I've made a point to express my pain during the summer running season. Here, it's less about the heat and more about the humidity! Regardless, summer can be an intimidating season for endurance runners. It definitely tests your body in ways that other seasons won't, creating unique opportunities as well as pitfalls.
If you want to run effectively this season, keep these summer running facts in mind.
6 Must-Have Tips on Running During the Summer
1) It's best to run early.
It seems like a no-brainer, but try to beat the midday heat by getting up early to run. Summer mornings can still be toasty, but if you get up before sunrise, you will be contending with much lower temperatures. There's a trade-off: the morning usually means higher humidity. However, getting up to run before the heat of the day means not only better running conditions but less sun to burn your skin.
That said, running at sunset is also acceptable. Just wear bug spray if you're from the South like I am. If for some reason the better times of day don't work with your schedule, aim to run on shady trails or, on particularly hot days, hit the treadmill at the gym instead.
2) You heat up as you go.
While you might start your run thinking the temperatures are fine, we have to remember that the body heats up when physically exerted. This means that even "mild" summer temperatures can cause overheating given time. Don't underestimate heat of any kind, especially combined with the heat you generate through exercise.
3) Focus on the exertion.
Your performance is going to drop during the summer. That's just a fact. Heat absolutely will slow you down. Don't let a slowed pace discourage you. It's normal to lose anywhere from 30 to 45 seconds per mile in the summer due to the heat. That's for running pros, too—less experienced runners will likely see their pace slow even more.
However, your pace isn't everything. Instead of looking for perfect timing or setting the fastest pace, focus on building endurance. Focus on the energy you're exerting. Your body is working harder in higher temperatures, which means that you're still getting great cardio even at a decreased pace. Don't beat yourself up if you're slower. Instead, appreciate that you're working harder for your results.
4) Keep the future in mind.
Training during the summer seems...like a skip. Right? It's not fun. It's hot. It's sweaty. But wait! When you run during the summer heat, you really push your body to its limits. As I mentioned, your body works harder. It's sweating, getting oxygen, pumping blood. It's all much more intensive than during milder times of the year.
So when you do commit to training during the summer, you can reap the benefits later. Higher altitude running will be easier to manage, as will other runs in general. You will better be able to manage any race because you've strengthened your heart and your body in trying conditions.
5) You will hit a sweat threshold.
Sweat is the body's natural way of cooling itself down. We need to sweat. That said, the summer heat can get to a point (usually when the temperatures rise about 85 degrees) that your sweat is no longer effective at cooling the body.
Simply put, your body can't keep up with the heat. Your natural cooling system isn't fast enough. Sweat won't evaporate quickly enough nor will it cool your body down to the degree it demands. So this is the takeaway: be so careful during your summer runs. An excess of sweat spells dehydration and overheating. Carry water with you. Don't push yourself beyond your limits. Take a break in the shade if you need to.
There's no shame in dialing it back for the sake of your health, particularly on scorching summer days.
6) Let your body adapt.
I mentioned how easy it is to write off the summer running season. It just doesn't seem worth it! This is especially true in the beginning, but we have to remember that our bodies need to acclimate to the conditions they are in. Running in hot, humid weather is not going to come naturally to you at first. In fact, it usually takes the body at least two weeks of regular exposure to acclimate to its conditions.
If you find yourself struggling through your runs, don't call it quits just yet. Persevere. Allow yourself to slow down if you need to. But don't stop running the race.
What motivates you to keep running during the summer? Let me know in the comments.