Today I want to talk a little bit about running in the heat. Right now it is summer. It is hot. Depending on where you're located, it is more humid or hot and so I wanted to share my top five tips for running in the heat.
First, I want to tell a story. So if you haven't followed me for a long time or been around a while, about three years ago I moved from the East Bay Area to north San Diego County near the coast. Now in the Bay Area, it is hot, like in the East Bay where I lived, summer was 90 degrees most of summer, but low humidity. I never even thought about humidity because it was never an issue. I would go out early for my runs and finish by 9:00, even for long runs during marathon training. I would be fine. It would be hot but my training wouldn't really be affected by the weather.
Then I moved to San Diego. We have humidity here, which was new to me and it completely changed the way that I had to think about training in the summer. Whereas living in the Bay Area, I just start early so the sun's not out. Moving to a place where humidity is an issue during the summer–we'll get 80-90% humidity–was a game changer. It makes a big difference in the effort your body feels while you're running.
I tell this story to kind of set the scene for what we're talking about today!
Before I go into my five tips I want to talk a little bit about this thing called dew point. Dew point is a combination of the temperature–the actual air temperature (so 60 degrees, 80 degrees, 90 degrees, etc) and the humidity. These two numbers get plugged into a formula and they give you something called the dew point. They actually use the dew point in military to decide if they can run exercises because of how much it affects the body and how hard it makes things feel in your body. This is not a generic “it felt really hard to run today” but they can actually measure a percentage difference in your performance based on the dew point. I have some graphics if you want to go check it out on Instagram on what that actually is. We don't usually do the math to figure out that we’re running 5% slower in a given workout, but it's just something to be aware of. When the dew point is higher (which most weather apps now will tell you what the dew point is), it's going to feel harder and your paces are going to be slower. That is totally okay and it's expected and just embrace it and know that if you keep putting in the consistent work, the work will show up when it becomes fall and when that humidity drops and those temperatures are not 90 degrees.
5 Tips to Make Summer Running Suck Less
The first tip is to start early. I know not everybody is a morning runner. I don't think everybody has to be a morning runner. I think that as long as you're running, whenever it makes you happy, great, do that. Except in the summer or when it's really hot and humid. It's going to be easier to run early because the temperatures are lower and the pavement hasn't been hit by sun all day so you're not going to get the same rising heat off of the concrete. The air is not going to feel as heavy most of the time because again the sun hasn't been there all day. Obviously there's an exception depending on cloud cover and fog and rain and all of that good stuff, but usually earlier is going to be better.
My second tip is to hydrate. Hydration is so important not only when you're running, but because of how you're going to feel after you’re running too. If you don’t re-hydrate after your run, you’ll get the common dehydration signs of headaches and nausea, but you can also suffer from low energy too! Especially in the summer, you want to make sure to rehydrate with something other than water, so use electrolytes. The electrolytes are going to help with all the stuff you lose during sweat that's not just the water, but the magnesium, potassium, and sodium. All of that matters.
There's a ton of great hydration products out there, it's kind of a matter of testing out what you like and picking the best one for you. I really like Liquid IV for after my runs. During my runs my long runs I usually don't run with an electrolyte mix, I just run with water and then I use the Huma plus gels because they have the electrolytes in them. I will put like a little extra salt in my water though because I just noticed that during summer running, I can see flecks of salt on my skin which tells me that I am a salty sweater and that I need that extra salt. I also feel a little bit better and I don't feel that thirsty cotton mouth feeling that I'll sometimes get if I'm not getting enough hydration. Some other ones that people like are LMNT or nuun. I recommend Nuun performance over the regular Nuun because of the quantity of the electrolytes that it has in it. Make sure you're hydrating with something other than just plain water
My next tip is to find the shade. When we run we usually don't think about this but if you've ever gone for a hike with your pet, you’ve probably seen this. I've taken my dog hiking before and he will go really fast during the sunny portions and walk really slow through the shade, so he gets to enjoy it. Find the shade–it's going to drop the temperature because the temperature in the sun is a lot more than the temperature in the shade. It's also just going to be a more enjoyable run, you're also not going to get that reflection back from the cement.
The fourth tip is to wear sunscreen. We are out in the sun running, even if there is cloud cover, don't forget to wear sunscreen. It's really important. Fre skincare makes one that I love for my face (no stinging eyes, yay!) and then for my arms and shoulders I literally will just grab whatever. Any sunscreen is better than no sunscreenen.
Last Tip for Summer Running: Effort Over Pace
The last tip is the most important tip and it of relates back to what I was talking about at the beginning with dew point and that is effort over pace. When we are running and it is hot, your effort is what matters. The pace that you feel like you're running is going to be slower than it is in March or in November and that is fine. That is expected, trust the process and just keep putting in the work. It will pay off. Make sure that when you're doing your runs, even if you're training for a goal race this fall, go by effort over a prescribed pace. That dew point is going to change how hard your body is working–what is a a 10 minute mile now when it's really hot might translate to a 9:40 mile when it's not. That's a huge difference especially, if you're talking about over a 10 mile long run.
Keep showing up. Keep doing the work. Happy Running!