8 Tips for Running in the Heat

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If you’ve been training for a big race for the past few months, you might have noticed that the heat of summer is taking a toll on your performance. You drink a lot of water and try to run early in the morning, but sometimes it’s not enough. Follow these eight tips for running in the heat to stay cool and maximize performance.

Watch your alcohol intake

Having a couple beers the night before a race might sound harmless, but it could significantly affect your performance—especially if you’re running in the heat. The last thing you want to do is start your race partially dehydrated, one of the big effects of alcohol. For every 1 percent loss in body weight due to dehydration, running performance is reduced by 2 to 3 percent, according to Runner’s World.

Know your sweat rate

During your run, try to drink at least six ounces of water or sports drink for every 15 minutes of running. While this is a general guideline, it is also a good idea to calculate your individual sweat rate in order to know exactly how much you should be drinking when on the run.

Hydrate before you run

It is just as important to hydrate before your run as it is to hydrate during your run. A common rule of thumb is to drink 16 ounces of your favorite sports drink an hour before you head out. You lose more electrolytes in the heat than you do in cooler temperatures and sports drinks contain electrolytes, which increases the rate at which you can absorb water.

Alter your diet

In order to ensure you have enough energy to sustain you through your run, it is important to consume calories from nutritious foods before and, depending on the length of your workout, during your run. However, when your body metabolizes protein, it produces extra heat, so in order to stay as cool as possible, avoid excess protein intake before and during your run.

Lower your intensity

It’s not in your imagination—running in the heat has been shown to affect performance. For about every five degrees above 50 to 55 degrees Fahrenheit, your pace can slow by 2 percent. Plus,  humidity can further degrade performance. In hot temperatures, listen to your body and avoid doing high-intensity runs.

Plan your route

Before you head out the door make a game plan. Scout the area for paths that are shaded by big buildings or trees or ask your running friends for advice about where to go in order to stay relatively cool. If you run out in the open, take breaks when you see shaded areas to help lower your body temperature. If possible, also try to find out where water stops are along your route.

Recognize potential warning signs

You or other runners might tell you to push through the pain—to keep going and not give up, no matter how tired you feel. While this is sometimes possible to do, other times it can be dangerous. Familiarize yourself with the signs of heat problems—such as feeling faint, dizzy, disoriented or having stopped sweating—and stop running or seek help if symptoms persist.

Dress properly

When it comes to running in the heat, wearing your favorite T-shirt might not cut it. Wear synthetic fabrics (not cotton) that will wick moisture away from your skin to allow cooling evaporation. Avoid dark colors, which absorb the sun’s light and heat. Instead, opt for light-colored, loose-fitting clothing that will help your body breathe and stay cool.