Getting out for a run can be extra appealing in the beautiful summer weather, but high heat and humidity can quickly lead to dehydration and overheating if you aren’t careful.
You might assume the weather wouldn’t impact your run much more than to help you get a sweat on, but studies have shown that running on a hot day can make exercise up to four times harder.
Hitting a new personal best might be a big ask when heading out for a sunny run, but there are some smart steps you can take to keep yourself in good condition and get the most out of your workout.
Follow our five essential tips for taking care of yourself while running in the heat this summer.
Our recommended phone holders for running will help you keep your phone secure and handy in case of emergencies.
1) Pick routes with shade and nature
The more you can keep out of direct sunlight while running, the better.
Spending extended periods of your run in direct sunlight will accelerate dehydration and increase your risk of sunburn and heatstroke.
Choosing a route with plenty of shade will help you to stay comfortable and focused, and it will be easier for your body to regulate its temperature.
Running routes with plenty of nature are also preferable, as urban centres like cities have lower air quality and higher ambient temperatures.
Concrete and glass buildings also retain the sun’s heat much more than grass and trees.
2) Hydrate effectively
It might seem blindingly obvious to recommend drinking water, but how you drink your water is key to ensuring your body hydrates effectively and actually retains the water you put into it.
Gulping lots of water just before your run will likely hinder rather than help you. Over-hydrating at a fast rate will cause your body to reject most of the water you’ve drank and most likely lead to you needing the loo during your run.
It’s best to start hydration gradually around two hours before exercising. Start drinking early and take sips at spaced-out intervals to encourage your body to make use of the liquid you’re drinking.
Topping up your water intake during or after your run is also important as you lose a lot of sweat during exercise. It’s easy to end up dehydrated in the few hours after you’ve finished, so don’t stop hydrating once you’ve finished.
Everyone loses liquid at a different rate during exercise, so a handy way to work out how much you’ll need to top up your water intake is to weigh yourself before and after a run of 30 minutes or less.
However much lighter you are after your run is how much water weight you’ve lost, and therefore how much you’ll need to drink to get your hydration levels back up to normal.
See our picks of the best reusable water bottles if you’re keen to take water with you on your summer runs.
3) Run at optimum times
The sun is at its most intense between 10am and 3pm, pumping out the most UV radiation at midday when the sun is highest in the sky.
If you can avoid running at these times, and avoid exposure to the sun in general, you’ll greatly reduce heat and skin-related conditions such as heatstroke and skin cancer.
Early mornings or evenings are the best times to run in the summer, as there is much less direct sunlight and the ambient temperature is cooler.
We’d recommend running in the early morning as the best time for running in the summer, as if you run too late at night could spoil your sleep cycle.
4) Don’t push it too hard
Everyone loves to hit a new PB, but if it’s hot and sunny the conditions aren’t right for you to compete with records you’ve set at cooler times of the year.
Your heart rate increases much faster in hot conditions, putting a greater strain on your body and making running speeds you’d normally find comfortable feel much more intense.
There is nothing you can do to avoid this, so don’t put yourself at risk by trying to fight it.
A slow and steady pace in the heat will work your body just as hard as a more intense run would on a cooler day, so although you’ll lose out on speed, you won’t lose out on fitness.
Track your heart rate and running times with our top fitness trackers.
5) Wear the right gear
Some think it’s a good idea to layer up for exercise in the heat as it encourages you to sweat and as a result lose more weight.
This is a myth. Sweating only makes you lose water weight, which does nothing to burn calories and will only help you get dehydrated and uncomfortable.
If you’re running in the summer you should aim to wear lightweight, well-ventilated clothing. Look for sportswear with vents or mesh sewn in, which are effective at helping with breathability during exercise.
Allowing air to freely flow around your body when working out helps it naturally regulate its temperature, keeping you in better condition for longer.
Wearing lightweight gear will likely mean you’ll have more skin on show, so make sure to also apply sun cream to protect yourself, and wear a cap to keep the sun off your face.
Stay safe in the sunshine by comparing our sun cream reviews.