I’m an outdoor runner.  Some people are, some people aren’t, but for me there is no grey area. 

When I run, I run outside.  Cold, wind, rain, snow if I’m traveling – no problem.  Part of it is the fact that I simply enjoy being outside in the elements.  There is nothing better than a cool morning run, a sunrise, spotting deer along a running trail.  It’s the best. 

There is another reason why I run outside however and that is the treadmill.  My archenemy.  My kryptonite.  I loathe it.  I dislike virtually everything about it. 

The Dreadmill

It takes a lot to get me on the dreadmill, exigent circumstances I like to say, and there are usually a combination of factors at play that force me inside. 

It usually isn’t enough to just be the weather.  I have just about every type of running “gear” that there is thanks to my very understanding and wonderful wife.  But if travel to a new city, icy streets and an early flight conspire against me all at the same time, I do sometimes end up with an indoor run. 

In the last 5 months I have gone for 85 runs covering 727.20 miles.  All but 2 of those runs and 11 of those miles have been outdoors.  That equates to 97.65% – which I would say places me firmly in the “outdoor runner” category.  

I can in fact remember both of my indoor runs vividly. 

The first occurred on a trip in January to Cedar Rapids Iowa.  I was in town for just two days and had got up extra early to get in a run in Austin before making the flight up.  The following morning I had a 6 mile mid-week run scheduled as part of my Boston Marathon training.  It was 6 degrees outside, windchill of -18.  There was snow and ice on the roads and it simply was not fit for man nor beast out there. 

So at the Marriott on Collins Road I climbed on the dreadmill and 42 minutes later it was over. 

The second time was a 5 mile recovery run in February that I had scheduled before an appointment with my trainer here in Austin.  We had a Texas sized thunder-storm with winds up to 30 mph.  Since I had to be at the gym by 7:30 a.m. anyway, I simply went 45 minutes early and knocked out my 5-miles in 35 uninspiring minutes.  So that’s it – the extent of my treadmill running in 2010. 

This time of year there is a new “challenge” for outdoor runners and that is not snow, ice, wind and storms – it is something far more difficult and in a lot of ways far more dangerous.  Heat. 

For a marathoner or even a middle distance runner there is no greater evil than the heat.  Heat can bring on two conditions that will negatively affect your performance.  Overheating and Dehydration. 

Overheating occurs as your body begins to lose the battle in how much sweat can be evaporated from your skin.  This is the primary “cooling mechanism” in each of our bodies. 

As your internal body temperature rises you start to sweat.  Your body then begins to send more blood to the capillaries at the surface of your body, where it is cooled by coming in contact to your “cooler” skin. 

While this is taking place there is a battle being fought elsewhere over this same supply of blood.  As you continue to run and cover miles, your body calls for more and more oxygen to be sent to your muscles.  As this blood flows to your muscles being placed under a heavy load – less of it can be sent to the skin – and overheating results.  

Your body is forced to make a choice between the two.  Either the oxygen (and the blood carrying it) will go to your muscles allowing you to keep your pace – which will cause you to overheat OR the blood will go to the surface of your skin to cool your body – but less oxygen will be available for your muscles which will slow your performance.  

You cannot have both, although slowing your pace is a much preferred alternative to overheating and all the problems that can cause. 

Dehydration is simply your body losing fluids while you are exercising – in the heat, this of course means sweating.  If you’ve noticed after a long run or race that you have dried salt on your face, arms and legs you probably realized that in addition to losing water you are also losing salt as well.  That is why in the summer months drinking a sports drink that contains electrolytes is so important in addition to the water you consume during a run. 

What is unnecessary during an hour of exercise in the winter becomes critical in the heat of a Texas summer.  Fact of the matter is that I rarely carry a water belt with me on runs 8 miles or less between 30 degrees and 65 degrees here in Austin.  But this time of year – anything longer than a 10K and I make sure to have water with me on every run. 

So here are one runner’s tips for running in the heat. 

