It’s warming up in New York City and we’re getting lots of questions from runners about hydration, staying cool, and training smart in hot weather. Summer is a critical time for anyone training for fall marathons (or other distances) and one of the more challenging climates to navigate as an endurance runner. We cover hydration, nutrition, gear, and recovery considerations for summer running below.
If you’re curious about how your approach should change in colder weather, check out our blog on winter running here.
Running in the heat can provide unique physiological benefits, but it also presents health risks. Because running in warmer temperatures requires more demand on the body, an increase in heart rate and blood flow while exercising can produce positive changes in your cardiovascular fitness secondary to an increase in oxygen delivery to working muscles, ultimately enhancing endurance. Because heat training requires increased energy, there is an increased calorie burn to help you maintain a safe internal temperature as compared to running in more mild conditions.
Summer running also requires an acclimatization period, but your body has the capacity to improve sweating efficiency to better cool your system with intelligent training. We discussed the psychological benefits of training in tough conditions in our winter running blog, but there are equal perks to summer running in warm temperatures. We cannot control the weather on race day and knowing you managed hot conditions safely in your buildup can help prepare you for race day (if you ran the 2022 New York City Marathon, you know what we are talking about).
Before your run:
Hydrate! This is one of the most obvious ways to prepare yourself for summer running. There is increased sweat loss when exercising in higher temperatures and humidity levels as your body works to cool itself. The average runner’s sweat rate is 24-32 oz of fluid per hour of activity, but this varies depending on conditions and individual characteristics. Since sodium losses are substantial as well (500-1500 mg/L per hour), you’ll want to include electrolytes in your hydration plan rather than solely water.
(We dive into the specifics of hydrating during long runs in the summer with RD Claire Shorenstein in our Q&A blog – read more here)
Apply sunscreen: UV indexes have been rising in relation to climate change over the last few decades, which means our risk for developing skin damage is also rising with summer running. You can protect yourself by applying sunscreen ahead of your run. There is emerging evidence that it can help keep you cool by blocking UV rays and prevent overheating. Choose a sport-specific one that is designed for sweating.
Dress appropriately: choose lightweight, breathable clothing that will help wick sweat away from your body (stay away from cotton). Wear light-colored clothing that reflects the sun’s rays (avoid black) and wear a hat or visor to protect your face from the sun.
Do a dynamic run warm-up: even though it’s warm outside, an active warm-up and general mobility routine still helps mitigate any running-related injury during your workout. Check out our instagram for exercise ideas!
During your run:
Be willing to adjust your plan: if you haven’t acclimated to high temperatures yet this season, try to have a back-up plan. Whether it is pace, hills, distance, or access to shade, characteristics that you may be prepared for in cooler temperatures will require more energy to navigate in the heat. Err on the conservative side.
Bring water: having access to hydration throughout your run is key in warding off any heat-related illness. Try adding ice cubes (or freezing electrolytes in an ice-cube tray) to avoid drinking warm fluids. Similarly, you can plan a route that has access to water fountains for a refill option during your run.
Fuel properly! Don’t sacrifice your overall performance, muscle recovery, and set yourself up for overuse injuries. Check out our blog post with Registered Dietician Claire Shorenstein for more information on fueling for runners.
Monitor for signs of heat-related illness: If you start to experience dizziness, nausea, headaches, or confusion during or after your run, stop running. If these symptoms persist after you’ve attempted to cool off, seek medical attention immediately.
After your run:
Cool down: spend a few minutes walking in the shade and stretching indoors prior to hopping in the shower to allow your heart rate to slow. If you live near a body of water or have access to a pool, immersing yourself in cold water is a nice shortcut to lowering your body temperature. Otherwise, try a cold shower.
Evaluate your run: reflect on what went well and where can you make adjustments to your routine given the weather? If you are training for a race, this can be key in training your body to navigate challenging race day conditions by knowing what your system responds well to, whether it is your hydration/fuel plan or gear choice.
Rehydrate (and refuel)! Be sure to emphasize fluids throughout the remainder of your day. Try not to consume too much initially to avoid nausea or stomach discomfort. Salting your food and taking in electrolytes can also help your body readjust to homeostasis after your run.
Curious to learn more about how to train safely (in the summer months or generally)? We offer run coaching, gait analysis sessions, personal training, virtual consultations and physical therapy to help you achieve your fitness goals safely. Reach out today to schedule an appointment or a free 15-minute discovery call to see if we are a good fit for you: