The Surprising Benefits of Running in Heat

Every spring the same thing happens to me: I do my first training run outside, only to bonk because I didn’t adjust my paces for running in hot weather. Running in the heat is hard work and if you’re like me, you can fall into the trap of thinking your paces should be the same as those on a cool autumn day. Think again.

I remember one incredibly hot summer day when the heat index was well over a hundred degrees and I couldn’t get out to do my 12x400s on the blistering track until the hottest part of the day. It was miserable. I made it through but my splits were way off. That’s when my coach reminded me that running in heat and running on a cool day is like comparing apples to oranges. Times are going to be slower and you need to adjust.

How does hot weather affect running?

running in hot weather tips
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Running in heat makes you run slower. Therefore, if you are training in temperatures above 60 degrees, you need to adjust your paces.

According to Keith Hanson in the Hanson’s Marathon Method, you can add 5-8 seconds per mile when temperatures reach the 60s or higher.

Here’s the breakdown:

  • If it’s in the 60s, add 5 seconds per mile;
  • in the 70s, add 10 seconds per mile;
  • and in the 80s, add 15 seconds per mile.

You get the picture…(Not convinced? Or not good at math? Check out this handy dandy heat calculator!)

Do you burn more calories running in hot weather?

Yes, you do burn more calories running in hot weather…to a point. Sports dietician Dana Eshelman explains, “Studies show that heat slightly increases your basal metabolic rate in an effort to keep the body cool. However, over time, the body learns to adjust to hotter temperatures.”

Should you fuel differently running in hot weather? 

Yes, you should intake more carbs running in hot weather. The reason is because your body is pumping more blood to your extremities than to your gut. Thus, your body needs fuel that is easy to digest otherwise you will have tummy troubles.
 
Dana explains, “The initial workouts in heat may feel more difficult than your workouts in cooler temps. There will be a higher heart rate and perceived rate of exertion which signals the body to use more carbs versus fat during your workout. At higher heart rates, the body is pumping blood to the muscles to provide oxygen and nutrients rather than aiding in digestion.”
 
Simple carbohydrates are quickly converted into energy for the muscles to use. Fat and protein take too much energy to digest. 
Some simple carbs include:
  • dried fruit
  • white bread
  • potato, and
  • sports supplements

Is it bad to run in hot weather?

No. Running in hot weather is not bad for you–if you are smart. In fact, running in the heat can be very beneficial to your training.

Research shows that running in heat and humidity is the same as training at altitude. Did I just blow your mind? Running in hot weather puts stress on the cardiovascular system making your heart stronger. It also decreases blood flow to muscles because the blood is going to your skin instead, making training similar to that in high elevations.

What temperature is too hot for running in hot weather?

Your body operates best when it is at 98.6°F. Running in heat causes your core body temperature to rise which can lead to dehydration and overheating. Some symptoms of overheating include:

  • muscle cramps
  • excessive sweating
  • headaches
  • nausea
  • tiredness
  • and dizziness.
Running in heat
Running in hot weather can make you slower in the short term but faster in the long term because it is like altitude training.

In dire cases, running in hot weather can lead to heat exhaustion or heat stroke. But these can be avoided if you listen to your body and train smart. I’m here to help!

9 Smart tips for running in heat:

Be an early bird.

Need the motivation to wake up early? Picture yourself trying to do your run or workout in blistering heat, gasping for air, and yearning for water. Think how good it would feel to run in the cool morning hours and get it out of the way. Alternatively, you can run later in the evening—perhaps after the kids have gone to bed, or your darling husband is getting them ready for bed (because he already ran or had his “me time” for the day).

Related: Smart ways to stay motivated while running

Wear light clothing. 

Duh. Dress for the weather. Here are some of our favorite sun-protective gear: Naute sport sunglasses and Goodr shades for their lightweight feel. The Oiselle flyout tank, Oiselle Mac Roga shorts, and Rabbit Catch Me If You Can shorts for their breathability. Oiselle’s trucker hat for its style and comfort. And Balega running socks for their comfort, breathability and resistance to blisters.

Don’t forget the sunscreen.

My dermatologist Mother Runner friend loves Blue Lizard sunscreen because it’s sweat-resistant, lasts long and is ultra-protective. Mother Runner Lindsay loves Elta MD sport sunscreen face because it’s the only one she’s found that doesn’t make her melasma worse—a condition she picked up after having her second son.

Related: The Mother Runners Training Plans

Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate.

Remember when Zoolander said, “Water is the essence of moisture?” He was right, go figure! Drink water all day long! And bring this The Nathan insulated water bottle full of icy water with you on your run. Pour it on your head throughout the workout. Also, drink a Nuun or Sword, before, after, and even during your workout to replenish electrolytes and glucose. Remember, too, that sweating makes you lose iron, so be sure to get getting enough! (Get tips here).

Related: Tips for running in cold weather

Benefits of a long run
Run early to beat the heat.

Seek shade.

Head to the path with the most trees to shelter yourself from the sun. If this happens to be a road less traveled by you, check out this gear that holds your phone for safety and run with your RoadID.

Take breaks.

It’s okay to take breaks along your run to drink water, cool off, or just catch your breath. It’s also okay to move a workout to another day when it won’t be so hot, or you know you can head out early or late. You can always adjust your schedule accordingly.

Stop the stink.

Sweaty feet can lead to stinky shoes. Save them (and those within nose-shot) by rinsing them out after a hot run. Then take the insoles out, stuff with paper towels or newspapers, and let them sit in the sun to dry.

Work on your turnover.

One downside of running in hot weather and running slower is that your body doesn’t learn how to run fast. Dedicate one morning a week to running fast repeats such as 200s, 400s, or hills.

Get salty.

What’s the best thing to eat post-hot-run? Salt! Replenish the sodium you lost and get your body temps down with some salty tortilla chips, a popsicle, and a rest. You earned it, mama!

Watch my Google Web Story for this post here.

PS-I’d love to help you reach your running goals whether it be to run your first 5k or run competitively! Email me at whitney@themotherrunners.com with questions or check out my Coaching Services page!

 

 

4 thoughts on “The Surprising Benefits of Running in Heat”

  1. Great tips. I just want to add that sweaty or wet feet in general can also lead to lots of friction and blisters. When it’s really hot out there, I either use a peppermint rinse or gum to have extra freshness.

    Reply

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