1.  Know your Body:  Weigh yourself before and after your run.  Drink 16 ounces of fluids for every pound that you lose during your run.  This is not “weight loss” – this is dehydration.  Take this very seriously. 

Thursday Pre Run Weight 137 lbs.

10 K and 43 minutes later 134 lbs.

2.  Run Early:  If you are not a morning runner, you might want to become one from June-September.  Here in Austin even on the hottest summer day reaching 105 degrees will fall below 80 again overnight.  At 6:00 a.m. the temperature is rarely higher than 78.  Better still, if you can have your run completed before the sun reaches the horizon you are even further ahead of the game. 

3.  Sun Protection:  Morning running also removes the need for sunscreen if your run is shorter than an hour or so.  If you do have to run in the heat of the day, apply a sunscreen that is a “non-drip” variety.  These are designed so the sunscreen will not get into your eyes as you sweat.  SPF #15 or #20 at a minimum. 

6:04 a.m. Temp 68 degrees, humidity 94%

4.  Hydration:  During your run make sure you are drinking every 15-20 minutes.  I take a hit on my water bottle on the even numbered miles – 2, 4, 6, 8 etc. – it helps me remember to drink and gives me something to look forward to as the miles tick by.  I try to drink about 4 ounces of water per “squirt”

5.  Clothing:  Wear light-colored, technical clothing that is moisture wicking.  If you are running in cotton it will trap your sweat against your body and will not allow for evaporation – which helps cool your body.  You will also be prone to chafing as the material gets wet and heavy. 

6.  Anti-Chaffing:  Apply Body Glide or another anti-chafing product liberally and everywhere that skin meets skin.  Moisture in the form of sweat is just like running in the rain.  If you do not prepare for it properly it will lead to chafing and blisters. 

7.  Slow Down:  This is science guys, not opinion.  Less blood to your muscles = slower pace.  Don’t fight it and try to be a “hero” or “heroine” – slow down and enjoy your run.  We are out there because we love it.  Why push yourself to run a pace that your body simply isn’t able to hold comfortably?  You will enjoy your summer runs much, much more if you lower those speed expectations just a bit. 

For me it is :05-:10 seconds for every 5 degrees above 65.  If my pace per mile for an 8 mile run is typically 7:10 at 65 degrees or less, I will adjust my pace to run at 7:25 on a 77 degree morning.  I finish the run feeling the same in July as I would in November – and my fitness level is no worse for wear. 

8.   Adjustment Period:  “They” claim that it takes two weeks for the average runner to adjust to running in the heat.  That to me sounds about right – one trick however is to make sure you are also out “in the heat”, not just going from your air-conditioned environment to the running trail and back.  I make sure to do yard work and spend some time “in the heat” when I am not running to help with this adjustment. 

9.  Run Naked:  Now, now – we talked about this before.  By “naked” I mean no GPS and no iPod.  I do this every Wednesday to help me simply “enjoy being out there”.  This has helped me not be so conscious of every mile split and think about pace on every run.  Without my Garmin beeping at me every mile I simply run by feel.  

If the heat and humidity is forcing me to dial back my pace so be it.  I run by the effort I want to expend instead of by time.  If you know how a “Hard” vs. “Moderate” vs. “Easy” run is supposed to feel – you are ready to embrace “Naked Running”. 

10.  The Dreadmill:  Look, if it’s simply too damn hot out there – it is.  If you need to do a speed workout or a hard interval workout to train for a race and it is 100 degrees outside – be smart.  Last time I checked our gym it was about 70 degrees at Fitness 19.  That is definitely a better option than skipping your workout all together or even worse, putting your health at risk. 

Enjoy the summer guys!  Six months from now we’ll be here talking about the best running gloves and hats … guaranteed.

  1. jamescoyle says:

    Tip 11 – move to England. 🙂

  2. Really great post Joe! Definitely tips to keep in mind, especially about hydration! I think a lot of people for get about that. One thing I do in the summer is also make sure I have a “recovery” drink as soon as I get back home or stop running. For me, my personal fave is chocolate soymilk along with water (not mixed).

