Running in Hot Weather: 3 Ways to Make It Work & Keep Your Body Safe

While many runners are still enjoying cooler weather, many others are starting to (literally) feel the heat. Some will have to deal with warmer weather only temporarily during the summer months. Others deal with hot weather running year-round, living in climates that never quite seem to give in to lower temperatures. Wherever you may be (except for the poles), heat is something we all have to run through. And with the 2024 summer expected to, yet again, be one of the hottest on record, it seems we’ll all be dealing with more intense and longer-lasting warm weather.

A woman on an early morning run

Written by Lucas Collins
Edited by Pavlína Marek

You may worry about the heat (and rightfully so), however, that shouldn’t be a roadblock preventing you from going out on your runs! It’s a challenge that you can prepare for and overcome, just like any other obstacle you’ve already dealt with on your training journey. Whether you love the heat or aren’t excited about summer knocking on the door, here are four things to consider and prepare for when planning a run in hot weather.

1. Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate

As we’ve discussed countless times before and will surely continue to do so, you need to make sure you’re taking in enough water to stay hydrated before, during, and after a run—especially in hot weather. I cannot overstate the importance of staying hydrated in the heat.

The Dangers of Dehydration

Not taking in enough fluids will sap your strength and stamina, preventing you from reaching your full potential. It will also be hazardous to your health and safety. Dehydration can lead to a slew of negative effects on the body such as confusion, lethargy, dizziness, abnormal pulse, and even loss of consciousness. None of these things are good for you at any time; especially when you’re out on a run and can collapse, leaving you further exposed to the elements and potentially without help.

Dehydration Symptoms

Thankfully, less serious symptoms will usually appear to warn you that you aren’t taking in enough fluids.

You will usually experience some forms of light dizziness or fatigue if you aren’t hydrated. You can also get headaches, or experience dry mouth, lips, and/or eyes when you need more fluids.

The most obvious sign, however, is when you use the restroom. Dark, yellow urine is a clear sign of dehydration. There will also probably be long periods between restroom visits. Both of these signal an acute need to get more fluids in your system. Once your urine is lighter and clearer, and you’re going to the restroom at least every 4 hours, you’ll know for sure you’re getting the fluids you need.

What Should You Drink?

Speaking of fluids, the one you should be consuming the most of is plain water. There are cases in which certain sports drinks will hydrate you better than water, but those situations are limited to longer, more intense exercise. Unless you’re running in the heat for longer than an hour, stick to good old H2O!

When you’re out for more than an hour, you might benefit from adding electrolytes to your hydration plan. There are plenty of options, from chews and salt tabs to dissolvable solutions. If you fancy something with a little bit of flavor on your runs, an electrolyte drink is a great option!

When working in the heat (including physical activities such as a run), the CDC recommends a cup of water every 15-20 minutes, and to continue taking in more water than normal for several hours after the activity. If you find water boring, you can spice it up with fruit infusions or flavor packets. However you get the water you need, just make sure get enough so you can stay safe and perform your best when going on your runs. 

2. Clothing Matters

What you wear when running makes a world of difference, even more so when running in hot weather. Breathable clothes that allow you to stay cool are paramount.

How to Choose the Right Clothes

There are several key things to consider when picking what to wear. The first, as already mentioned, is material that will breathe. You don’t want clothes that are insulating when you need to release excess body heat on top of fending off the environment’s.

Materials Matter

Materials like nylon are your friends—it will let your body breathe and wick moisture away as you sweat. It will also stretch and help prevent chafing as a bonus. Nylon is also a great material for repeated use as it will keep its shape and fit even after many wash cycles.

Merino wool is also a popular choice for many runners. It has great temperature-regulating properties and is highly breathable. As a bonus, merino wool is naturally antimicrobial and, unlike synthetic materials, is resistant to unwanted odors. When it comes to our environment, merino wool is the better choice as it doesn’t shed microplastics, unlike acrylic, polyester, or nylon.

Cotton is a good example of a material you want to avoid, as it does just about the opposite of everything we love about nylon or merino wool. It can trap heat and absorb moisture, becoming heavy and uncomfortable, leading to a much more unpleasant running experience.

Three young women on a run in hot weather

Color Does, Too!

Color matters almost as much as the material you choose. When it comes to light (and therefore heat) absorption, dark colors are considerably worse. A black or dark red fabric, for example, will attract heat like a magnet, and that heat will inevitably be transferred to you.

It stands to reason, then, that light colors should work wonders in reflecting any excess heat from you. Colors like white, yellow, or light blue will absorb far, far less heat than darker ones, keeping you cooler. As a bonus, these colors are highly visible, helping to make sure you’re seen in low-light areas. 

A selection of mostly green athletic clothing laid out

3. Take Breaks

Sometimes even with all the water, the right clothing, and the preparation in the world, the heat can just get to you. Whatever the reason might be, you need to listen to your body. It doesn’t matter how fast or how far you usually can run; what matters is how you feel right then and there.

If you’re getting light-headed, dehydrated, overly sore, or too hot, then you should stop and take a break. Rest for as long as you need to feel ready to continue. If you feel you might have pushed yourself too far, don’t hesitate to end your run early for the day. There’s no shame in staying safe.

You can also slow down overall. There’s no shame in running at a slower pace or shortening your route to stay safe in hot weather (or any situation for that matter). That’s not to say don’t push yourself when you can—that’s how we get better, after all! Just do it safely. Heatstroke isn’t worth trying to keep a certain pace.

4. Consider Running Indoors

Sometimes, Mother Nature simply has us beat. Humans are tough as nails, evolutionarily designed exactly for the type of endurance running you’re training for. However, we can’t conquer everything all the time. If you’re not at 100%, for example when coming back from a break, illness, or injury, or you’re simply not feeling it for any reason, it’s ok to let nature win that round.

Especially when the hot weather reaches its highest extremes over 100 degrees, even with evolution on our side, that’s just too hot. In times like that, it’s ok to stay indoors while getting your run in. There are a myriad of gyms, community centers, and other establishments that have various equipment and spaces to accomplish this.

Whether it’s on an indoor track or a treadmill, sometimes it’s nice to beat the heat, run in a comfortable climate, and maybe enjoy something on TV while getting your (daily) dose of exercise. If you absolutely despise treadmill running, there are many resources online that can help you get through it—and enjoy it. (Let’s thank our fellow trail runners for these!)

Final Words

Hot weather is no joke when trying to train for a half-marathon. Long stints exposed to it can have detrimental effects on us if we aren’t prepared– and sometimes even if we are. That’s why it’s important to stay hydrated, wear the right clothing, give yourself the breaks you need, and take advantage of modern amenities to beat the heat.

No Replies to "Running in Hot Weather: 3 Ways to Make It Work & Keep Your Body Safe"

    Got something to say?

    Some html is OK