Running in a heatwave – top tips and advice

running in a heatwave

As the weather heats up, it can be hard to keep up with a regular running routine. Running in the heat and during a heatwave isn’t the same as running on cooler days. Your body has to work a lot harder for a start, so expect to have to carry more water and run a little slower. 

We’ve put together our top tips to help you keep running in a heatwave. This advice is also relevant if you’re running on holiday, in a warmer climate than you’re used to.

This article contains affiliate links that help to support Run Deep.

Adapt your clothing

What you wear when you run can have a lot to do with how hot you feel. Choose your running clothes wisely if you’re heading out while the sun’s up. Wear loose-fitting, technical fabrics. This isn’t the time for your favourite black compression shorts. Black will make you feel warmer and the compression technology pushing against your skin is doing you no favours.

Good running gear is moisture-wicking, so it pulls sweat away from your skin to stop you overheating. A t-shirt can be better than a vest if it’s really sunny, as it helps cover your skin. Sunburn is a surefire way to make running in the summer unbearable and a serious health risk.

Shop White Star Clothing vests

Shop White Star Clothing t-shirts

Don’t forget to add something to cover your face and eyes. Some runners like sunglasses, which are especially good if you suffer from hayfever too (summer really is the gift that keeps on giving for some of us). A visor is a good shout, as it keeps your face in shadow but keeps your head free to expel excess heat. Stick to lighter colours as much as possible too.

Read our guide to the best sunglasses for runners

Always wear sunscreen when running in a heatwave

As Baz Luhrmann said…

If I could offer you only one tip for the future, sunscreen would be it.
The long-term benefits of sunscreen have been proved by scientists…”

We can’t say this enough. If you’re out in the sun for a long period of time, wear sunscreen. A really good one that is designed for sports or is water/sweat resistant. Normal sunscreens can sometimes make your overheat as they don’t let the sweat escape, and as you warm up they can feel slimy. Put it on 20 minutes before your run to let it sink in, and apply before dressing so you know you’ve covered everything. This is definitely a top rule for running in a heatwave.

Last update on 2022-09-15 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Water and salts

When you sweat a lot, you will lose two important things in your sweat: water and salts. You should aim to be hydrated the whole time, rather than heading into your run without enough water in your system and trying to catch up as you run. Drink around two litres every day; maybe even more in warmer weather. Carry water on every run, even if you don’t usually. At the very least, grab a little cash just in case you need to make an emergency supermarket stop.

Sports drinks are packed with electrolytes, which are essentially the salts you are losing when you sweat. Consider adding an electrolyte tablet to your water for running or pick a specially designed hydration sports drink. Don’t down your water either; keep steadily sipping it as you go to stay hydrated.

SIS Go Hydro| Zero Sugar| Effervescent Electrolyte Tablets| For improved hydration & recovery | Suitable for Vegans & Vegetarians| Berry flavoured | 20 tablets
  • Go Hydro is designed to ensure you are effectively hydrated to produce your most ideal performance. As an...
  • Go Hydro meets your sodium requirements at a specific concentration (30 mmol/Litre) that is scientifically...
Dextro Energy Zero Calories Recovery & Hydration Electrolyte Drink I Zero Tablets
  • ZERO CALORIES SPORT DRINK - fruity electrolyte drink that is low in carbohydrates. Ideal for shorter workouts...
  • FAST RECOVERY and HYDRATION - Dextro Energy Zero Calories are the tasty alternative to water and sugary soft...

Last update on 2022-09-15 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Pick your time to run in a heatwave

It’s not always possible to choose when you get to run, but if you can, try and avoid the hottest parts of the day. Normally this is considered to be from noon until 4pm, however this varies depending on where in the world you are.

Getting out first thing in the morning is your best bet, as the sun hasn’t had time to reach its maximum capacity. You will find it easier to run at this time, but if you’re not usually a morning runner, it might take a few goes to find your natural rhythm when it comes to eating and fuelling up. If you have a shower at work, you could run to work, shower and know that your training is over and done with.

Choose cooler routes

Running on the roads is going to be the hottest. The pavements will be throwing the heat back up at you, and when you’re surrounded by buildings, you will find the heat trapped on the streets. If you have any chest problems, the combination of air pollution and hot weather can cause problems.

Now is the perfect time to get off-road. Many parks, forests and river paths will enable you to run partially in the shade, which will make your run feel so much easier. If you can get near the water, the sea breeze could also help to cool you down.

Don’t start hot when running in a heatwave

If you are already boiling hot before you even go out for your run, your body temperature will rocket  quickly. Try and get cool before your run so you start with a lower core temperature. Stick water bottles in the freezer. Your water will defrost as you go and at least you won’t have to drink hot water too early in your run.

Racing in hot weather

Okay, so this one isn’t relevant at the current time in the UK, with races cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic. However, it’s worth having a hot-weather plan in place in case a race does coincide with a heatwave in the future. Or maybe you’re taking part in a virtual race and are planning to push yourself.

You can’t adjust the time of your race to suit the coolest parts of the day. All you can do is prepare for the worst and hope for the best. Make sure you know what kit you are running in and try it out. If something chafes on race day and you’re hot and sweaty, you’re going to feel that pain.

Plan to carry your own water, rather than relying on just the aid stations. And also plan how you’re going to carry that water. Research where drinks stations will be positioned, so you can top up as needed. Make sure you have electrolytes on you and consider carrying salt tablets, particularly if you are prone to cramps or excess swelling.

Something like Tailwind can cover your nutritional and salt needs in one go.

Adjust your expectations of the day and accept that you’ll likely have to go slower than planned. If you can, start to acclimatise to the weather and get out for a few practice runs to test your tolerance, kit and hydration choices.

Finally, just try and enjoy it. There will be other races, other summers and plenty more cooler weather ahead!