Summer. Is. Here! Okay, okay not officially until June 21 but according to pop culture, Memorial Day was the unofficial start of summer and by meteorological standards, summer started on June 1. So it basically is summer, or at least feels like it!
This spring was weird AF for most of the country. In Arizona, we should have gotten a lot more 90 and 100 degree days than we did, especially in May. I’m blaming El Niño for our cooler than normal temps, that seem like everyone but me was excited about. Um, I live in AZ because I like the heat, so bring it on!
Fortunately, as soon as June hit, a switch flipped and we are now in the triple digits every day. I love this time of year, when it’s finally hot but still dry before monsoon starts and brings the humidity and rain and dust storms.
The sudden weather change can be tough to deal with as someone who exercises outside, though. I got through the spring without needing to bring water with me on runs and now, it’s necessary to avoid heat stroke.
I like to look at summer the way runners in cooler climates (aka most of the rest of the country) look at winter — a season to build endurance for the rest of the year. Running in triple digit heat isn’t easy, and isn’t always enjoyable, but I do it to get stronger for the late fall and winter and early spring.
I honestly am really used to running in the heat. I only started running 5 years ago, when I first moved to Tulsa in April 2014. It was starting to warm up and pretty soon, I found myself running in oppressive humidity and yes, even some triple digit temps. That first summer of running, I was doing it mostly in the midday (not recommended) because of my crazy work schedule, but I got it done.
When I moved to Tucson in January 2016, I psyched myself up for another summer of hot weather running. Unlike in Tulsa, where I ran without water (not smart), I knew I needed to bring agua with me to survive scorching summer runs. So I invested in a Camelbak before the weather started to really heat up, and I was so glad I did.
Phoenix actually tends to run about 5 degrees warmer than Tucson, so I’ve gotten even more acclimated to hot weather running. Again, it’s not always easy but it’s totally worth it to build endurance (and avoid the dreadmill, no matter how much cooler it is inside, I HATE treadmill running). However, there are ways to do hot weather running smartly, and I’m here to share my tips after 5 (going on 6) summers of running.
1) Hydrate, hydrate, HYDRATE!
I can’t stress enough how important this is! Like I said, I used to be stupid and run without water on hot and humid days. No more, at least not if I’m running between 8 am and 6 pm.
I bring my Camelbak with me on any runs during the middle of the day that are near or over 100 degrees, and I also make sure to hydrate well before and after I run. Sometimes, I also toss in a Nuun tablet if it’s a particularly hot day or I plan on running more than 3 miles to make sure I can replenish my electrolytes.
If you don’t like the feel of a Camelbak or hydration vest (I have had to get used to it again since I broke it out for runs the past two weeks), there are handheld water bottles you can try instead, or plan your route around drinking fountains. You could even try stashing water bottles around your usual running path to ensure you’ll have enough to drink throughout the run.
2) Don’t forget the fuel.
Since I’ve never run further than 8 miles, I’ve never used gels or any other fuel while running. I don’t think it’s necessary for most runs under 10 miles or so. I’m talking about fueling yourself well pre and post run.
Again, I have been stupid in the past about not eating before a run. If I run in the AM, it’s always fasted because I don’t get hungry until the afternoons. However, a few weeks ago on my Instagram I mentioned I had been doing intermittent fasting and not eating anything all day until I got home from my runs, so typically not until 6:30 or 7 pm. It was working for awhile, but I started to get hungry and now that it’s hot, I tend to feel pretty weak if I don’t eat a little something before a run.
I’ve been splitting my runs this week due to schedule issues, so I run in the morning around 7:30 and then head out for round two around 5:30 or 6 pm. I don’t eat before the morning run, but on my drive home from work, I eat a little something like a protein bar so I have a couple hours to digest it before I run again. This has been working really well to keep me from feeling nauseous and faint while running.
3) Dress as minimally as possible.
This is sooooo crucial! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen runners wearing full-length, dark colored leggings when it’s in the 90s or 100s. It makes me hot just seeing that! Summer is definitely the time to break out the shorts and tank tops.
That being said, I still haven’t worked up the confidence to run in just a sports bra and shorts. I like having a little extra coverage from a tank top, but I’m sure wearing a sports bra as a top would keep me even cooler! I do prefer to wear tanks that are geared towards running or working out, because the material is sweat-wicking, which is really important to have on hot days.
Also, try to avoid wearing dark colors. I know it’s not always possible, and I have quite a few dark-colored tops in my closet, but lighter colors do a better job at reflecting sunlight.
Don’t forget to accessorize! Sunglasses and/or a hat with a brim will keep the blazing sun out of your eyes and may help prevent a headache from developing after your run (I know this can happen to me on sunny runs, especially if I don’t drink enough water).
4) Slow it down.
This one hurts to say, coming from an already slow runner. But really, your body will thank you for it.
Many running experts say you should focus on effort, not pace when it comes to hot summer runs. If you try to run at your normal pace, you may find yourself getting tired earlier or even experiencing heat exhaustion from overexerting yourself. Hot and humid weather adds a level of challenge to running, which may force you to slow down or not run as far. This is totally okay and expected!
Always always ALWAYS listen to your body. If it’s telling you to slow down because it’s getting too hot, do that. If you can keep up your normal pace but can’t go quite as far, that’s fine. Running by effort instead of pace will still help you build endurance and you’ll be a stronger runner when fall rolls around.
I never really track my pace that closely, because I don’t have a Garmin or similar watch. I typically just use my Fitbit to loosely watch my pace, so I’m not sure if I’m really running more slowly in the summer, but I do know not to push myself too much when it’s really really hot.
5) Just have fun!
You run because you enjoy it, right? I know that’s why I do it! Summer runs are actually enjoyable to me for the most part because I love hot weather and I like to challenge myself in different ways with running, since I’m not focused on hitting a certain pace or training for a race. Running in triple digit heat is that challenge for me, and I’m ready for it!
Even if you have to run slower, not as far, not as frequently, whatever because of the heat, try to enjoy each of your runs and look at them as a fun challenge!
Any hot tips for hot weather running? What’s your favorite season to run?