Last month I met up with my running club for a Saturday group run. It was going to be a hot day, really hot, but we were going early and mostly running on shaded trails. Eight miles later, my pace had cratered, I was soaked, having sweated through my shoes, and reduced to walking the last half mile to get back to my car. It was a tough and disheartening workout. But it didn’t have to be.
Summer is great in so many ways but it can be tough on exercising even for people that like to get out and stay active in the heat. Obviously, it’s easier to become overheated when the sun is beating down on you but the real enemy is humidity. With humidity, your sweat doesn’t evaporate as quickly, so your body has a harder time releasing heat. Combined with the sun and warm temps it can make running really difficult. A short, easy paced run can feel like a slog right from the start.
Don’t beat yourself up too badly. You need to take practical precautions and adjust your pace expectations. But how much?
Heat Pace Chart
Here’s how to adjust your pace when running in the warmer months. First look up the heat index (the “real feel” temperature that combines heat and humidity).
|Temperature (F)||Affect on Pace||Example Pace|
|80-85||Not recommended||Not recommended|
Are these numbers exact? Of course not, they are just a guide. Fitness and heat acclimation will play a role. So will hydration and rest. And in the end, sometimes we have good days and sometimes we have bad days. This is just a guide. Listen to your body and always err on the side of caution. Runners Connect has a more in-depth heat/pace calculator.
Tips for the Heat
- Go early or go late
Try to avoid exercising outside in the early afternoon. It’s usually hottest between noon and 3 p.m.
Drink water before, during and after physical activity. Don’t wait to be thirsty. If you feel thirsty you are already getting dehydrated. Bring a bottle of water with you, or plan water stops along your route.
- Dress for success
Wear lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothes. Moisture-wicking fabric can also be a big help. Protect yourself from the sun with sunglasses, a hat or visor and plenty of sweat-resistant sunscreen.
- Listen to your body
Know your body and don’t push too much. Take frequent breaks in the shade, and drink water before you’re thirsty. If it’s early in the summer, allow yourself time to adapt to the heat. You may not be able to work out as long or as hard as usual when it’s very hot.
- Find running buddies
If you can, work out with a partner or a group for safety
Know the signs
Being an endurance athlete with Addison’s, I am acutely aware of both my body and the heat’s affect on my workout. I sweat a lot. Dehydration can occur when you don’t replace body fluids lost by sweating. Being even slightly dehydrated can make you feel bad and put you at greater risk for heat-related illnesses like heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Be careful!
Watch for these signs of mild to moderate dehydration:
- Dry or sticky mouth
- Dry, cool skin
- Muscle cramps
Signs of severe dehydration:
- Not urinating or very dark-colored urine
- Irritability or confusion
- Dizziness or lightheadedness
- Rapid heartbeat
- Fatigue or listlessness
With higher temperatures and humidity in the summer months, running and staying active can be challenging but it doesn’t have to put a stop to your routine. With a shift in expectations, some heat acclimation and some common sense precautions, you can keep running and even boost your fitness during the hot months.