    • joerunfordom says:

      Andrea – Thanks so much for the visit! You are abosolutely right – I’m kind of addicted to the Grape Flavored G2 Gatorade right now – first thing I grab when I get in from a run these days.

      Have a great rest of your day Andrea!

  3. Naomi says:

    Thanks for writing this; its very helpful! At what distance do you carry a drink bottle? If its usually less than 6 miles, I don’t, but is there any type of general rule for this?

    • joerunfordom says:

      Hi Naomi! Thanks for visiting. Some “experts” talk about how many miles you can/should run without worrying about hydrating – others will talk about the time that you are out there. I think that both guides are helpful. For me if I can be back in under 45 minutes – I don’t carry water unless I am really pushing pace and it is an afternoon run. (Above 85 degrees).

      As long as I can get back within that 45 minute time frame – I feel pretty safe. I’m lucky that my mile splits place me at 2 miles every 14-15 minutes. So it is pretty easy for me to gauge.

      If you were running 10:00 minute miles, a 6-mile run would put you at an hour of running – at which point I would strongly recommend bringing water along or at least running on a track or trail where you know you can hit a water fountain.

      For me the threshold I’ve found to work best is 6 miles/45 minutes.

      Happy trails Naomi!

  4. What happened to 90 and 100% humidity on that temperature chart? 🙂 That’s what it is in the am here and why I run in the evening whenever possible. I use the dreadmill on summer long run days to get started around 5 pm so I can finish up outside before dark.

    • joerunfordom says:

      Richard – so good to hear from you! Was talking to my wife about you last night as we were discussing the CRBR this spring.

      Funny, I thought the same thing when I found the chart! We were at a nice cool 94% this morning here in Austin – ouch.

      Because we are so arid we have evening temperatures here still well over 90 degrees in the summer up until 11:00 p.m. – Crazy! It’s not until the “overnight” period that all that heat escapes with our very limited cloud cover. So it’s pretty much do battle with the humidity here in the a.m. – or battle the temps. in the evenings.

      Still nothing I want to be out there doing more than running. Run on my friend!

  5. onelittlejill says:

    I also hate the treadmill!!! I am a very early runner, it is my favorite time of day and most people are up yet so I feel peaceful! Your tips are great- I am addicted to body glide, would not imagine wearing cotton and I am all about SPF!!!!

    I never thought to weigh myself before/after a run. I drink so much water and always carry it with me, but I think I will weigh myself just to see! great tips!

    • joerunfordom says:

      Hi Jill! SO great to hear from you. I started weighing myself a couple of summers ago – I would get back from a run, drink a 16 ounce water and think I was “hydrated” – never did I think I would need to drink two of those and a sports drink just to get back to normal after a 5 mile run …..

      It really helps me make sure I’m taking hydrating seriously. Better still is when I can really drink a lot of water the night before a long run – that seems to help me a lot as well. Best from Austin! J

  6. Aj says:

    Our dreadmill was our best investment…not that I prefer it by any means to outdoor running. But the area we live in is not running conducive and some mornings or evenings the idea of driving to go for a run just makes no sense. And over time it turned out to be cheaper than a gym membership! Unfortunately our dreadmill is not in our one air-conditioned room, so it doesn’t serve as a heat buster…Luckily LA is a “dry heat” but that can be even more dangerous since it feels less hot and sticky. I highly recommend a pair of light weight sunglasses (Target has a million varieties that are inexpensive for those who are accident prone with their glasses). Squinting in the sun gives me headaches (and wrinkles). Also a baseball cap for those with longer hair… it holds it all back, absorbs sweat, and provides shade. Nike makes a fitted sports mesh hat that I love…light weight, breathable but very functional. Thanks for all the tips! I’ll be using them in our race this Saturday… predicting highs in the 90s! But a “dry” 90…

    • joerunfordom says:

      AJ – thanks so much for the visit! When I’ve been out to LA running I have really enjoyed the hills and temps – but I know what you mean about driving to go for a run – it’s not fun when you spend as much time commuting to your workout as you do working out ….

