Posted by: Kennedy | July 22, 2011

How to run in a heat wave

Hot enough for ya??

Like most of the province – and by the looks of Twitter lately, like the entire east coast of the U.S. – I am in the midst of a pretty crazy heat wave.

I want to be clear: I’m not complaining. I love summer, and I love hot weather… when I’m sitting on a patio, lying on the beach, or chilling at the cottage. I do not love it when I’m attempting to train for races.

I looked at my training schedule the other day and even though I’ve missed a few runs lately due to weekend fun school work, I decided I was still on track.

Then I realized I’m registered to run a 10-miler in three weeks.


According to that plan, I should already be running 16k. The longest run of late was 10… about three weeks ago. Cue mild panic.

So I grinned and bared it through the heat for 12k this morning. When I was finished, I looked like I’d been thrown in a pool with my clothes on. Completely. Drenched.

A lot of runners – myself included – start to groan when it gets REALLY hot, because then we start questioning whether to run at all. Not only is it uncomfortable, it can also be dangerous if you don’t take the proper precautions.


Though it was no doubt a warm and sweaty run, I felt just fine after a cool shower and a big bowl of oats. And it’s because I adhered to my Rules for Running When It’s Hotter Than Hell:

1)   Run early (or really late). This one can be tough for some, but trust me – it’s worth it to hit the sack a little earlier and go for your run while the temperature is still in the mid-20s. If you must run in the evenings, wait until the sun goes down as it’s still extremely hot in the after-work hours.

2)   Take it easy. I know we’re all trying to PR at our next race, but doing speed work during a heat wave is like trying to race a car that’s overheating. Not a good idea. Save your energy for a cooler day, and focus on feeling strong.

3)   Fuel, fuel, fuel. When it’s hot out, you’re going to sweat. I don’t care who you are. And the more you sweat, the more you’ll need to replenish the nutrients and water lost as a result. Today I saw so many runners without fuel belts or water bottles… it made me crazy. On days like this, it’s extra important to drink water before, during AND after your run. Today I drank 12 oz. of water before, over 16 oz. during, and 24 oz. within 20 minutes after.

If you’re running for longer than 40 minutes, you should also be taking in electrolytes such as Emergen-C powders or coconut water. Any longer than 60 minutes, and you should have a food source of quick energy such as gels, chews or bars.  And be sure to eat something before you head out – a piece of fruit, toast with peanut butter, whatever you can handle. Your body is going to need the energy.

4)    Find a shady route. Lately, I’ve been heading to the Belt Line near my house on almost every run. It’s a running/walking/biking path that is not only lovely and scenic, but also over 90% tree-covered. The more you can limit direct exposure to the sun, the better – your body temperature will stay cooler longer. Plus, trails absorb less heat than pavement, making it a cooler surface.

5)   Pay attention to your body. This should be a rule for every single run, but it’s so so important in the hot weather. Watch out for symptoms of exertional heatstroke. If you start to feel light-headed, nauseous, very fatigued, or get cramps or a headache, back off the pace. It’s also a bad sign if you start sweating less – it means your body is too dehydrated to effectively produce sweat and cool you down. Stop, walk, drink some water, and take your time.

6)   Avoid running on garbage day. Hottest day of the year + bin after bin of nasty garbage stanking up your entire route = disaster. Seriously. Just run tomorrow.

7)   Don’t fear the treadmill. I know, I hate it too. But if it’s a scorcher and you simply can’t skip a workout, head inside to the comfort of the A/C and run on the treadmill. It may be boring, but your body will thank you.

Have I missed anything?? Runners, please share your tips – how do you survive a heat wave?


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