15 Tips for Running in Humid Weather

Running in extreme temperatures is challenging.

Running when it’s hot outside can make you feel like you’re burning up, and you have to be wary of your core temperature rising too much as well as dehydration.

Running when it’s freezing cold can make your body feel stiff and weighted down with tons of layers, and you have to be cautious of hypothermia and frostbite.

But, while runners tend to watch the temperature trends in the forecast and pick the best time of day to get their workout in accordingly, fewer runners remember to pay attention to another critical component of the weather conditions—humidity.

Running in humidity can be even more difficult than running in the heat, and it’s actually the combination of the two both being high that really makes running tough.

In this article, we will discuss why running in humidity is so difficult and will offer tips to survive humid runs. 

Why does it feel harder to run when it’s hot?

The heat alone makes your heart rate rise, but with running in high humidity your body can’t cool down because the sweat never evaporates.

  • HR increases up to 10 beats per minute in humidity ranging from 50% to 90%
  • HR increases by 2 to 4 beats per minute in temperatures from 60°F to 75°F
  • HR increases up to 10 beats per minute in temperatures from 75°F to 90°F

It doesn’t just feel harder, it really is more work for your body. 

At what temperature does high humidity make it harder to run?

There’s no clear answer to what temperature running in high humidity starts to get challenging. It really depends on your own body mechanics, heat acclimatization, body size, age, hydration status, and training status.

Essentially, at whatever point your core body temperature rises to what is deemed a “critical threshold.” Beyond this threshold, your nervous system will induce a total-body slowdown due to the buildup of heat and your athletic performance will rapidly decline.

So, at what temperature and humidity does the body reach this critical threshold? As just mentioned, it varies on several factors and even from a weather standpoint, it’s not totally clear nor easy to calculate.

What we do know is that the body’s response to increasingly higher temperatures, even in the absence of high humidity, is non-linear, meaning the percentage by which your running performance will decline will be significantly more moving from 75 to 90° F (23-32° C) as compared to increasing from 55 to 70° F (13 to 21° C).

Moreover, as explained, humidity greater than 40% increases the Heat Index exponentially, so it will feel hotter when it’s 88° F with 75% humidity than 93° F with 50% humidity.

How to Prepare for Running in the Heat

Over a few weeks, your body will begin to adapt to running in the warmer temperatures while that adaptation is happening, there are a few things you can do to help.

  • avoid dehydration – stay on top of your electrolytes and fluids
  • keep your paces easier than normal while the body is adapting
  • try going for walks during the heat of the day, getting adapted at a lower intensity level
  • stop running anytime you are getting dizzy, feel like you are burning up or are lightheaded these are steps to heatstroke
  • Keep in mind the hot weather run benefits to help you stay motivated

8 Benefits of Running in the Heat

Most of the big marathons are in the Fall, which means we have to reconcile months of heat training as we build our endurance. This means remembering there is hot weather running benefits and searing them into our minds for when the humid conditions are frustrating us.

Consider these your summer running mental goals.

  • Hot weather runs are going to make you so fast in the Fall! As soon as those temps drop, your HR will too.
  • “if you need to drop weight fast (Lose 4 Pounds in 12 Minutes!), it’s the best way to do so, except eating three-days-in-the-sun potato salad.” – Per Ted Spiker of RW
  • Ice baths actually start to sound appealing
  • Remember this is part of the process to build a stronger body
  • It gives you an appreciation for the perfect weather days
  • It reminds you to be compassionate for the difficulties others face
  • Once you stop fighting it, you can put energy into enjoying the run or finding solutions
  • It’s an opportunity to practice pushing through the hard moments like you will on race day

The Dangers of Running in the Heat

The symptoms of heat illness are pretty easy to spot as long as you don’t just keep pushing through!

  • Dehydration can lead to many internal issues, it’s important to hydrate before, during and after all workouts
  • Remember that sodium loss can create muscle cramps, so stay on top of sipping electrolytes while you run
  • If you feel dizziness or nausea then STOP. You don’t win prizes for hurting yourself. These are early signs of heat exhaustion and should not be ignored.
  • Know that it can take weeks to adapt to higher temps, so start out with slower and lower mileage.
  • Know that people react differently to heat. It may bother you more or less than other runners.

15 Tips for Running in Humid Weather

Unfortunately, no runner has the power to control Mother Nature and the weather conditions, so it might be inevitable that you’ll have to run on hot and humid days.

Here are some tips for running in humidity:

1. Allow your body time to acclimate.

Most exercise physiologists agree that it takes about 10-14 days for your body to acclimate to hot-weather running. Be patient with yourself and adjust your workouts, as needed, while your body is adjusting to the added stress of running in the heat and humidity.

2. Run by effort, not by pace.

As runners, we tend to love feeling like our training is precise as possible, and that often involves nailing certain paces and splits. 

