There’s more to it than just drinking water
Running in the summer can be tricky. While the sunshine and extra daylight are welcomed changes, the increase in temperatures can make things challenging for us runners. With some intentional adjustments to our routines, we can be sure to stay cool, hydrated, and healthy during those pesky summer months.
This one goes without saying: the hotter it is, the more important hydration becomes. The average person sweats between 27 ounces (about the size of a large Slurpee) and 47 ounces during an hour of exercise. On a hot day, those numbers only increase, making hydration that much more important.
First, make sure you’re hydrating before the actual run. Ideally, starting at the beginning of the day, but at the very least, several hours before. Without it, you’ll feel sluggish, and running in the heat will only make things worse.
Secondly, bring some water with you on your run to stay hydrated. There are plenty of great options — a hydration belt or vest, a Camelbak, a handheld running bottle, or even just an old-fashioned water bottle.
Lastly, if carrying bottles isn’t your thing, try to run on routes with water fountains nearby. There’s actually an app called WeTap that will show exactly where water fountains are located. Alternatively, you could stop back home once or twice while on the run to drink some water.
2. Salt Pills
When you run, especially on hot days, your body loses electrolytes — such as salt — through sweat. If you’re planning on running for longer than an hour, try taking a couple of salt pills to replenish your electrolytes and help you stay hydrated and feeling fresh.
I learned about salt tabs from Cam Hanes (ultramarathoner and super cool dude) and it’s been a game-changer for me.
I used to struggle with debilitating stomach cramps after running longer than 40 minutes. I now take these every 30 minutes during runs longer than an hour and it’s been a night and day improvement.
My go-to are the SaltStick Caps.
3. Opt for Less
There’s a reason why the elite runners tend to wear light, breathable clothing. Without it, their bodies would overheat and their performance would suffer. When mother earth turns up the heat, be like the elite, and opt for light, breathable clothing.
A pair of running shorts, which are shorter than your typical athletic shorts, will help your legs stay cool and also provide you with a bit more flexibility. And when it’s really hot, you can try running shirtless or in a sports bra if you're a woman.
4. Find Some Shade
The sun can be brutal during the summer months. That said, wearing a hat with a large brim can help significantly.
Something as simple as keeping the sun from beating down on your face can go a long way in keeping you feeling fresh and energized.
I tend to run in trucker hats because the large brim provides a lot of sun coverage and the mesh backing helps keep my head cool. Alternatively, any hat that’s light and breathable would be a great option.
5. Take Notes
Keeping a journal (pen/paper, note app, etc.) as you experiment with different adjustments will help you identify what works and what doesn’t. After your run, note what you changed (added salt tabs, brought water, etc.), how you felt, and your performance metrics (pace, distance, time, etc.). Then try to tie out specific preparations/changes from that run to what worked and what didn’t.
This will allow you to better understand what works best for you and your body. Over time, you’ll be able to dial in your preparation and hydration for hot summer runs.
6. Run in the morning
When all else fails, a morning run is usually the best option. The mornings tend to be significantly cooler than mid-day or afternoon runs. If you can, try squeezing a run in before work, or even before the kids get up on a weekend. For really hot days, the best option is running before the sun gets up. Not only is this a great way to avoid the heat and but it’s an even better way to start the day!
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