Saturday, July 16, 2016

Tips for running in the summer heat

Unless someone has actually been to Michigan in July or August, they usually tend to think of my home state as being cold--crazy frigid winters and tepid summers. Temperature-wise, Michigan doesn't have many days over 100 degrees during the summer; but the humidity here makes it feel much hotter.

There is a reason that humidity sucks so much for exercise. Humidity is the amount of moisture in the air; and sweating during exercise is meant to keep you cool by evaporating off of your skin. Well, when the air is full of moisture already (humidity), the sweat doesn't evaporate from your skin. This results in a drenched-in-sweat body that can't cool off because there is nowhere for that moisture to go.

Even more important than humidity, however, is the dew point. The dew point is the temperature at which the air is saturated with water vapor. The higher the dew point temperature, the more uncomfortably sticky and humid it feels; and the closer the dew point is to actual air temperature, the more uncomfortable it will be.

Here is a chart from a Runner's World article for various dew points:


Another issue with high humidity and/or dew point is that water molecules can displace some of the oxygen molecules in the air--which makes the air feel thick and hard to breathe.

All of this is to say, I know what it feels like to run in hot weather, even though I live in Michigan. I hate it when people get in arguments over which state is hotter or more miserable--all states have badass weather at some point! I used to avoid running in the heat as much as possible--I would choose the treadmill on days that were too hot. Since I've moved my treadmill to the garage, however, it's just as hot in there as it is outside. So, I've learned to just run in the heat and deal with it, and dare I say, actually enjoy it?

Here are some tips for running in the heat that have worked for me:

*Wear minimal clothing. I used to hate running in tanks because of the loose skin on my upper arms, but during the summer months, I don't give a shit what my arms look like. It's much more comfortable to wear a tank! I also like my super thin (but supportive) Under Armour Heat Gear capris.

*Wear moisture-wicking clothing. Wearing cotton when it's hot and humid just holds on to the sweat, making your clothes heavy and saturated. If you wear clothes that are moisture-wicking, the clothing won't get bogged down with sweat.

I would NOT suggest wearing a pink bra underneath a yellow top, however...

*Run early in the morning or late in the evening, when the temps are cooler. Even when it's super humid in the mornings here in Michigan, it still feels better than running with the sun beating down midday.

*Drink a big glass of ice water before heading out for a run. I always do this, and it cools my core temp, keeping me cool longer after I start running. Having an ice-cold smoothie for breakfast before a run works, too!

*Stay well-hydrated throughout the day, every day. There is nothing worse than the post-run headache that comes after running in the heat while dehydrated. It's inevitable for me! If I'm not well-hydrated, I will get a terrible headache after running in the heat. This can be prevented by always being hydrated.

*Get your head wet before you head out to run. Even just a small squirt of ice water is enough to help keep you cool for several minutes. If you carry water during a run, try squirting some on your head--it feels amazing!

*Carry ice water with you if you're going to be running more than 30 minutes or so. My favorite way to carry water is with a hydration vest (for long runs) or a handheld bottle (for short runs). I'm not a big fan of the belts, because I think they hurt my back after a while. Here are my favorite brands/models for all three:
Handheld water bottle: Amphipod Hydraform 10.5 oz handheld (they come in larger sizes, but I think 16 oz is the maximum that is comfortable to run with--otherwise, they tend to get heavy). 
Hydration belt: Amphipod Full-Tilt AirStretch Velocity Waist Bottle Holder (this holds 20 oz) 
Hydration vest: Camelbak Marathoner hydration vest (this holds 2 liters!) I wrote a whole review of it here. I was very surprised that I liked running with a vest--I expected it to be bouncy and uncomfortable, but it was great!

