Runners who don’t want to miss a day, whether training for a race or just maintaining performance, know that summer temperatures can be challenging. It helps to know how to stay cool while running in the summer heat to support motivation and be safe.
The Dangers of Extreme Heat
Exercising in extreme heat can be dangerous and lead to serious health issues such as heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Prolonged exposure to high temperatures, especially when combined with humidity, can cause the body to overheat and become dehydrated.
Additionally, poor air quality in the summer caused by smoke from wildfires; dry, dusty conditions; and excessive ozone can contribute to respiratory illness. It is essential to take precautions and make smart choices about whether or not to run, cycle, or play sports in hot weather.
It’s always a good idea to check the weather forecast and avoid outdoor activities during peak heat hours and/or when local governmental environment agencies declare air quality alerts. If you do choose to go running or participate in other outdoor athletic activities in the summer, take the following precautions:
- Make sure you have your fully charged phone or another GPS device on you.
- Bring water or a sports drink.
- Take frequent breaks.
- Stay hydrated.
- Know the symptoms of heat exhaustion or heat stroke.
- Go with a friend so one of you can call for help if the other gets into trouble.
Remember, health and safety should always be your top priorities. If you make informed choices and take steps to stay cool while running in the summer heat, you can avoid the consequences of heat stroke or exhaustion.
Invest in Lightweight, Breathable Clothing
Lightweight, breathable clothing is the answer to staying cool and comfortable during your summer runs. Investing in running apparel that wicks moisture will help you feel more comfortable. This kind of athletic wear won’t weigh you down or make you feel sluggish. So, ditch the heavy, clingy fabrics and opt for something more breathable and flowy.
Allowing your body to make full use of its natural cooling system, sweat and evaporation, can also help you keep your core temperature from rising to dangerous levels. Pick up a supply of cooling headbands that divert, rather than absorb, sweat. A regular cloth headband will trap heat on your forehead and eventually drip sweat into your eyes. But a cooling headband will keep sweat out of your eyes so it can evaporate directly off your skin.
Ice and Wet Towels
When the sun is beating down and the temperature starts to rise, we all start looking for ways to cool off. One trick that can provide some relief is freezing a water bottle or wet rag. Both of these items can be stored in the freezer and then taken out and used to cool down your body.
The coldness of the ice inside the bottle or the frozen water on the rag can provide a refreshing jolt of cold when placed on your forehead, neck, or any other warm part of your body. Whether you’re out in the heat for prolonged periods or just need a quick cooldown, freezing a water bottle or wet rag can help make summer days more bearable.
Some runners put a plastic bag filled with ice cubes under a hat, drink cold beverages, sit in an air-conditioned room, and apply ice packs until right before the starting gun of a hot weather race. These pre-cooling strategies can help maintain or even improve performance during prolonged exercise because they prevent overheating.
Head Out in the Early Morning or Late Evening When It’s Cooler Outside
The sun beats down with its full intensity during the middle of the day, and the heat can be unbearable. That’s why it’s always wise to head out early in the morning or in the late evening when the temperature is cooler.
Whether you’re planning to go for a run, walk the dog, or simply enjoy the fresh air, avoiding the peak heat hours will make your experience more comfortable. There’s something magical about the quiet serenity of the early morning or the orange-pink hues of a beautiful sunset. So, next time you’re planning an outdoor activity, consider going outside when it’s cooler and experience the benefits that better timing can bring.
Set a Slower Pace
A day with record-breaking heat is not the day to attempt a personal best, whether you run a mile or a 10K. In a world where faster is often equated with better, slowing down can seem self-defeating, but setting a slower pace can actually have numerous benefits; for example, it can prevent overheating. When you push yourself too hard, you risk dehydration, and your muscles can break down and cause damage.
By running at a more moderate pace, you’ll allow yourself to enjoy the experience of running, taking in your surroundings and appreciating your physical health and mobility.
Take Frequent Breaks to Cool Down
If you’re feeling overheated and need to cool down, don’t try to push through it and run. Instead, take frequent breaks and walk for a bit. This will help bring your body temperature down and allow you to catch your breath and sip water or a sports drink to rehydrate. Remember, it’s better to take it slow and steady than to risk injury or exhaustion.
Find Shady Trails
Another way to stay cool while running in the summer heat is to find routes with plenty of shade, such as tree-lined parks or trails that wind through wooded areas. Not only does shade provide relief from the sun’s intense heat, but it can also create a more pleasant and refreshing atmosphere. If you can find a shady route that has cool refreshing breezes from a lake or river or a park that offers drinkable water from a water fountain, even better.
With summer in full swing, finding ways to stay cool while running is more important than ever. It’s more important to avoid overheating than it is to clock your fastest time or to succumb to your super-competitive nature in a friendly, low-stakes race. Taking these precautions to manage extreme heat will ensure your summer runs are both safe and comfortable!