Hawt! A Runner’s Guide to Surviving Summer Heat

This fire heats the kitchen, and the magic cal...
It’s just a little hawt out there! Image via hardworkinghippy

It is going to be a sizzling hot summer.  During late spring we already saw marathons cut short and cancelled.  Now, as summer begins to descend upon us, it promises to be a brutal one.  Don’t get me wrong, I love the feeling of the bright, warm sun on my face during a midsummer day. But the runner side of me cringes.  The heat kicks my butt.  I slow to a crawl and melt.

Tuesday night my coached track workout was cancelled due to the extremely high forecast heat index.  I admit I was bummed because I only have 6 workouts with the group and I love all of them.  But a 100 degree heat index and full sun does not sound like a good time to be laying it all out on the track.  There are newbies and kids in the group (including my 2 boys).  And maybe some overzealous runners too (who me?!)…   So they had to be extra safe.  Understandable.

The heat is not unfamiliar territory for me.  Even though I live in the “frozen tundra” it gets HOT here.  Even more important, we have to get used to 100 degree (or more) temperature swings throughout the year.  I also lived in Florida for 12 years, so I am used to adapting. It is never easy and always a process.

So before summer officially kicks in, I offer this advice for other runners who, like me, don’t want to kick their shiny new training plans to the curb simply because mother nature has turned up the burners on the oven.

First and foremost.  Be smart.  Know your limitations with heat and humidity.  Some of us do better running in the heat/humidity than others.  I have friends who tell me they LOVE running in 80 degree weather.   Yeah, not me.  I whither, melt and suffer.  Whatever you do – it is important to know and continue to monitor how you are doing.  You may need to be more careful than others.  AND just because you can easily race a 5k in 90 degree heat does NOT mean you can run 10 or 15 or 20 miles in 90 (or 80) degree heat.  Be careful and know your limitations.


Watch the temperatures and humidity levels.  The various weather reporting channels work well.  Check them out and know what you are getting yourself into.  As an avid runner, I am also an avid weather-checker.    You can’t change the weather, but you can adapt if you know what you are getting yourself into.

Also know the signs of heat exhaustion and the deadly heat stroke:

  • weakness
  • headaches
  • dizziness
  • nausea
  • you stop sweating
  • chills and goose bumps
  • fainting

The last listed factors are very dangerous.  Potential death dangerous.  So never allow yourself to get there.  Or come close to there.  If you start feeling weak or dizzy – lay off.  Stop if necessary.  Yep, call it a day.  Call it quits if need be.  There is valor in saving a run for a cooler day if you are feeling sick.  Be smart.

You also need to be sure you properly hydrate before your run.  This does not mean slamming a glass or 2 of water 10 minutes prior to your run (I’ve tried it – it doesn’t work).  Hydrate all day long prior to your run if you are running in the morning or all day if you are hitting the road in the evening.   During the summer months you should get used to having a water glass at your side that you are constantly refilling throughout the day.  Water is pure gold for summer running.  Also mix in some electrolytes.  You don’t need it all day long like water, but it is helpful to add in.  The go-to for many runners is Gatorade.  I am personally not a huge fan of the syrupy stuff, so I opt for a lighter electrolyte drink.  (My preference is Nuun.)

Mint's electrolyte choice

Eat salty snacks:  Don’t go nuts, but sodium isn’t going to hurt you if you are running a lot.  I periodically indulge in V8 and Ramen Noodles (and french fries truth be told).  My non-running friends hate me for it.  But the truth is:  you may need to be a salty monster if you run long in the heat.  Prepare and replenish (but don’t overdo it).

Get up early.  Yes, it is hard.  But it is worth it.  Even if it is 75 degrees and humid at 5:00 am, it is better than 95 degrees and humid at 6:30 pm.  Also, if you luck out with weather, early summer mornings may grant you cool temps!  Try it.  If you must, go late.  But be sure to be safe!  (Do that all the time, but especially if you are a night owl).

Wear light colored and loose clothing.  It is less apt to attract the heat.  If you wear a running hat, make sure it is lightweight and breathable.  My favorites are Brooks running hats.  Lightweight; moisture wicking; breathable; and usually flattering.

Lightweight, light-colored hat can keep you cooler

Watch that heart rate monitor.  The heat and humidity can cause your heart rate to spike fast.  If you wear one, pay attention.  Stop and walk or grab some water for a minute if you need to and let your HR drop.  If you don’t wear a heart rate monitor, listen to your body (do this even if you do wear an HRM).  Especially if you are aiming for a goal pace.  Slow down or stop when you need to.

