Strategies for Running in the heat

Running in the heat real run ryan

Strategies for Running in the heat

By Ryan Light, Running/Anxiety Coach

Running in the heat – As a year round runner I always dread the summer time here in Atlanta as my Fall marathon training stats in July. With temps reaching close 100 degress and with humidity also reaching 100% can make for some hot sweaty runs, and worst yet deadly if not planned correctly. However, with some proper planning and precautions the heat of the summer can be just that hot and sweaty. It’s important that you adjust your training and race day paces according to the heat. Remember for every 10 degrees in temps above 55 there is a slight increase (2 to 4%) (or decrease depending on how you look at it) in your finish time. So don’t push it, just know that due to your body’s adjustments in the heat, like increase heart rate, your pace and finish times may not be what you were expecting.

Know the heat factors and what is happening to your body


One major thing that slows down runners generally is when the body sweats, this is done through thermoregulation. This is the process by which the body maintains a constant body internal environment despite the external conditions.

The body naturally cools itself by perspiration:

  • When there is an increase in heat, humidity also increases preventing further evaporation hence bringing about a cooling effect.
  • When one sweats, dehydration is a common occurrence leading to fluid loss hence a drop in performance in running.
  • Temperature and humidity in turn increase heart rate causing an increase in sweating – the never-ending-cycle.

How to minimize the effect on heat during running

A runner should undergo regular training to increase the volume of blood plasma in their body as this cools down the body. Such runners adapt quickly and with ease to heat. Moreover, running in hot conditions frequently makes one adjust to such conditions as well as all the changes that a body undergoes during sweating. This reduces the impact they have on the runner as they get used to it with time. Make sure to replenish your body with water, and electrolytes this is key in keeping up your pace and not getting dehydrated. I always like to change my attitude when running in the heat, I know that due to the heat, I’m not going to make that PR, and I need to be more diligent in watching my heart rate, and listen to my body. Knowing this helps me keep my training in focus.

Racing in the heat

Running and racing are almost similar, only that racing is more like in competition hence the need for more speed. With the increase in speed and heat, racing in hot conditions will require more effort to cool down the body for an athlete to adjust to these conditions.

  • Preparation is one good way to prepare for a race, especially in the heat. You can train your body to adjust to hot conditions by wearing slightly heavier clothing. This way, your body loses heat faster frequently hence no shock is experienced if you are told to race under such conditions. Another way for this approach is undergoing a short warm up session before a long race so that the body does not tire and lose a lot of energy before the important race has begun.
  • Moreover, adjusting your expectations during a race may be helpful as it teaches you to be humble and pay more attention to what your body is trying to tell you. Have in mind that there is a probability you will be slower in such conditions hence the need to control your body. You need to obey the messages your body is sending you like when you find it difficult to breathe.
  • A positive attitude is probably the most helpful defense you can have for yourself in such conditions. You need to recognize that all the other athletes like yourself are undergoing the exact things as you; you will all be judged in the same way. You therefore need an upper hand at this to make you come out at the top of the league. You should think of this situation as dew point where there is less perspiration hence less pressure on the body to cool itself. This is an advantage because it will help you measure the level of your performance during a race.


In as much as running and racing may be considered sports that one can easily participate in, some weather conditions such as heat may dictate this. It is therefore important to prepare oneself for such an occurrence by understanding what happens to the body under such conditions and dealing with it effectively.

Temps and how to handle the heat (curiosity of RW)

50–54 Very comfortable PR conditions
55–59 Comfortable Hard efforts likely not affected
60–64 Uncomfortable for some people Expect race times to be slower than in optimal conditions
65–69 Uncomfortable for most people Easy training runs might feel OK but difficult to race well or do hard efforts
70–74 Very humid and uncomfortable Expect pace to suffer greatly
75 or greater Extremely oppressive Skip it or dramatically alter goal

Ryan Light

About Ryan Light

I started to run after a very stressful time in my life. I suffered most of my life with OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder), panic, and anxiety. I tried everything from diets to conventional medicines – nothing worked. Running saved my life – literally, I was at the bottom with my OCD, panic, and anxiety, and on the verge of suicide. Running gave me a new found adventure, a goal, an escape so to say. It’s been seven years since I took my first run…Currently I have run over 40 Half Marathons, Three Full Marathons, and countless amounts of 5 & 10Ks” and loving every minute of it. I’ve made some outstanding friends, overcame challenges I thought I’d never could, and best of all found a passion in life! To learn more...

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