As summer weather approaches (hallelujah!), going on runs in the afternoon may feel a little sluggish and hard. But there are several ways to run in the heat without tiring out or suffering. In fact, running in the heat might help your training significantly due to heat acclimation which results in better cardiovascular endurance and less lactic acid creation. Everyone knows the typical “run in the morning, don’t wear cotton, blah blah” but here are a few tips that are less well-known and I swear by.
Dunk your ponytail in cold water. I remember doing hot, summer tempos on the track which were absolutely horrible but bearable because we would line up at the water fountain and drench our hair in it. As we ran, the cool swish of our ponytail helped significantly.
Strong mindset. When I am running in the sun, instead of thinking “this sucks, I’m hot” I try to think of how grateful I am that there is nice weather (I live in Seattle) and how the sun is making me strong. Imagine the sun is serving as your energy source and you have to embrace the heat. Thinking that your sweat is a sign you are working hard and improving is a good way to put it into perspective.
Ignore pacing. Just run for time or distance because your pace is going to go out the window. Adjust time goals for workouts by giving flexibility. Instead of aiming for 6:10 mile repeats, aim for 6:10 to 6:25 so you can adjust based on how you feel. Knowing how you feel is a big factor because if something feels off (like dehydration or you’ve stopped sweating) stop running and go home to cool off. It is one thing to be a tough runner, but another to ignore warning signs and suffer significantly.
Fuel on fruit. Before running in the sun I like to eat water-rich fruits like pineapple and melon to get a little sugar in me and make sure I don’t get dehydrated. Hydration is super important and should not be ignored! Plus eating these fruits instead of drinking water closer to your run time will ensure minimal bathroom breaks.
Explore Lakes and Beaches. The best part of running in the summer is the ability to visit lakes and beaches. Opportunities where you can explore and run the trails. Not only are you going to appreciate the scenery and therefore ignore your pain, but you can also leap into the water afterward to cool off! When I was in San Francisco I loved running the Dipsea trail which finished at a beautiful beach.
Also in Seattle, I recommend running the Iron Horse Trail for your long run (uphill on the way up, downhill on the way back) and then cooling off in Rattlesnake Lake.
So go out and run as far as you want this summer! The heat can’t stop you as long as you’re prepared and ready to embrace it.