Slow down.  I know, this one can be hard.  Your schedule says you should run x miles at x:xx pace.  Whatever.  It is hot.  Slow down and be smart.

Find sprinklers.  If you see a  yard sprinkler hitting the street when you are running – galavant right on through it sista!  Also, if you hit a water fountain, dump some water on your head and back.  It helps.

Wear your sunscreen!  Alright, I admit this one won’t cool you down, but it will protect your skin.  I don’t want you getting skin cancer, so please apply liberally.  I also know you hate sunscreen-induced-eye-scream.  So do I.  Fnd a face stick you can apply and then use the goopy stuff for the rest of your body.

Carry water with you.  I do this sometimes even if it is under 10 miles if it is really hot.  My husband calls it my “goober belt” – I call it making a hard run manageable.  You decide what label you can live with, but I recommend the latter.

Wear a fuel belt - even if you only carry a couple...

That’s all I have.  Now go get ’em and be safe (did I say that already?!)  🙂

This may all sound elementary, but it is important stuff.  Remind yourself, get out there, and be safe this summer.

Do you have any hot weather running tips?  If so, please share.

Hawt. You better follow my tips or I'll have to bust you!
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Mindi is a serial marathoner. She is a private practice attorney, wife and mom of two awesome (and super fast) boys, ages 12 and 14. She coaches Girls on the Run and is a big advocate of youth running.

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  1. Heat problems do happen super fast. Once I was out on a mid-day summer long run on an asphalt path with no shade (um, duh!) Luckily I was with Pepper. We were jamming along on our out-and-back and just after the turn around. WHOA! I got knocked down HARD. I was still nursing a lot–son was only about 6 months old and that’s all we can think hit me so hard. I’ve never really had issues running long with no water even in the heat before–I used to do it ALL the time! I NEVER would carry water with me and rather go without. Somehow I managed with nothing more than a few stitchy last miles here and there. But that one day with Pepper was bad. I felt shaky and weak and barely made it back. Pepper ran ahead and drove to get me fluids and was back before I was able to walk\jog back to the parking lot. I must admit that before I got pregnant I still wouldn’t carry water with me, although I’d probably stash it or be more careful to run routes that go by water. But now that I’m pregnant and my prime running months are in the summer I’m carrying a handheld when I’m not running near frequent water fountains. It’s one thing to be an idiot, it’s another to be a pregnant idiot 🙂

  2. It can come up fast! And sometimes it comes up after you are done. I have felt sick for hours after a fun because the heat took too much out of me. I forgot to mention it, but another important tip is to keep hydrating post-run. It helps stave off heat/exercise induced headaches!

  3. Yeah, it was 80 at 5am this morning. 7 miles very slow, felt very hard. 2 liters of water down, another 2 soon to follow. And my frozen tundra is further north than you, Mint!

  4. This helped me out. I was wondering what you gals do about water while you run outside. When I used the treadmill, I didn’t think about it because I had my water bottle right there. It is usually cool when I run in the morning and, at this point, I’m only out for 30 minutes. I’ve always been a big water drinker through-out the day, so post-run water consumption isn’t a worry. But, if things heat up and I am out longer, I appreciate knowing what you all do.

    1. For just 30 minutes or even up to an hour you are almost always fine without having water. If it’s super hot or muggy then you might need to run with a water fountain on your route or you can stash a water bottle along the way too. If you’re running longer than 90 minutes in the summer on a route with no water you might start considering carrying it with you. That my opinion, but others feel the need to have water more available than I do.

  5. We just finished summer in my neck of the woods and fortunately I was back in the US for the hottest part. I suck it up and wake up at 5:00 because we are often pushing 90 already that early in the morning. And now that I’m running longer distances to train for a half marathon I’ve finally ordered a water bottle that’s easier for me to carry on the run.

  6. I used to never run with water for anything under 10, because all I had was a Camelbak (albeit a fairly light one) and I just never needed it because I lived up north… now I’m starting to experience my first summer in Oklahoma (high temps were over 100 EVERY day this week… ugh!), I bought a Nathan handheld water bottle on the advice of some running friends here and I literally bring it on EVERY run. Even when water fountains are pretty frequent, I’m just more likely to drink water if I can have it whenever (and I don’t have to stop!) I do wish I had gotten an insulated one because it gets super warm super fast in my hand, which is kinda gross, but better tha nothing.