8 Ways To Learn To Love Running In The Heat

Hot weather can pose a new problem for runners – running in the heat is very different from cool conditions. If you’re finding it hard to stick with your running schedule in the summertime, you’re not alone. 

Even if you get up early on a Saturday morning, you’re still likely to finish a long run sometime around 11 AM or noon – the peak time for heat. Since the heat doesn’t subside until the sun does, it can still be hard to get run in after work around 6 or 7 PM. 

So you’re wondering if you should skip it or learn to run in hot weather. The answer is: never give up on your goals and dreams. Whether you’re training for an official race or just trying to stick to a running schedule for better health, never quit halfway to the finish line. 

Running in the heat can be both fun and dangerous. Yes, it’s nice to exercise in warm, comfortable weather. However, you can risk serious injury if it’s too hot.

Is It Safe To Go Running In The Heat?

Many countries are experiencing heat waves this summer. Britain has seen many days reach 32 degrees Celsius or more. But that’s nothing compared to Spain at 40 degrees Celsius and major wildfire battles in Portugal. In the US, 90% of the country’s population endured a heatwave this July. 

So questioning the safety of running in hot weather is understandable. But take this into consideration: marathons and ultramarathons are still happening in some of the hottest regions of the world. 

Every year, athletes run the Marathon Des Sables in the Sahara desert of Morocco. Temperatures can reach 50 degrees Celsius during this 5-day run. In July 2020, the Badwater ultramarathon took place in Death Valley, California with similar temperatures in a 135-mile race. 

The human body is capable of adapting to extreme temperatures. Each one of those race contestants invested time, not only training for distance and strength but enduring the heat. 

Dangers of Running in the Heat

Heat Cramps

When you run under the scorching heat of the sun, your body’s electrolyte storage suffers from imbalances or deficiencies due to sweating. This is what causes the sharp and stabbing muscle cramps, particularly in your legs.

Cramps are rarely able to work themselves out on their own. While cramps do become less frequent if you train in the heat often, for people who are not accustomed to extreme heat conditions, it can be difficult to maintain enough hydration and a proper balance of electrolytes to avoid developing them.

To get rid of a cramp that pops up while you’re running in the heat, stop running, drink fluids that contain electrolytes, cool down your body as much as you can, and immediately find shade or somewhere inside to sit.

Severe Dehydration

Dehydration is a common experience among those who exercise. A 4% fluid loss is considered safe, but anything more than that can make you feel dizzy, tired, and mentally disoriented.

Even if you are running in moderate heat conditions of 80 degrees, you can easily become progressively dehydrated. While you’re running, as your metabolic rate increases and your body produces a lot of heat on its own, your core temperature can increase to a dangerous level.

When you’re exercising in the heat, your body has to deal with the heat in the air and the heat that is being produced by your muscles. In fact, 80% of the energy that your muscles generate turns into heat. 

If you are running in cold weather, that inefficiency keeps you warm. However, because your body has to get rid of this heat if you are running when it is hot outside, this heat from your muscles will make you even more uncomfortable because it will remain in your immediate atmosphere.

One of the body’s reactions to this is to send additional blood to your skin to help it cool itself down. However, this leaves your muscles with less oxygen-rich blood to use. 

With less blood available to your muscles, which are working to make you run, your performance will be compromised. You will also start to sweat, which is your body’s way of getting rid of heat through evaporative cooling, which means your body is losing water and you are progressively becoming more dehydrated.

To prevent dehydration, you have to ensure that you are well-hydrated before you go out for your run. To know if you are well hydrated or not, check and see if your urine is clear or has a light colour.

It is best to drink about a pint of water two hours before going for a run to help ensure your body is adequately hydrated, and to give your body enough time to excrete any excess fluids.

Heat Exhaustion

This is a combination of dehydration, severe headaches, vomiting, and high body temperature. Heat exhaustion is the result of too much fluid loss and electrolyte imbalance, without any replacement.

When suffering from heat exhaustion, you may experience weakness, goosebumps, and a lack of coordination. Your heart rate will likely increase, and because you feel fatigued, your running performance will be compromised. Even if you are well-trained in the heat, you may suffer from mild heat exhaustion after a long run in the sun.

If you are having symptoms of heat exhaustion, stop running and get out of the sun so your body can cool down. Drink fluids that contain electrolytes, and try to lie down with your feet elevated a few inches above your heart. Because heat exhaustion can quickly turn into heatstroke, it is important to seek medical attention as soon as possible.

Heat Stroke

This is an extreme case of heat exhaustion when your core body temperature rises above 105 degrees F. Heatstroke is the result of severe, untreated heat exhaustion.

Heatstroke is a life-threatening situation that needs to be properly treated immediately. While untreated heat exhaustion can quickly progress to heatstroke, heatstroke often occurs without any warning.

When having heatstroke, people often experience lethargy and muscle weakness, confusion and abnormal behaviour, and may become unconscious.

Because heat stroke involves the failure of the body’s ability to regulate its temperature, sweating stops, making the skin hot and dry. You may have convulsions or seizures as your brain starts to shut down, which may also lead to coma or death. 

