One of the hardest and maybe the most difficult elements for runners to train in the summer heat and humidity.  Recently at Run Sunset Beach the temperatures and humidity were rather high.  I took this opportunity to ask some questions of our local EMT’s that were on site helping with any medical related concerns.  We all know that as we run and our body temperatures rise, we begin to sweat.  It is actually the evaporation of sweat or perspiration that causes the cooling.  So as the humidity rises the evaporation process slows and our body temperatures do not cool as they should.  But what I learned was for this to occur the body must increase blood flow to the skin.  Blood is the major carrier of heat and sweat is composed of plasma.  So when we sweat at high rates we are actually losing blood volume and electrolytes.  This is why proper hydration is vital.  Increased skin blood flow is problematic for runners because less blood is available to carry oxygen to working muscles and vital organs such as the heart, making exercise much more difficult.  However, if you can push through the summer heat safely you will score big rewards with your fall race times.  Here are 10 ways to help you run through the summer heat!

1.  Check The Weather Forecast.  As you are planning your runs for the week it is a good idea to check the weather forecast.  During the summer season if there is a cooler day in the forecast, try to schedule your long run for that day and your shorter workouts for the hotter more humid days.  The heat index will give you the best idea of how it is actually going to feel outside.  I wouldn’t  run outside if the temperature is above 96 degrees and the humidity is above 75 percent. That’s dangerous territory.
2.  Run Indoors.  If the summer heat has climbed to an intolerable level take your run indoors to a treadmill.  Join a gym or get a treadmill for home but either way this is a great way to keep it going in the heat.  Think the treadmill is too boring?  Run at an incline, try some intervals or turn on Netflix!  It’s only a few weeks and you’ll be back outside and thankful you kept moving!
3.  Hydrate All Day Long.  Hydration is a vital element to staying cool and running your best in all sorts of weather conditions – not just when it’s hot outside. During the summer months build the habit of hydrating all day long, not just before and after your runs, and then in the fall keep this habit going!  I recently read, “The Seven Pillars of Health”. Water is the first and most vital pillar in our quest for health.  I was amazed at all the things that can be relieved by simply drinking enough water and if you struggle with this, you’d be surprised how good you feel once properly hydrated.
4.  Take Water With You.  I recently picked up the new ExoDraw 18 oz handheld bottle by Nathan Sport at Fleet Feet Myrtle Beach and I love it!  It is by far the best carry along water bottle I’ve ever had.  I find that the water belts or camel packs just add to the heat for me but find what works best for you and don’t leave home without it!
5.  Run Early Run Late.  I’d recommend adjusting your running times to either very early or very late, whichever works best for you!  The hottest part of the day is typically between 11:00 and 4:00 so try to avoid this timeframe.
6.  The Right Clothing.  Since you’ll be sweating even more than usual it is even more important to wear fabrics that wick away the sweat in the summer months and ward off overheating and chaffing.  I would recommend loose fitting and light fabrics for the coolest choices.
7.  Wear A Hat or Sun Visor.  If you like to wear hats in the heat of the summer I would recommend getting a very light weight one made from wicking material.  You might even try dipping it in cold water before you head out the door! A sun visor is good for a couple of different things.  It shades your eyes from the sun as well as can help keep sweat from dripping into your eyes and down your face.  I like to use mine to keep my hair off my face when I run.
8.  Choose Your Routes Wisely.  To help avoid heat related issues during your summer run try to pick routes that are shaded!  Running in the open sun on asphalt just amplifies the temperature by at least 10 degrees if not more.   Another Option would be to go off road and give trail running a try!  The ground is cooler and therefore so is the air! Last week I did a midday run at Vereen Garden’s located in Little River SC and it was fantastic!
9.  Sports Drinks.  I’m not a huge fan of sports drinks but if you are running harder, faster or say longer than 1 hour you should consider adding a sports drink  to restore lost electrolytes and carbohydrates. You can also opt for gels, or salty foods but a cold sports drink will be much more refreshing!
10.  Watch For Warning Signs.   Your body and especially your heart have to work double time to keep you running in the heat therefore listen to your body and keep a lookout for any warning signs of trouble.  Nausea, Fatigue, Dizziness, Red and Hot Skin, Muscle Cramps, Chills, Ceasing to Sweat and Tingly Skin are some of the more prominent warning signs of overheating and heat related issues.

More than anything, while the heat sometimes feels unbearable it is not a reason to cease training all together. Just be smart about it and listen to your body.  Running though the heat of the summer = great rewards in the fall! Plan Wise, Keep Cool and Run ON!