In some areas, like here in coastal North Carolina, if I wait to run only when it’s cool weather, I’ll never get to run! Treadmills are nifty inventions, but indoor running won’t help you become acclimated to running in heat, so if you’re training for a race or just want to enjoy the scenery, you’ll need to be ready for outdoor running. Besides, fresh air and sunshine are good for my soul, and I can’t get that while sequestered in air conditioned comfort.
How to run safely in hot weather:
These tips apply to walking or other outdoor workouts as well!
Please note: I am certified as a personal trainer and running coach but I am NOT a doctor and cannot give medical advice. Always consult your physician with any concerns or health conditions you may have.
1- Run during the coolest part of the day.
This isn’t always an option but at the very least, avoid the hottest part of the day. Aim for early morning or late evening. Check the weather: if there is a heat advisory, that’s not the time to run.
Pre-hydrate by drinking plenty of water every day, not just on your run; carry water with you when you run; and re-hydrate after your run. I hated carrying water when I first started running, but a proper running water bottle makes a huge difference compared with carrying a regular old bottled water. One with a handle reduces hand fatigue, and often come with a small zip pouch for your phone or keys. I often carry this insulated one but it does get heavy; after MUCH searching I finally found this water belt I actually don’t hate, which is high praise from me.
3- Wear light colors and lightweight breathable fabrics.
A little neon never hurt anyone; I say bright running clothes makes me feel faster, but in reality those bright colors are useful in helping drivers see runners. That’s a plus for safety — especially if you run near dawn or dusk.
4- Pay attention to your body.
Recognize danger signs. Keep in mind that the symptoms of the beginnings of heat exhaustion can be hard to distinguish from the normal signs of exercising in the heat (elevated body temperature, profuse sweating, feeling tired, etc), so this is where you must learn what is or isn’t normal for YOUR body.
5- Use sunscreen!
Sunburn makes you feel even hotter, and of course is awful for your skin. Because of my skin sensitivities, I can’t use spray sunscreen, which means my pre-run routine includes a bit of contortionism to rub in the sunscreen on my back! I’ve tried many and my favorite is sensitive mineral formula by Alba Botanica.
6- Try electrolyte tablets.
Salt-stick caps and chewables are the only way I make it through summer running. Without them, I end up with a brutal “heat headache” that tends to last ALL day. This may not be for everyone, but my blood pressure tends to stay on the low side and I am a salty sweater.
7- Wear a hat.
Some say not to wear a hat because it can hold in heat, but if you wear a light-colored breathable cap, it can definitely help keep you cool. Look for one with a dark inner brim to help reduce glare reflecting up from ground. This is the one I usually wear. I have a dark pink one, too but the white stays cooler.
8- Start slow and easy.
Studies vary in regards to how long it takes for the body to acclimate to hot weather running, but most say about two weeks of regular running. Even experienced runners need time to acclimate, but new runners may need even more. The changes that take place in the body are amazing, even including increased blood plasma! Unfortunately, you also un-acclimate quickly so if you take a couple of weeks off, you may have to start all over. This is not the time to push yourself hard; acclimate first, then work on speed and/or distance.
Stay safe out there, but don’t let summer running scare you off!