Summer running feels almost magical after frigid, multi-layer, dark, snowy wintry runs….right up until that first HOT one.
Not the mid 70;s F.
Or even the high 70's F with a slight breeze.
That first 80+ F degree. With a touch of humidity.
"I'm off the treadmill AT LAST! "
"Oh dear lord, you can't make me run outside."
That's just the beginning of the running-in-the-heat roller coaster, isn't it?
You know summer running is here when you start feeling:
Exhausted after your workouts, not just tired.
Frustrated at not hitting your pace
Slow as molasses; does speed work even count right now?
And every run is a hard run.
Rule #1: These are signs that shouldn't be ignored.
Knock, knock.! Your body is trying to talk to you!
It's not necessarily saying "don't run", but rather, "hey, things have changed."
It's saying, you have to adapt your battle plan.
Here's how we do that.
7 Tips All Runners Should Know so You Don't HATE Running in the Heat
Know the Signs of Heat Exhaustion
Short and sweet: You don't want to get to this point.
So it's better to know the symptoms, so that when you start to notice you're experiencing them, you understand what's going on.
Elevated body temperature
Plan for the worse and hope for the best, right?
Worst case scenario: one summer run you stumble back home, realizing heat exhaustion is very real.
What do you do?
How to Combat Heat Exhaustion:
Name of the goal: cool down ASAP!
Ditch the socks and shoes. Leave a trail of excess clothing behind you because you need to…
Cool your core.
Fastest way to do this while you're still standing, hop into a cold or at least cool shower.
Did another runner actually pass out from the heat?
Get some ice packs or at least cool, damp towels under their armpits, behind they're neck, and (depending on how well you know them) even around their inner thighs
Water is good; electrolytes are better.
Water is always a good option, but considering how much you've probably sweat, you probably need electrolytes just as badly. Grab a Gatorade, pop a nuun tablet in your bottle, or snag some salt sticks, and get sipping!
It can take 1-2 weeks to acclimate to running in the heat.
If you're in really good shape, it may only take 3-5 days. But for the rest of us mortals, it's probably going to take at least 7.
Because your body is literally undergoing physiological changes.
Increased sweating efficiency
(earlier onset of sweating, greater sweat production, and reduced electrolyte loss in sweat).
Stabilization of the circulation.
The ability to work hard but with lower core temperature and heart rate.
Increased skin blood flow at a given core temperature.
Not to say running in the heat will be a breeze, but it will become easier over time and with patience. Speaking of patience and adapting…
Adjust Your Pace in the Heat. Run by Effort.
Because increased perceived effort and increased physiological stress occurs when running in high temps. Like we talked about above, your body hasn't caught up yet to the heat.
It needs time to adapt.
Just like you do when you start to increase mileage or increase your race pace. But this time, it's your body fighting the elements and it needs a little buffer room.
Therefore, adjust your pace, listen to your body, and run by effort for the first 1-2 weeks of summer running.
It's not weakness. It's science.
"Progressive exercise-heat acclimatization, by way of graduated exposure to running in a hot and/or humid environment and progressively increasing intensity and duration over an appropriate period (ideally, up to 2 weeks or more) from an initial lower-than-normal pace and distance (eg, 75% of typical training intensity and half typical distance, if completely unacclimatized to the heat and humidity)..."
(Yes, you can get much more precise by calculating your adjusted your pace from dew point and temperature, but that's another blog for another day.)
Stay On Top of Your Hydration + Fuel.
The hydration part is easy to understand; when you're not hydrated well before your runs, your performance can take a nose dive and you run a higher risk of high exhaustion.
JOSPT guidelines for hydration include:
"For longer distances or in otherwise extended runs, 100 to 250 mL (about 3 to 8 oz) every 20 minutes for young adolescents and up to 1 L (about 35 oz) or a little more per hour for older adolescents and adults is generally enough to sufficiently minimize sweating-induced body-water deficits incurred during running.
