My Dad’s Two Cents: Running in Hot Weather

This post from my dad is very timely for me. My last couple of outdoor runs have been in 90% humidity. And as I shared a couple of weeks ago, for the last few months I’ve done most of my running in an air conditioned gym…so running in the heat and humidity is taking some adjustment. My dad grew up in New York but has lived in the South for most of the last 30+ years, so he knows his stuff when it comes to running when it’s hotter than Hades. – Sharon

Running in Hot Weather | My Dad's Two Cents | Mommy Runs It

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Last September Sharon wrote an article that addressed this same topic. Now that we are into the summer months I thought that I would add my own perspective (or my Two Cents) to this important topic. Also, consider that unless you live in a dry desert area, summer running means not just high temperatures, but also high humidity and that adds further complications.

Last fall I discussed running in cold weather. The key take-away from that discussion was to dress in layers, adding more layers as the temperature drops. Unfortunately, the reverse is not true for running in hot weather. You can only remove so many layers before you get into trouble with public indecency laws. I have tried running without a shirt and found the main result was that the sweat that my shirt would have absorbed was now traveling down to my shorts and they became extra wet and uncomfortable.

Running in Hot Weather | My Dad's Two Cents | Mommy Runs It

Hot Weather Defined

So what is my advice? It is simply don’t run in the hot weather. Let me clarify what I mean by that. I am not advocating taking the entire summer off from running. As an engineer I like to use precise terms and the phrase “hot weather” is very imprecise. Growing up in New York City, as we transitioned from winter to spring I considered temperatures in the high 60′s to low 70′s as warm weather and the 80′s was hot weather; time to wear t-shirts and shorts. As we went from summer to fall that same temperature range was considered to be cool weather.

By saying don’t run in the hot weather I mean try to run in the coolest part of the day, before sunrise or after sunset, since it is not as hot as it would be in the middle of the day (remember to adhere to the running in the dark safety tips). Most people, myself included, find it difficult to run at these times of the day, so pick the coolest part of the day that works for you. I tend to run after work, usually after 5:00 pm when it is cooler than it would be at mid-day or early afternoon. When possible, run on the shady side of the street or sidewalk (unless that presents a safety hazard). If possible pick a path with lots of grass (such as a park) since grass radiates less heat than concrete and asphalt.

Running in Hot Weather | My Dad's Two Cents | Mommy Runs It

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Rain is Your Friend

Unlike winter running, a slight rain is your friend in the summer. It will help cool you off. Just remember to make sure you take steps to thoroughly dry out your shoes afterwards. No rain? Neighbors’ lawn sprinklers are a good substitute. Another technique I use, mostly at race water stops, is to pour water on the back of my neck.

You will probably find that you are running slower when the temperature is higher. That is your body’s way of telling you to take it easy. The heat will take away more of your energy. Plan for this and start out a little slower until you get a feel for how you are doing. You can kick it up in the second half of your run if you feel good.

As I said before, removing too many layers is not a good thing. Lightweight, loose fitting clothing with vents or mesh is best since this will allow your body to breath and cool down naturally. Try to wear light colored clothing since the darker colors absorb the sun’s heat. You need to add a head covering with a brim to shade your eyes and forehead. Wearing a hat is actually quite controversial. In the winter we wear a hat to keep the body heat in. Using the same logic, wearing a hat in the summer will help to overheat you. I still like to wear a hat since it protects my follically challenged head. You can substitute a sun visor for the hat brim and avoid the overheating your head issue. Remember to wear sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30. Sunglasses are also recommended to protect your eyes from UV damage.

Running in Hot Weather | My Dad's Two Cents | Mommy Runs It

Drink Up!

Dehydration is always a concern for long hot weather runs. Some runners carry water or Gatorade in bottles with them. I have known other runners who have stashed bottles along their route and stop to take a drink at their personal water stations.

Hot weather running requires that you hydrate both before and after your run. I recently read an article that said to drink 16 ounces of a sport drink an hour before you start your run and then to drink five to eight ounces every 20 minutes after you start. I will admit that I do not drink nearly that much before I start my run and do not drink anything until I return (about 30 minutes later). I think you need to find what works best for you.

Alcohol and some medications (antihistamines, antidepressants, etc.) can have a dehydrating effect. Taking them just before a run can increase the dehydrating effect of hot weather running. Take your meds as prescribed, just properly compensate for their effects.

Running in Hot Weather | My Dad's Two Cents | Mommy Runs It

A Few Words of Caution

Avoid running outside if the temperature is above 98.6 degrees and the humidity is above 70 to 80%. While running, the body temperature is regulated by the process of sweat evaporating off of the skin. Under conditions of high temperature combined with high humidity the sweat evaporation process will be slowed down or actually stopped and you can rapidly overheat your body.

You need to be aware of the symptoms of heat related stress such as heat exhaustion or heat stroke. If you become dizzy, nauseated, have chills, or cease to sweat – stop running, find shade, and drink water. Ignoring these symptoms can be life threatening!

Running in Hot Weather | My Dad's Two Cents | Mommy Runs It

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Treadmills and Indoor Running

I enjoy running outdoors and consider indoor running on a track or treadmill as a last resort. My own unscientific study has indicated that running long distances on a treadmill increases the likelihood of ankle, shin, and knee injuries. I think it has to do with the fact that treadmills are not as rigid as the road and produce more bounce that is transmitted up your legs.

Most of the above information is based on my personal experience. I did do some research on the internet and some parts of this article are extracted from that research. In doing the research I came across a piece of advice that initially I decided not to include in my discussion. The advice was to allow two weeks for your body to adjust to running in hot or humid weather. At first that advice seemed to be a little unnecessary to me, since the temperature does not usually change very rapidly. Rather, it gradually warms up. Therefore, I thought, you are acclimating just by doing your regular training and no special precautions are needed. But recently I have realized that there are many runners, who unlike me, mostly train indoors on a treadmill in an air conditioned environment. For these runners, running outdoors in heat and humidity, can be a challenge.

If you fall into this category I have several pieces of additional advice:

  1. Make sure that you hydrate before you start your run.
  2. If your run will last more than 30 minutes consider making provisions to rehydrate.
  3. Take it easy in the beginning of your run while you see how your body is reacting to the heat and humidity. You can pick up the pace in the second half of the run if you feel strong.
  4. Try to run with a buddy. You can watch each other for signs of heat stress.
  5. If you have a medical condition, such as asthma, talk with your physician about any special precautions he or she thinks you need to observe.

What’s the summer climate like where you live? How do you stay cool and safe when running in the heat?

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Do you want my dad’s two cents on your running question? Contact him at Dad{at}MommyRunsIt{dot}com. And for more great advice and information, be sure to check out his other posts!

running in cold weatherAlbert is the proud father of Mommy Runs It’s owner Sharon Wilhelm. He has degrees in Nuclear and Mechanical Engineering and is a licensed Professional Engineer in Florida and is also certified as a Project Management Professional. He started running as a sophomore in high school (Oct 1964), and never stopped. In high school and college he was a middle of the pack runner. He hit his peak as a runner in the first 10 years after graduating college. Though never achieving a champion performance, he ran some decent times (5K – 16:58, 5 mi – 27:07, 6 mi – 33:00, 10K – 34:58, 13.1 mi – 1:36, 20 mi – 2:20:51, marathon – 3:37:48).  Currently he runs primarily to maintain a level of physical fitness. He hopes that when he retires in a few years he will be able to increase his training and return to competitive running.  His secret (not so secret any more) ambition is to be a high school track coach; not to produce champion runners, but to instill the love of running in these young people and pass on his experience.

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