How to Safely Run in the Summer
In my humble opinion, running is superior to many other forms of exercise because it’s something that you can do just about anywhere, just about anytime, and with minimal equipment. That said, if you enjoy running during the summer months, when the temperatures soar and you may feel like you’ve just gone swimming instead of running, thanks to the endless humidity, it’s important that you take some different considerations so you can complete your runs safely.
Below, I’ll list and describe some of my guidelines that’ll help you get through all your summer runs. These are all based on my own personal experiences — and those of many of my friends! — and I think you’ll find that following even some of them will make your summer running a bit more comfortable and a bit more enjoyable.
Think about the time of day when you’re running. Obviously, to avoid the heat, you’ll want to run when the sun isn’t out in full force. However, oftentimes it’s very humid right before the sunrise. If you have flexibility in your schedule each day, consider running when it’s not the heat of the day and instead run early morning or early evening/nighttime.
Protect your skin. Summer running can be absolutely brutal on your skin, and while you may not (understandably) want to wear many layers of clothing during your summer runs, it’ll still behoove you to do what you can to protect your skin, and wearing sunscreen is the easiest way to do that. Read your sunscreen labels thoroughly, and look for brands that offer both UVA and UVB protection. Keep in mind that no sunscreen is truly 100% waterproof or sweatproof, so if you plan to be out running for a very long period of time, you may need to re-apply that which you’ve sweat off. Remember to protect your lips, too, by using a lip balm/chapstick that has SPF elements in it as well. Finally, just because it’s a cloudy day doesn’t mean that your skin isn’t at risk! Listen to what your mother told you growing up!
Protect your eyes and your head by wearing sunglasses and a hat. Protection is the name of the game with summer running, so if you’re not yet in the habit of wearing sunglasses to protect your eyes from the sun, you soon will be. You don’t need to drop a lot of money on a pair of sunglasses for running; in fact, you may find that what you wear at any other time in your life (such as when you’re driving) will work just fine. It’s also important to protect your head and your hair from sun damage — particularly if your hair is very long (and thus apt for damage) or if you are balding/have thin hair (and thus, apt for a sunburn on your scalp). Consider purchasing a wicking-fabric technical running hat or visor to give you protection this summer.
Wear light colors, wicking fabrics, and loose-fitting clothes. We all probably know by now that wearing dark colors, such as black, when it’s hot outside will make things feel hotter than they already are. That said, for your summer runs, consider wearing light-colored clothing and materials that will wick or pull the sweat away from your body. Clothes that are drenched in sweat oftentimes end up rubbing you for the entirety of your run — and thus, create many friction “hot spots” that lead to painful chafing and/or blisters — making the case for wearing wicking, loose-fitting clothes important. Additionally, remember the 20-degree rule in the summer: dress as though it’s 20 degrees warmer than it really is. Your body will warm-up over your run, so even if you’re a little chilly at the start, know that in a few minutes or miles, your body will be comfortable and warm.
Get — and stay — hydrated. Before you set out for your summer runs, ensure that you are adequately hydrated. While you don’t need to count that you’ve had 8 glasses of water, take a look at your urine; if it’s light colored, you’re likely good to go. Remember that you can also effectively hydrate throughout the day by eating water-dense foods, too, like watermelon, cantaloupe, and apples. After your run, especially if it’s longer than 60 minutes, re-hydrate and replace your electrolyte stores to replenish that which you’ve sweat off. When you’re out on the run, consider carrying water/electrolytes with you so that you’ll always have ready access to fluids; fortunately, there’s a huge market out there for running-friendly hydration packs and handheld water bottles.
Most importantly: listen to your body. Summer running can be very tricky. It’ll become really important that you get in tune with your body and put aside your pride when you have to, especially when the conditions don’t lend themselves to fast and hard workouts or super long runs. You’ll likely find that running feels harder, and that you feel sluggish, when things are especially hot and humid, and that’s totally understandable and ok. Get comfortable with dialing back the effort when the conditions are brutal, and be confident that you are doing the right thing. Sometimes the effort is more important than the actual paces we post in any given workout, and that’s especially true with summer running, when the conditions are often extremely challenging for running. Do not jeopardize your own safety, health, and well-being, either; if you begin to feel light-headed or dizzy during a run, stop immediately, and seek help. Heatstroke and heat exhaustion can be very detrimental to your health, so please don’t put yourself in a position to fall victim to either malady. Finally, don’t be “a stupid runner.” If the heat index, humidity, temperature, or air quality is extremely high/extremely poor/not conducive to running, don’t try to be a badass by running through it. Scrap your run until it’s safe to run outside, or simply hit a treadmill in air conditioning. Keep your ego and your bravado in line. Live to run another day.
Summer running is a lot of fun, no doubt, but it also carries some risk as well. These guidelines will help keep you safe and running all summer long, making many memories along the way.
Dan is a long distance runner and an entrepreneur. When he is not busy managing his websites, Runnerclick, The Fit Bay, Nicershoes, The Gear Hunt and Fighting Report, he usually travels to popular running destinations to join a running event. He shares this passion with his wife Jane.