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How to Tackle Hot and Humid Long Runs

Dress smart, don’t be afraid to slow down – and hydrate, hydrate, hydrate!

Photo: Getty Images

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There’s no sugarcoating it: running in heat and humidity is no easy feat. Especially if you’re endurance running this summer (fall race training begins now!), the sun can take a serious toll on your body. Running in the heat requires you to exert extra energy, leaving you feeling more drained if you aren’t properly hydrated. However, there’s no need to put your training schedule on hold. Here are some of our tips for tackling the heat and humidity with ease.

Hydrate before, during, and after your run.

Get ahead of all the sweating by taking in fluids before the run—as early as 1-2 days prior—and replenish during and after. Dr. Cathlin Fitzgerald, Senior Physical Therapist at Custom Performance, recommends a running belt to minimize how frequently you have to stop for water. “I prefer ones with the bottles on each side,” she says. “A big water bladder sitting on my back just gets too hot.” According to Dr. Fitzgerald, you should consume 20-40 ounces per hour while running, but needs are dependent on the weather and individual sweat rates. You can even pour some water over your head and neck mid-run to help keep your body at a cooler temperature. Additionally, study your run route ahead of time so you know where public water fountains are to stop at.

RELATED: The Science of Hydration

Don’t forget electrolytes.

It’s not all about water. Electrolyte consumption (via fluids, tablets, gummies or otherwise) is key to keeping the body going during strenuous activity. Electrolytes is an umbrella term used to describe essential minerals in the body. Some electrolytes are found in sodium, potassium, calcium, and magnesium. “Each of them has a vital role, including contracting muscles, sending nervous impulses throughout the body, and regulating pH levels,” explains Greg Laria, running coach at MOTIVNY. “Electrolytes prevent ‘chaos’ from happening in your body, specifically during strenuous activity.”

Dr. Fitzgerald recommends using a dissolvable tablet in your water or bringing electrolyte drinks. The typical recommendation, for sodium specifically, is 300-600mg per hour in addition to adequate hydration.

Pay attention to potential electrolyte depletion. Early risks of an imbalance are cramping, dehydration, fatigue, and headaches.

Time your runs accordingly.

The sun is strongest around noon. Try to avoid early afternoon hours when rays are beating down on your face. “Get your long runs in early in the morning or late at night when it’s the coolest and the sun isn’t out,” says Nick Synan, Chief Running Officer of Upper East Side Run Club. “If you aren’t able to get your run in during those times and need a midday run, plan out a route that’s more shaded.”

RELATED: Beat the Heat: Our Guide To Summer Essentials for Runners

Dress smart.

This is not the day to break out your favorite athletic jacket. “Wear lightweight and light-colored clothing that is breathable and vents easily so heat isn’t getting trapped inside,” says Synan. Lighter clothing reflects most visible wavelengths of light, which makes it absorb less heat. Synan also recommends a running hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen (SPF 30 or higher) to protect your skin from the sun.

Don’t worry about PRs.

You shouldn’t expect to hit a new record on a run when weather conditions are less than ideal. Temper your expectations prior to the training session. “Weather can play a major factor in performance, so be smart and strategic,” says Synan. “Not every long run or race needs to be a PR, so listen to your body and rethink your goals that day. Don’t push past your limit.”

You might want to even consider doing a run/walk to manage a hot or humid day. “Your heart rate and exertion will be higher on hotter days, so managing that is key to having a successful run,” explains Laria. “Planning a walk will reduce your heart rate while also allowing you time to take water, control your breathing, and assess how you are actually feeling on the run.” Some may shame themselves for slowing down on a walk/run, but accept where you’re at and simply see it as a part of your training plan.

You might just need to move your run to a different day.

Give yourself the benefit of the doubt. If weather conditions are extreme, it’s best to be flexible and move your run to a different day. “If the heat reaches dangerous levels, cancel the long run,” Dr. Fitzgerald advises. “It’s better to skip the run than risk heat exhaustion or heat stroke.” Early signs of heat exhaustion include cool, clammy skin, weakness/tiredness, muscle cramps, dizziness, headaches, nausea, and vomiting.

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