Whether you’re training for a fall race or trying to stay in shape for beach days, summer is a prime time to ramp up your running routine. But racking up miles outdoors in the heat can be way more dehydrating and taxing on your body than a run in cooler conditions, especially when you’re doing a long training run. The good news is, several studies have examined how simple tweaks to your approach can help you stay cool on hot runs. So you can work out at a higher intensity and maybe even run longer. Maintaining a low core temperature is key, and there are several strategies to help you do just that. Keep reading to learn what recent research has discovered about how heat affects your running performance—plus trainer tips to help you stay cool on hot runs.
Dress the part.
“Wear light-colored clothing in a light, wicking material,” suggests Aaptiv trainer Kelly Chase. Regular cotton feels cool when you’re dry, but as soon as you sweat, it gets soaked and heavy. Fabric that wicks away moisture will help your sweat evaporate to keep you cool and not weigh you down. Look for polyester or polypropylene materials to stay dry when you feel like you’re melting.
Sip an icy drink before you head out.
In a study published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, downing 16 ounces of a frozen drink 20 minutes before a run lowered runners’ core temperatures for 30 minutes. Runners were also able to go ten minutes longer after drinking the slushie compared to when they drank sweetened cold water without ice.
If drinking a sugary slushie right before a run doesn’t exactly sit well with you (literally), try something a little lighter but still chilled. A large glass of unsweetened ice tea or even just ice water should help to keep that core body temperature running cooler for a quick run.
Choose your route wisely.
Live around a lake or river? Try to run your miles on a street or path near it, Chase suggests. “If you can find water to run near, you should. The temperature typically stays a little cooler near water.” If you’re completely land-locked, stay cognizant of the weather and pay attention to humidity and the “feels like” temperature. It might be easier—and actually safer—to keep your run indoors if the heat feels too stifling.
You may be able to run farther without fatiguing if you hold an icy towel on your neck before you head out, according to a study published in the Journal of Athletic Training. Similar research from Southern Cross University in Australia found that a pre-run ice bath can help, too. If you’re running on a track, stash a towel and a bottle of ice on the side. This way you can cool off every few laps.
Drink every 15 minutes.
Regular sipping during your run is, of course, crucial not only to stay cool on hot runs but also to stay hydrated. But be careful not to overdo it and guzzle too much, Chase warns. “You’ll want to drink occasionally to replenish the water and minerals leaving your body as you continue to perspire. But not necessarily the entire time,” she says. “There is a dangerous condition known as hyponatremia that happens when you become too hydrated.” Aim for six to eight ounces every 15 minutes or so. Chase suggests sipping a drink with electrolytes to help replace minerals and find the right H2O balance.
Pour some water over your head.
Drinking icy water cools you off more than room-temperature water. Pouring some cold water over your body helps even further, according to an article from the University of Sydney’s Thermal Ergonomics Laboratory. You should feel some sweet relief as soon as the water evaporates off your skin.
Don’t let the heat or humidity keep you locked in the gym. Summer is a wonderful time to hit the road and try new trails. Stay aware of the temperature and the amount of direct sun (cloudy days may feel cooler) on your route. Be sure to hydrate before, during, and after your run, too.