*Wear something to prevent chafing. Sweaty clothes are notorious for causing chafing. It's miserable to get home and jump in the shower, only to discover several places on your body became chafed during the run. I've tried several different products--Body Glide, baby powder, etc.--and my favorite anti-chafe product is actually Aquaphor. Aquaphor looks like Vaseline, but it's definitely preferable over Vaseline for chafing. Aquaphor is absorbed into your skin, where Vaseline is not; and Aquaphor contains minerals that promote the re-growth of skin tissues. (My plastic surgeon actually suggested I use it on my lower body lift scar.) I bought a big container of it, and it has lasted forever--a little goes a long way!

*Wear a sun visor. These are great for keeping the sun out of your eyes, but because they still expose your head, you can stay cooler than you would with a hat.

*Slow your running pace down--a lot. It's kind of amazing how much more comfortable it can be to run in the heat when you don't push the pace. Since I run based on heart rate, I've noticed that my heart rate is higher in the heat--so I have to slow my pace down to keep my heart rate from getting too high. Sometimes, this means running an 11:30 or 12:00 minute mile. Even though my pace is slow, I know I'm getting a good workout, because my heart rate says so! ;)

*Try to plan out a route that will be cooler--along a body of water, in the shade, or on a nature trail through the woods are great options.

*Make sure you wear sunscreen! This is especially important to me. My best friend from high school passed away in 2014 after a long battle with melanoma, caused from tanning. Melanoma is nothing to mess with, and I will do everything I can to prevent going through what Sarah did. Even a short run can cause skin damage (burn or tan), so sunscreen is super important.

*For the really unbearably hot days, have a back-up plan--I used to use the treadmill when it was inside the house (now it's in the garage, which is very hot and stuffy). My other back-up plan is the indoor track at the rec center. I wouldn't want to do a long run on it, but 3-4 miles is fine.

I've been running for over six years now, and this summer has been the most enjoyable as far as running outside goes. It's not that we've had a cooler summer (we haven't); but, I have tried to embrace the heat instead of dread it. Slowing my pace and training by heart rate has helped tremendously! I'm not training for a race right now, so it's okay for me to keep a slow pace for all of my runs, and maybe that's why I've enjoyed it. I've also been working on my Cookies Summer Running Checklist, which has made the runs more enjoyable as well.

Anyone else have tips you want to share about running in the heat? What makes it more bearable for you? (I envy the people who have pools, and can just jump in the pool after a run! I always follow my summer runs with a cold shower.)


  1. I love this post so much! I've been struggling with the heat here in the south for MONTHS! It switches straight from Christmas to 4th of July weather here... the only sign of spring is pollen...

    Here are the stats where I am -- Temp 101 (feels like 106), Humidity 95%, Dew Point 74 degrees --- Is this even possible? *Disclaimer, used my phone's weather app*

    I'm considering upgrading to a running belt/vest since I'm in training for my first marathon and my little handheld just isn't cutting it. Does your camelbak have enough space to carry fuel/cellphone/pepperspray?

    1. Errp -- read the review -- answered my own question... ^_^

  2. This is a great post! We have been in a wave of 70+ dew point over here and it is sucking the life out of me even without running.....I just always want a 40 degree day to run LOL

  3. Great ideas! It feels like it's been especially humid this summer!

  4. Great ideas! It feels like it's been especially humid this summer!

  5. Thank you for the great tips!

  6. These are really great tips. Thank you!

  7. I meant to ask you... I know you usually run in the morning. Do you always eat breakfast before you run?

    1. It depends on the day... most days, I eat breakfast at 8:00 and run at around 10:00. But once in a while, I like to run right when I get up, and in that case, I don't eat until afterward.

  8. I love these! Running this summer has been miserable for me. I used to be okay with running in the heat but this year has been brutal for me. I really think the humidity this summer is killer so far!

  9. Oh My! I would not like running in that weather! Idaho usually stays above 100 degrees, I just can't do it!

  10. I live in northern MN, typically a frigid state as well, but we do get some hot, humid days! For my long runs during the summer, I pop a salt tab before my run and make sure to bring water and Gatorade with me. Having those electrolytes pre-loaded and supplied while I'm sweating really helps me stay hydrated!


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