Heatstroke is considered to be an emergency that requires immediate medical attention. While waiting for emergency services to arrive, the person experiencing the heatstroke needs to be removed from the sun and immersed in ice or cold water.

8 Ways To Learn To Love Running In The Heat

1. Do It Every Day

The best way to acclimate your body to hot weather is to run in it every day for 14 days. With regular exposure to high temperatures, your body reduces the extreme protective measures it takes to bring your temperature down. 

That means you’ll sweat more, and you won’t lose as many electrolytes in the sweat. Your body will keep your resting temperature a little cooler so it doesn’t rise as high while you’re running. 

Running in the heat is not like ripping off a bandaid. If you’re not used to it, don’t plan to run a 10K under the sun. Start with a short distance and then work your way up. As you run day after day, you’ll get used to running in the heat and it won’t feel so oppressive. 

2. Carry a Wet Towel

While you’re adjusting to the heat, bring a wet towel to wrap around your neck. If you’re running near water, you can make quick stops to re-wet it, giving you periods of relief as you go. 

Some people don’t like the wet towel solution. It can feel like stepping from an air-conditioned room into the hot sun; it comes as a shock. But even as the cold leaves the towel, the moisture can still help you stay cool. 

Since the neck is one of the hottest areas of the body, the wet towel can trick your body into thinking it’s cooler than reality, reducing sweat and boosting your mental attitude. 

3. Bring Lots of Water

Since dehydration is the biggest danger when running in the heat, an ample water supply is non-negotiable. But water isn’t just important for your health. It’s a great way to keep yourself feeling refreshed and peppy throughout the run. There are techniques for hydrating as you jog through the heat that makes it more effective. 

Drink often and a little. Instead of stopping a few times for big gulps of water, stop frequently while you run for a small sip. This way, each sip will refresh you. When you drink a lot at once, you end up with cramps and nausea. In this case, too much of a good thing is a very real problem. 

If you have enough water, you can also pour it on your body, not just in your body. But be careful with that – you don’t want to go overboard and use up all the necessary hydration. 

4. Slow Down

You can’t expect to keep the same cadence you would while running in cool climates, especially while you’re acclimatizing. Your body is doing extra work to keep your core temperature down and reserve energy for hydration.

On top of that, the mind is exerting itself even more, keeping you calm and preserving your motivation. So go easy on your body. It’s already doing a lot behind the scenes. If you don’t want to end up collapsing, take your run at a slower pace. 

5. Choose Your Route Carefully

It’s exciting to think about adjusting to the heat and accomplishing your goals no matter what. But even so, avoid direct sunlight while running where possible. Target shady areas that keep the sun from beating on you directly. 

When it’s hot, find a spot to run near the water or on a trail in the woods. Use trees to your advantage and take cover from direct sunlight. 

6. Pick the Right Time of Day

The sun’s most intense heat is from 11 AM to 3 PM. So avoid that time segment if you can. Many people choose to get up early and run at sunrise. During the hot summer, it’s already toasty at 6 AM. 

Running in the morning helps with your motivation. It’s a special time of the day that you’ve designated to run. You probably got up early just for that. So you’re not as likely to skip it. 

When running is the first thing you do during the day, your enthusiasm is higher. Hot summer days can be languid and lazy. By the end, it’s hard to find the push you need to go work out. 

It can also be nice to head to the beach and go running on the sand if that’s an option. So if you run in the morning when you’re bright and busy-eyed for the day ahead, you’re more likely to stick to it. 

7. Wear the Right Clothing

Appropriate gear makes a huge difference while running in the heat. Here is the best clothing you can wear on the run:

Nylon fabric is ideal. It is light, has a billowy construction to permit air to come through easily, and is responsive to the wind. If you experience abrasion on your thighs during an energetic run, spandex of superior quality is a better choice for your running apparel for the summer.

But whatever you do, avoid cotton. This fabric is denser than any other and can trap the most perspiration. Make sure to shield your face from the sun’s rays as a precaution. You will be more comfortable wearing a visor than a hat. The visor provides better airflow, rather than trapping your hair in a confined area.

For all the extra water (not to mention little nutritious snacks) you’ll be bringing, plan for somewhere to carry them. Some people carry a small backpack like a Camelbak for supplies, but a vest is a cooler option. 

Running vests have pockets spread across the whole garment so you don’t have to hold all the weight of your supplies in one sweaty area. If you plan to do a lot of hot weather running, buying a vest is a smart choice. 

8. Use Sunscreen

Nothing will stop you from running in hot weather more than a sunburn. Always apply sunscreen before heading into the heat, especially on your face. 

You never notice you’ve been burned until it’s too late. By that time, your body could be at risk of overheating, exhaustion, or migraines. 


Running in the heat can be both advantageous and disadvantageous. On the plus side, your body gets more efficient at cooling down your core temperature, and the process improves as you get used to it.

On the other hand, when the sweltering heat gets too dangerous, it becomes harder to safely exercise. As the temperature and humidity skyrocket, your electrolyte balance starts to disrupt and it becomes more difficult for your body to cool down.


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