      Great tip on the Sunglasses – I don’t usually have to worry about the glare in the mornings, but those longer runs of mine on Sundays I tend to head East when it is still dark out and West on the way home to have the sun at my back.

  7. Brian Cass says:

    As I am moving to Arizona in two weeks, I have been doing a lot of reading on heat training over the past few weeks, as I know getting a handle on my hydration needs is going to be extremely important. I think weighing in before and after is the best advice I’ve been given as everyone’s water needs are different. I know on my running excursions in the Austin heat/humidity last week I was carrying water on all my runs. After a five mile run last Sunday I had gained 4 lbs and was nervously over hydrating. Lesson learned. On a longer run, doing that can lead to hyponatremia, which I don’t ever want to learn about first hand!

    But hyponatremia is another blog post for another day Joe!

    • joerunfordom says:

      Brian – great seeing you over the weekend. I really hope to never have any experience with hyponatremia as that is truly another very dangerous situation.

      Another great “test” Brian if you don’t have a scale handy after a workout is the “pee test”. If your urine is dark colored after a run, kind of like apple juice – you are dehydrated.

      Pale yellow or lighter – you are in good shape.

      Staying hydrated is serious stuff this time of year – you are really great about monitoring how you are feeling and the changes you are going through – just be safe, take it easy at first and you’ll have that Arizona climate figured out in no time.

      Best, J

  8. Jim in Wells says:

    Thanks for sharing Joe … two comments:

    I temporarily shed 4 pounds of water weight on most of my 8 to 12 miles even though I do hydrate regularly while running. I hydrate all day long as well. Just figure it is part of the rountine for me … course I weigh 210 now so I have a lot to lose – even if it temporary.

    “7. Slow Down:” — do you really? Just kiddin’ … I am slow. Your slow is like lighting rather then greased lighting.

    Take care and keep sharing this good stuff.


    • joerunfordom says:

      Jim – thanks so much for the visit and the message – you always make me laugh with your coments. It’s funny how a :20 or :25 second slower mile makes you think that you are not running well, when given the conditions you are moving along just fine.

      I look back on my training runs in November and all of a sudden I’m setting records over those courses – and it’s my “slower” summer training that makes those quick times possible.

      That heat is the real deal out there, definitely makes posting quick times tough and sometimes dangerous. Sounds like you do a great job staying hydrated. Best to you my friend, J

  9. Sarah says:

    Thanks for the great tips! It’s definitely been warming up lately and I notice it makes my runs a lot harder. Going to implement some of your tips and see if I can keep it moving through the heat. 🙂

    • joerunfordom says:

      Hi Sarah! Thanks so much for the visit – hope it helps as it really does “feel” a lot more difficult out there when the temperatures rise. I feel for all the runners new to the sport going through their first summer of running.

      If you’re not smart about your pace and expectations – you can really get frustrated. Best from Austin! J

  10. chanthana says:

    Great tips, Joe! Like you, I am an outdoor runner too! Our Chicago summers are not nearly as brutal as TX, but it can get stifling. Good reminder to slow your pace. I see too many people out there killing their workouts when the humidity & temps are high. I’d rather be a slow runner than an injured (or worse) runner.

    • joerunfordom says:

      Hi Chanthana! Thanks so much for the visit and comment – great to hear from you. You are so right – you guys do indeed get some steamy summers up in Chicago.

      Best of luck training for the San Fran Half and the Chicago Full – that marathon is one on my radar at some point – hope to get up there in the next few years. Best, Joe

  11. Jodi Higgins says:

    Great post Joe, especially for me after my recent dehyration ordeal in the Cleveland Marathon. And Brian mentioned hyponatremia….they actually tested me for that in the hospital. My electrolytes were out of whack because I wasn’t drinking the sports drinks at the water stops, just water. I did in fact have very mild hyponatremia which is very, very scary, the only thing that ended up with them giving me the official diagnosis of deyhdration was the fact that I had been eating sports beans during the marathon and did have some electrolytes. I have to get my follow up blood draw done today actually. And Deb and I just signed up for the Chicago 1/2 Marathon on August 1st. It starts at 6:30 AM so here’s hoping we are done before it gets too warm! I finish work on June 14th for the summer and all of my runs will be switched to morning runs before my husband leaves for work so I can be home with the kids. I have to be back no later than 7:30 AM for him to leave so it should be a nice temperature to run prior to that…it was last summer..

