WHEN THE MERCURY hits 80, 90, or 100+ degrees, your usual morning jog, tempo workout or long slow run becomes a very different beast. At best, it’s slower, more challenging and pretty sweat-inducing (though not actually, you know, pretty); at worst, it becomes a kick-your-butt sufferfest of epic proportions that takes a while to recover from. But there are many things you can do to aim for that first option. Running in the heat is tough, there’s no getting away from it, but you can make the most of hot weather running if you plan it well. If you can avoid running in the worst heat of the day you absolutely should – but if you have no flexibility, having to head out to a race or a group run when the conditions are brutal, here’s how to survive it.
First things first, wear as little as you can get away with! Staying within the realms of public decency is a good idea, but sometimes you may have to forget about social acceptability – your health is way more important! (Ladies who like to cover up, or guys who go for the compression tights under shorts thing – take note!) All you need is shorts and a vest, as lightweight and breathable as possible, with a looser fit and good ventilation. Use sunscreen and protect your eyes from the sun too!
HEAT & PACING
You need to listen to your body and slow down if necessary. You cannot run the same pace and intensity in the heat as you can on a cooler day – the heat will have more of an impact on your running than any other normal weather condition. You’ll need to be flexible and adjust those workouts; forget about pacing and run by effort only. For example, if a normal threshold interval is about a 4 on a scale of 0-5 of Rate of Perceived Effort (RPE), in the heat you’re simply aiming for that 4, not your usual pace – it will be quite a bit slower, and that’s ok. Performance starts to deteriorate when the temperature hits mid-60s, so 90 degrees is not the time to attempt a PR! If you have a tough workout to get through, think about how to adjust it – the pacing will have to be flexible for sure, and maybe any rest or recovery periods need to be slightly longer, but don’t start by reducing the number of repetitions unless you have to. Most importantly, pay attention to how you’re feeling: you know what your “normal” exertion pain feels like; if you start feeling lightheaded or nauseous, that’s your body telling you you’re pushing it too hard.
HYDRATION & ELECTROLYTES
You absolutely must hydrate properly – and when it gets very hot, you will need more than just water. Hydration products such as Nuun provide a lot of electrolytes without sugar, and salt tablets are definitely another thing worth considering on hot days! Trust me, they really make a difference. If you know you’re going to be running a race on a hot day, take in extra salt or electrolytes throughout the week preceding your race. Coconut water also hydrates better than plain water, though for me personally it’s not all that tasty when it gets warm. If you have an insulated bottle and can keep coconut water cool, however, it’s a nice option.
COOLING DOWN YOUR BODY
Another top tip for cooling down your body temperature: water will provide more of a beneficial effect if you simply pour it over your head! When the temperature gets high enough, the water you drink won’t have much time to actually get absorbed by your body, as you’re likely to be sweating it out at a pretty similar rate. But tipping a cup of water over your head, or pouring it down the back of your neck, will help to cool down your skin temperature as it evaporates. If you wear a cap, which is a good idea on a sunny day anyway, that will also help to trap some of the water and keep you cool slightly longer. Also take every opportunity to run through sprinklers and garden hoses!
And finally, if it’s 100 degrees outside, just skip the run entirely or run on the treadmill instead!