I have been running for 6-ish years, but I often shy away from training through the summer. I live in New England, where temperatures can really skyrocket during the summer months. And because these temps only happen for like, 3-4 months a year, my body is not at all accustomed to dealing with heat.
But this summer I have a marathon to train for! Wahoo! So I’ve been forced to get out there and log some miles when it’s pretty darn hot and humid. Here’s a few of the secret weapons that have helped me make the best of warm-weather running.
- Run Early: This is probably a no-brainer, but it usually cools down overnight. I try to wake up really early and log my miles before the sun heats everything up. The downside of this is that it means I need to be up and running around 5:30am. Which is crazy early. This also requires me to go to bed around 9pm every night, which is not exactly conducive with a summer social schedule.
- NO COTTON EVER: When I first started running, I was on a super tight budget. I bought a few running tanks from Walmart that were made of a snug-fitting cotton/spandex blend, and also ran in my old college t-shirts pretty often. I kept getting overheated and chafed because my tops were literally holding ALL OF THE HEAT AND MOISTURE in at my core. Nowadays, I pick up super lightweight, wicking, loose fitting tanks from the Old Navy Active clearance racks as I find them and they work fantastically. They’re also literally $5 or less if you hit the sales right, and come in all kinds of cute colors. There is no reason to put any cotton on your body while running in the summer.
- Know Where Your Water Sources Are/Bring Water: I plan out my hydration for longer runs year-round, but I can usually get away with not drinking during runs that are under 10 miles when temperatures are cooler. But in the summer, I need to think about my hydration for any run over 5 miles. That means mapping out water fountains, bringing a hand bottle along, hiding water bottles along my route, or wearing a camelback. It takes more preparation and thought, but heatstroke is terrifying and ain’t nobody got time for that.
- Increase Your Sodium Intake: This goes along with the hydration piece. You lose a lot of salt when you sweat, so you need to be taking in more sodium when you’re running in the heat. I try to have at least one glass of (sugar-free) gatorade a day when I am running in the summer, and I try to have at least one salty snack (usually crackers or pretzels) per day as well. I typically don’t salt my food, but during the summer I make sure to add a little bit to keep up with my sodium loss. I’ve never tried or felt the need to try sodium tablets while I am running, but I know plenty of runners who swear by those.
- Spandex Is Your Friend: So, this might be TMI, but whenever I wear loose-fitting running shorts in the summer, they bunch up awkwardly, and the last thing I need on a long run is to have to pull down my shorts every .2 miles. Also, chafing. To prevent all this unpleasantness, I try to stick with spandex shorts during the summer, especially for longer runs. I have a few pairs, but my favorites are the medium-length ones from under armor. Some people feel self-conscious in bike shorts, but for me the juice is worth the squeeze in this case:)
- Slow it Down: Especially during the first few hot runs of the season, allow your pace to slow down. I personally do not try to push myself above an easy pace if it’s over 75 degrees. It takes a few weeks for your body to acclimate to warm weather running, so be patient and listen to your body.
- Sunscreen Before You Dress: Nothing adds insult to overheating like a sports-bra sunburn. Sun damage is so, so bad for your skin, people. The way I see it, I cannot justify spending $50 on a tube of foundation if I’m not also taking care of the skin beneath it. I swear by this sunscreen process: before you get dressed, cover your whole body with sports sunscreen. Cover your face in sports sunscreen, as well. I like the Neutrogena brand, but I’ve used others, too! I go for SPF 70, and I often also wear a baseball cap to keep my face nice and shaded.
- Seek Shade: For some reason I only just figured this one out. But, if you’re running in the summer, you should try to find a trail that’s super shady. or at least stick to the side of the road where there’s shade. It’s always a few degrees cooler!
- Seek A Sea Breeze: I understand that this is not an option for everyone, but I often drive to lakes and oceanfront trails so I can enjoy the little bit of a breeze they’ve got going on. I’m not sure if there is an actual difference with the temperature but it sure feels like it.
- Know When To Cut it Short: If you feel dizzy, nauseated, or disoriented, its time to head home. Walk back to your house, or call a friend/uber if you need to. There’s no reason to end up in the hospital just because your training plan called for one more mile.
- Be Okay With Running in A Sports Bra: This is another one that I am just finally learning. When it’s hot, it’s so, so important that you wear as few layers as possible. For years self-consciousness held me back from doing this. I do not have a 6-pack… but neither do most of the dudes I see jogging shirtless this time of year.
I hope this is helpful and, like, realistic. I was always so overwhelmed when I first started running with the amount of gear suggested to me for running in any given climate. You don’t need the freezable buffs or the super expensive complex electrolyte tablets or the SUPER specialized sweat-wicking tops. You just need to figure out what works best for you and GO WITH IT!
Happy Weekend! I am currently in New Hampshire with my whole family, including my 12 year old and 1 year old nieces. Running at 5am every morning and coming home to early-rising kiddos who want to eat and play RIGHT NOW NO EXCEPTIONS is a whoooooole new shebang for this non-mom. I’ll report back on Monday with how that’s going:)