off. Your body will also sweat out less electrolytes to conserve them while sweating.
Now that you know why running in the heat is good for you we will give you some tips to help you stay safe and fit during the summer months.
Run in the shade
When you run in the summer time picking a route that has plenty of tree cover is a must. When it’s hot out you’re dealing with temperature and humidity, the last thing you want is direct sunlight. The human body is amazing because we have evolved to minimize the amount of sun that hits us because we stand on two legs. Even with this handy adaption we still should focus on running in the shade because the sun will heat us up faster. Finding a trail that has tree cover is the best bet for running in the shade.
Avoid the hills
When you’re running in the heat you should find a shady route that has minimal hills. This is because your body must work harder going up hills than flats. When it’s hot out your heart works harder to get rid of the heat by pumping more blood to the surface of the skin. When you run up hills you heart works harder to fight gravity of running up hill. If you take the hills out of your run your body will thank you when it’s hit out.
If you run into a cooler day hit the hills. Just because it’s summer you don’t have to skip your hill work, just plan accordingly.
During the fall and winter months I rarely bring water even on my long runs but when it’s summer time you should have a bottle of water or a water backpack with you while running. When it’s hot out you will be losing a ton of water and if your body gets too hot you’ll need that water while you’re out there. If you don’t like running with water, try to find a route that has stores or water fountains. If you are going to stop in the store don’t forget to bring a little cash or a credit card on your run.
Running at a pace that is slow in the summer is a must because the faster you run the faster your body will generate heat. You’ll need to adjust your pace when it’s hot out but as you adapt you will able to pick up the pace a little bit. It takes about 2 weeks for your body to start to adapt to the hot weather but when the temperatures start to get close or over 90 you’ll need to slow down no matter who you are because the body will struggle to expel that much heat when it’s that hot.
The best way to figure out if you’re running too fast in the heat is to use a heart rate watch. Your heart will let you know how hard you’re working more than pace. When I am doing base building in the summer I try to keep my heart rate under 155bpm.
When you run in the heat your body will lose electrolytes. Drinking water alone will not replace electrolytes and you will need them for your next run. When I am running in the summer I use Nuun tablets, magnesium, sports drinks and chews. When you’re low on electrolytes it may cause cramps, heart issues and fatigue.
Run in the morning
I know I said that some of us can’t run in the morning but if you can do it. This is the best way to keep the sun off your back while running and the heat won’t be at full force during morning runs. I usually will get out there at 6:00am if my schedule will allow it. I notice a huge difference when I run early in the morning vs mid-morning in summer months. Doing one mid-morning or early afternoon will make you a stronger runner but doing make it a habit because too much may leave you feeling drained.
Last tip for running in the summer is to use sunscreen. Getting a sunburn is not only uncomfortable but it can cause damage to the skin down the road that may lead to skin cancer. Make sure to put on the sunscreen in the summer months.
Check out our blog on how to run faster and our blog on offseason training for runners.