    • joerunfordom says:

      Hi Jodi! Thanks for the visit – I’ll tell you what, everytime I think I have this distance running thing figured out I learn something new.

      I definitely should have been hitting the sports drinks hard at Pittsburgh this year in that heat, rain and humidity. I stayed with my water plan and I’m sure now in hindsight that is why I was getting those calf cramps (Boston two weeks before didn’t help matters either I’m sure).

      Good for you and Deb regarding Chicago on Aug. 1st – you should be in pretty good shape that early – but man, Chicago can be hot in the summer – will be a good race to really incorporate your new hydration plans.

      Congrats on being done work for the summer months in another 10 days or so – that is great stuff. I think you will really enjoy the early morning runs – it gives me a ton of energy throughout the day. On my rest days I never seem to get going until 10 or 11 a.m. – on my run days, I’m all out when I get back home at 7,

      Take good care Jodi!

  12. Jodi Higgins says:

    And Joe, I wanted to ask…is it okay if I list your tips on my blog? I will definitely give credit where credit is due and include your blog website. I just think we need to make sure everyone knows about the dangers and the more people that put it on their blog the better. If you would rather I didn’t, I completely understand. I wanted to ask your permission first.

    • joerunfordom says:

      Hi Jodi! No worries at all – feel free to post and link as you would like – this is serious stuff to deal with this time of year – the more we can get the word out to help new and experienced runners deal with the heat the better.

      Take good care! Joe

  13. Jodi Higgins says:

    Thanks Joe! I linked to your hydration post on my blog a few minutes ago. I haven’t yet figured out how to just type your name to link to you so I had to click on the post and copy and paste the web address for that post. Maybe someday I will figure out the other way! 🙂

  14. Tricia says:

    THANK YOU! for this! I’m saving it for future reference although…growing up in Austin and now living in S. Florida you would think I’d have the hydration thing down, but alas I have a lot of room for improvement.

    • joerunfordom says:

      Tricia – thank you for the visit and the message – you are very welcome on the tips for running in the heat – I have to remind myself of a few of these each and every summer. Best from Austin! J

  15. Tom says:

    Joe, thanks for a great blog post. I’m also an Austin runner, but this is my first year. I am in a bit of a funk because of my “blah” run this morning in the heat; neither me nor my dog wanted to go a step past four, on my planned 9-miler. It’s really helped to read this. I’ve also picked up a stationary bike to work in a day of cross-training each week of the summer. This, to save my middle-aged legs from the pounding once a week, and to work some new muscles while recovering my run ones. I’m feeling less alone, reading this post an all the comments.

    • joerunfordom says:

      Tom – thanks so much for the visit and the message! Welcome to the Austin-runner community – this is really a wonderful city for running enthusiasts with a great network. So great to hear you have joined the ranks! These conditions really make runs over 4-5 miles challenging and hydration really becomes critical.

      It will make those fall and winter runs feel like a breeze once we get back to our lower humidity and cooler temps. Don’t fret too much over mile times and splits – just slow ‘er down and enjoy the time outside doing what we love to do. If you have to cut short a run or two – no problem and no shame in that at all for you or your companion.

      I think you will really like the bike – in training for Boston this year I went down to 4 run days a week (from 5) and added a day on the bike and I ran well and saved my “early-forties” legs quite a bit so I could train hard when I was really “training”. Best wishes and keep cool out there!

  16. […] to pursue barefoot or minimalist running – ack yet another post to come!) . this post on Joe Runs for Dom has good tips for hydration when running in the heat (plus read about how he’s running […]

  17. thanks for posting, I really enjoy it, I can learn a lot from this.

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