Shorter runs may not necessitate any fluid intake while running, as long as prerun hydration status is good…"
That being said, personally, I've consistently found I perform better in the summer when I pre-fuel, meaning I don't let my electrolyte or energy supply get depleted in the first place.
So before my runs I take:
8oz of water with 1 nuun tablet
1 energy blok
And I'm good to go.
Even on short runs.
It's my system and I'm sticking to it.
The reason why?
"As a runner's rate of sweating increases, there is a concomitant increase in the rate of sweat electrolyte loss (particularly sodium and chloride), owing to a larger volume of sweat and higher sweat-sodium concentration. Acclimatization to the heat typically lowers one's sweat-sodium concentration; however, sweat-sodium losses can still be substantial, even for a runner who is well acclimatized to the heat."
So I vote we just skip that whole step of substantial sodium and corresponding electrolyte loss and prepare ahead of time.
Find your pre-summer-run system!
Know Your Muscle Cramps!
Ideally, you don't experience these.
However, I get asked this question A LOT in the summer, from both runners, physical therapy patients, and even family members.
So I thought I'd pass it along to you guys since muscle cramps have 2 sides their coin.
"Exertional heat cramps occur during or after running and are generally concomitant with extensive sweat losses.
However, a hot environment is not a prerequisite, and runners experiencing exertional heat cramps are often not overheated."
"Early onset of exertional heat cramping affected runners often report:
feeling subtle indications (slight muscle cramping or twitches)
progressively develop to more severe and widespread (often bilaterally) [meaning BOTH sides] intermittent and eventually debilitating muscle spasms.
Profuse sweating and salt residue on the skin or clothing (although not always visible) and other signs and symptoms of dehydration further implicate the presence of a significant water and/or sodium deficit.
The runner with exertional heat cramps needs to be promptly treated with an oral high-salt solution or intravenously
Sudden-onset exercise-associated muscle cramping:
localized (affecting solely the calf or hamstring muscles)
responsive to passive stretching
highly likely to have been prompted by muscle overload and fatigue.
exercise-associated muscle cramping related to overload and fatigue should be treated with include rest and passive stretching to assist in relaxing the muscles and relieving some of the spasms."
Listen to Your Mom and Wear Sunscreen (and copy Dad. Wear a hat).
Yes, even my runners out there with beautiful brown, black, or dark skin. (There's been some pretty cool black-owned sunscreen companies coming out, so no more white-cast and ashy face!)
Looking for hat recommendations? Check out AlterEgo and use my code: Dr.W
But why bother?
Because your skin is an organ, too. And it gets stressed out from the sun and heat. It's all fun and games until someone gets skin cancer. Don't be that runner.
Worried about stingy-sunscreen sweat in your eyes?
Mineral based sunscreen (in my opinion) is way less ouchy if it gets in your eyes. But then, you're wearing a hat, too, aren't you? Ta-da! Instead eye-ball protector. Shades your face and keeps a LOT of the sweat out of your eyes.
That's a wrap, running fit fam...
Go forth and conquer the hot, summery runs with early, cool, wake up calls, shady trails, and plenty of sprints through the neighborhood sprinklers!
You might even see me out there running from one sprinkler to the next. No shame, all smiles!
Until next time, Dare to Train Differently,
Dr. Marie Whitt //@dr.whitt.fit
Bergeron, M. (2014). Heat Stress and Thermal Strain Challenges in Running. Journal Of Orthopaedic &Amp; Sports Physical Therapy, 44(10), 831-838. doi: 10.2519/jospt.2014.5500
Gasparetto, T., & Nesseler, C. (2020). Diverse Effects of Thermal Conditions on Performance of Marathon Runners. Frontiers In Psychology, 11, 1438. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2020.01438
Heat Stress – Heat Related Illness. (2022). Retrieved 26 May 2022, from https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/heatstress/heatrelillness.html