However, summer running, or days when it feels like an oven or greenhouse outside, are often better served by running by feel, using effort and not pace to guide your workout. 

Not only are you less likely to hit specific paces in the heat, but you’re also more likely to ignore heat illness cues from your body. When you run by feel, you listen to your body, honouring its needs while still getting a quality workout.

3. Don’t assume running in the early morning is best.

Although running in the early morning before the sun rises may gift you with cooler temperatures, the humidity is often highest in the morning. Look at the combination of air temperature and humidity (the Heat Index) when planning the best time of day to run in the summer. 

Oftentimes, the evening is the best bet because you’re spared from the heat of the sun and the humidity tends to be lower.

4. Hydrate enough before and during your run.

Staying well hydrated is crucial for staving off the dehydration that contributes to heat exhaustion when running in the heat and humidity. 

Depending on your sweat rate and the environmental conditions, aim to drink at least 4-8 fluid ounces of water and/or electrolyte-infused sports drink every 15-20 minutes during your run. 

The goal is to hydrate on pace with the fluid you lose through sweat such that your weight on the scale after you run is within a pound or two of your weight before you head out the door. If it’s not, adjust your hydration plan moving forward, keeping in mind that you need to drink an additional 16 ounces for every pound lost.

5. Don’t underestimate the breeze.

While morning running may be your choice if the evenings carry a breeze it may be worth flipping your schedule. 

Start paying attention to weather patterns around you to understand when it might feel best to run. Particularly running in humidity, the breeze can make a very high dew point run feel better because it will help wick the sweat from your skin.

6. Find the shade.

Although it won’t take away the humidity, if it’s hot and sunny out, running in the shade can help. Dark-coloured asphalt radiates heat, adding to the cloud of hot air you’re running through. 

Trails are a great option for summer miles because they are usually shaded from the natural canopy of the trees. Bike paths and rail trails are often more sheltered from direct sunlight as well.

7. Wear light-coloured, breathable clothing.

Wear light-coloured, lightweight, breathable fabrics for your hot-weather runs, and as little clothing as you’re comfortable wearing (or is appropriate!). Dark colours absorb heat from the sun. 

It’s also a good idea to wear a visor and running sunglasses to keep the sun off your face and out of your eyes while still permitting heat to escape from the top of your head.

8. Shift your training schedule.

If your training schedule calls for a long run or a hard workout during a heat wave or dreadfully humid day, see if you can shuffle some workouts around so that your rest day coincides with the least favourable weather conditions and your tough workouts fall on tolerable days.

9. Douse yourself with water.

Okay, so admittedly, when it’s humid, the water won’t evaporate, but cool water can lower your body temperature. If your run takes you past a safe body of water you’re allowed to enter, and jump in before or halfway through your run to lower your body temperature. 

Alternatively, soak a bandana in ice water at home and tie it around your neck before you head out for your run.

10. Pay attention to your breathing.

Having a race at altitude to train in hot humid weather.

Hot humid air feels thicker due to the amount of moisture in the air. Your body then must work harder to breathe. This makes you feel short of oxygen, which not only increases HR further but makes your effort feel harder.

Try switching to run/walk intervals or slowing down to allow your body to take in more oxygen.

Running with asthma will likely feel tougher on these days.

11. Take a pre-workout cup of coffee.

A few different studies have shown that caffeine before a run can improve performance without impacting hydration, important in the summer. So go ahead and enjoy your morning Espresso or perhaps an iced latte because you’re focused on pre-cooling!

12. Run indoors.

Running indoors in an air-conditioned space with a treadmill is advisable whenever the heat index is considered at an elevated risk for developing heat exhaustion. 

If you require a strenuous exercise session, this is your most appropriate option during hot and sticky weather. You’ll be able to train hard without getting too hot, which is more advantageous than having to quit your workout early due to heat exhaustion.

13. Adjust your goals.

It’s simply a scientific fact based on human physiology that your physical performance declines when it’s hot and humid. Accordingly, it’s unreasonable to expect yourself to nail split times and maintain the paces you can hit under more reasonable weather. 

This is another reason why focusing on effort is more important than running pace when it’s hot and humid.

14. Don’t be afraid to shorten the run.

We’re so determined to follow what’s on our training plan that we don’t consider the impact of one workout on the next. If your hot humid run leads to extra fatigue then you will struggle the next day and the next in an endless cycle.

Remember to pay attention to how your body is feeling and give yourself time to adjust to the rising temperatures. If you’re feeling more fatigue than normal or watching your pace drop a ton, then call it a day. Go do some strength work inside or just rest.

15. Don’t forget to smile.

Seriously!! Research has indicated that it is almost impossible to be in a bad mood if you are smiling, as it is difficult to have both happy and sad emotions at the same time. Moreover, no one is forcing you to keep going when you feel down.

You GET to run. It’s not necessary to take joy in any hardships encountered, but you should be able to gain knowledge from them.

 

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