Hot Weather and Exercise

By Sean Householder
ASF Personal Trainer and Coach
Love to run, eat food and play with puppies!

Hey all! It’s that time of year where things move from hot to REALLY hot here in central Texas. It’s also the time of year that many people think about starting up a running program in order to be ready for the race event season that picks up in the fall and winter. Don’t let the heat deter you. Get started today with these hot weather running tips!

Run Early

We can’t control the weather, so it’s impossible to turn down the heat. However, unless a cold front is coming through, the morning will almost always be the coolest part of the day. Heat builds through the day as the sun warms everything up. Roads, sidewalks, and trails will continue to radiate heat after the sun has stopped hitting them in the evening. Plan your runs for the morning, before the sun comes up. You will be rewarded with cooler weather and a jump start on your day!

Stay Hydrated

Even if you beat the sun, it’s still likely that the humidity will also be high, especially in the morning. The heat, humidity, and exertion are going to cause you to break quite a sweat. Be sure to take water with you or run somewhere with regular access to water so you can keep yourself hydrated. I recommend the Butler Trail around Lady Bird Lake as a great place to run due to shade in many places, public restrooms, and plenty of water fountains. Your body will also be consuming more energy and electrolytes with all that extra sweat. Sports drinks or energy gels will help keep you charged up better than water, especially on longer runs.

Dress For Success
Sweat will saturate clothing, even supposed “wicking” or “dry fit” materials, making them breathe less. This can cause your body to heat up even more. Wearing smaller cuts and garments that allow more ventilation or direct skin exposure to air will help your body keep you as cool as possible. Make sure to apply sunblock to exposed skin to protect from harmful UV rays!

Listen to Your Heart

Heat puts increased strain on the cardiovascular system. Your body will be spending more energy and elevating the heart rate to try to keep itself cool. I advise using a heart rate monitor and adjusting your pace as necessary to stay short of your maximum heart rate. Depending on the day’s weather conditions and your energy levels, you may find your pace varying by as much as a minute per mile or more for the same overall heart rate. Don’t push yourself too hard because your training program says you should be running a certain distance or because you are used to running faster and farther in other weather conditions.

Slow and Steady
As with any other applications of progressive overload, take things easy at first, building up from slow, short runs in early sessions into longer runs as your body starts adapting to the heat. This may mean adding a few extra weeks of pre-work to a training program for an upcoming event. Even seasoned runners will need to dial back their pace or distance as the heat increases, until their bodies adapt to the extra demands being placed upon them.

Reap the Rewards
So why subject ourselves to the punishing heat, humidity, sun, and early hours of running in the summer? Because when that first cool, low humidity, overcast day of fall finally shows up, you will feel and perform like a complete rock star! I’ve run double normal distances or minute-a-mile faster paces just from a change to cooler weather. And there is also the great feeling of accomplishment that comes with not making excuses to start or continue with your exercise program. “Tomorrow you’ll wish you had started today.” So get out there and get going!