Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Tips for Running/Walking in Summer Months

I don't know about you, but I am missing the polar vortex! These past few weeks in Pennsylvania have been brutally humid and hot. Which is fabulous for lazy days at the pool but not so cool for Goofy Challenge training. Ugh.

But, that's the blessing and the curse of summer on the East coast. Luckily, we only have to deal with it for a few months a year. Running can be hard. Running in the crazy heat and humidity can be really hard. So, what can you do to keep running or walking during the summer?

First, let me tell you what NOT to do with a cautionary tale. A few weeks ago, I wanted to get a quick mid-week, 45 minute run in before my Wednesday Weight Watchers meeting at 6 pm. It was 86 degrees but with a high humidity level, the "real feel" was 92.

I started my run and felt great, keeping a nice steady pace of 11:30. I was warm but not too uncomfortable. Around the 30 minute mark, I started to feel nauseous. I slowed down to a walk and tried to ride it out. A few minutes later, I began to feel light-headed and the nausea increased. I had to stop. Sitting down on the curb, I hoped the feeling would pass. It did not. It intensified. So much so that I actually vomited and then laid down in the grass near the sidewalk.

Worried about my well-being, I slowly got up and started walking slowly back towards my house. I just tried to focus on putting one foot in front of the other and getting back inside to the air conditioning and a glass of water. Finally, I made it back safely. I was shaking.

After some cold water and a few minutes, I started to feel better. But it scared me. It hadn't felt that hot and I'd seen other runners/walkers outside- it didn't seem dangerous to me. But it absolutely was. Heat and humidity can be life-threatening when running or walking- it's important to be cautious when planning outdoor activities.

That being said, there are plenty of things you can do to protect yourself during the summer heat and humidity. The following is a list of tips that I have made based on my own personal experiences. I am not a physician and what's listed here is not medical advice.

1. Consider staying indoors. Treadmills and indoor tracks can be boring, but are a lot more comfortable (and safe!) than being outside in the sun and heat.

2. Stay hydrated! Your intake of water is important- not just during your run but every day. I try to drink at least 6-8 glasses of water a day.

3. Wear sunscreen. Often neglected, this one little thing can protect you from the sun's harmful rays and can help keep you cool.

4. Invest in technical fabric workout clothes. By wicking away sweat, tech fabrics help regulate your body temperature in hot weather.

5. Slow down. Jeff Galloway suggests that for every five degrees above 60, you should slow down by 30 seconds per mile. If it's 80 degrees, then that means slowing your pace by a full two minutes per mile.

6. Run early or late. Time your outdoor run or walk to be in the coolest parts of the day- either early in the morning or just after dusk.

7. Avoid blacktop if possible. Summer is a great time to head out on the trail. Not only are there usually a lot of shaded areas, but running on grass or dirt isn't nearly as hot as running on the black asphalt of most roads.

These are just a few of the precautions you can take to ensure a comfortable and safe outdoor workout during the summer months. Runner's World has some additional tips as well as this list from Road Runners Club of America.

QOTD: What would you add to this list? How do you stay cool during summer running or walking?


  1. Wow, what a scary experience! Running in heat and humidity is nothing to mess with. A couple of weeks ago I had similar symptoms after a long run, and I ultimately self diagnosed it as being dehydrated. I need to be better about either carrying enough water on me, or making loops to my car or house during a long run in order to refill my hydration belt. Taking a short break in the middle of a long run will be worth it in the end! if it means that I have enough water!

    1. Yes- water and hydration is key! Since this incident, I've been really trying to keep hydrated throughout the day.

  2. I wear my CamelBak Dart to help.

    1. I've never tried a CamelBak but I'm curious- maybe that will be my next running purchase :-)

  3. I ordered something called a Frogg-Togg Chiily pad on Amazon. I actually ordered it to keep cool during our frequent Disney World trips, but I'm thinking of taking it along on a longer run to see if it helps keep me cool (and if it would be awkward having it draped around my neck/shoulders). It's a towel that, when dampened, is much cooler than a damp towel would normally be.

    1. Someone else I know does this! I am anxious to try it out!

  4. Oh my gosh - so scary! Glad to hear you are ok! I've had a few experiences close to that (though not as traumatic), where I've felt lightheaded and nauseous. When I feel like that, I usually just end my run and walk to my car/home. It's definitely important to stay hydrated, but even that can't prevent some heat sickness when it's so brutal outside.

    I always wear a visor to keep the sun off my face, along with helping to collect the sweat so it doesn't fall in my eyes, which then burn. I sometimes carry a small towel with me, and then dump water on it and wipe myself down - it can be very refreshing on those really hot days.

    1. When I race in the heat, I always pour water on my head- it definitely helps!!