4 tips for running outdoors in extreme heat

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running outdoorsIn my city, daily summer temperatures usually average between 100 and 110 degrees Fahrenheit. While milder summer temperatures in other parts of the U.S. are pleasant enough to lure people outdoors, most runners who live in desert climates head to their gyms for treadmill runs, or change their routines altogether just to beat the heat.

While I enjoy having the running path all to myself throughout the summer, sometimes I miss the camaraderie I could be sharing with other runners brave enough to withstand the heat. This is when I think to myself: would runners be more willing to stay outside if they fully understood the benefits of exercising in temperatures over 100 degrees? Better yet, would more runners stay outdoors if they knew how to properly care for themselves in hot temperatures?

Here are four tips that will guide you toward becoming a seasoned runner in triple-digit temperatures.

1. Scale it back a bit

If you normally run 4 miles in 80-degree weather, you’re going to struggle with running the same distance in 100 degrees if your body isn’t conditioned for the heat. Always follow the golden rule of exercise: Listen to your body. If something doesn’t feel right, don’t do it, and that includes pushing yourself to finish your normal routine.

In the beginning, try cutting your distance in half and pay attention to how you feel near the end of your workout. This allows you to become more familiar with how your body withstands the heat. Even if you think you can run more and want to push yourself, don’t do it.

Give yourself at least a week or two to experiment with running in hot weather. If your body feels too tired and fatigued following your workout (assuming you’ve eaten well and have had plenty of water), it’s probably not a great idea to keep going, even if you usually do more. Starting out slowly for the first week or two allows your body to properly acclimate to the heat, especially in terms of regulating your heart rate and core body temperature.

2. Dress appropriately

Some fitness professionals say wearing less is better, but that’s completely bogus — especially when you’re spending time in the sun. After all, getting hot and sweaty is sort of the point when you’re working out, right? Plus, you’re going to be a wet, hot, sweaty mess regardless of whether you’re wearing shorts and a tank top, or pants and long sleeves.

Wearing less may have been preferable in the 80s and 90s when heavy cotton sweats dominated the workout scene, but advancements in technology have given us lightweight, breathable workout clothing made with performance fabric that wicks away sweat. Today, you can wear long sleeves in 100 degrees and manage to stay cool and dry on behalf of dry-fit technology. I wear a lot of dry-fit gear like this by Nike, Under Armour, and Champion to stay cool and comfortable year-round.

My personal opinion? Always cover up when exercising outdoors. In addition to helping you stay comfortable and dry, this protects your skin against the sun’s damaging UV rays and lowers your risk for skin cancer. Covering up also protects your skin from pests you might encounter on the running path, such as mosquitoes and spiders.

3. Drink water often as needed

This tip may seem like an obvious no-brainer, but it’s surprising how often people underestimate the amount of water they should be drinking on a daily basis, especially when exercising. When running in hot temperatures, your body loses more fluids than usual due to sweating. If you normally stop for water breaks after every mile, try taking water breaks more frequently, such as after every half mile or quarter mile. Bring plenty of water with you on your runs.

Some people ask, what about sports drinks and electrolytes? When you read the ingredients labels on sports drinks, you’ll discover that most brands contain sugar, food coloring, and other additives. This will only impede your workout and have adverse effects on your health. Water is by far the best liquid you can put into your body while you’re working out; sports drinks will increase your risk for dehydration.

4. Be mindful of your running environment

Before heading out for your run, take a moment to evaluate your running environment. Will there be trees and shade you can enjoy during breaks? Will you be running on pavement, or asphalt? Keep in mind that dark pavement and asphalt retain heat. If you’ll be running on pavement or in an environment that lacks shade, try running early in the morning or late at night to avoid the summer heat.

If you typically have health problems or take any prescription medications, consult with your healthcare provider prior to taking your runs outdoors for the summer. Certain medications can increase your risk for dehydration and other unwanted side effects.

Do you enjoy running outdoors in hot temperatures, and if so, what tips would you like to share? Let us know in the comments section below!


Content on this website is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. If you are experiencing a medical emergency, please call 911. Always consult your healthcare provider before making any changes to your medical treatment.

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