Gotta’ Run: Making the most of your hot weather run or walk

Published 12:00 am Saturday, July 6, 2024

Two of my own favorite running stories and my best biking story involve extreme weather. I haven’t been afraid of extreme weather on the run but sometimes determination can override common sense. I worked for a winter, December through mid-March, in Green Bay, Wisconsin. I had no idea about real cold until we walked off the plane not properly dressed for a 20-below-zero wind chill factor on a December morning.

I had packed my running clothes, not enough of them, but desperately wanted to keep up my running while there. A new company friend was a runner, too, and helped me with proper gear. Good thing he did, because I survived a 5-mile run in 40-below wind chill. Locals said, “Don’t even try it, your skin will freeze!” It didn’t but thankfully I was much faster then and was only outside for about 35 minutes.

We’ll not see that kind of cold here, but the heat has been the source of much running discussion the last week and more is ahead. I don’t care for the hot and humid days either, but any day with a run (and now with a walk) is better than the alternative. Here are a few tips worth sharing on keeping your daily run or walk going. Most runners and walkers head out with a goal pace or distance in mind and are willing to compromise on one or the other. On a hot and humid run, it’s better to be willing to compromise on both.

I’m a morning runner or walker and I try to get the best temperature of the day for summertime exercise. But the trade off is that early morning exercise has potentially the highest humidity in the summer. High humidity, a nearly everyday companion in the summer South, can be a real anchor. Hot humid air feels thicker due to the amount of moisture in the air. Your body then must work harder to breathe. This makes you feel short of oxygen, which not only increases heart rate further but makes your effort feel harder. Sometimes I tell others that I just had “nothing” on my run. If this is the case, try switching to run/walk intervals or slowing down to allow your body to take in more oxygen, particularly if the humidity is so high the sweat just won’t evaporate off your arms. Dial it back and you’ll still get a good workout.

Your workout is likely doomed in these conditions if you haven’t hydrated. The worst and hardest workouts of the year can come on a warm and humid day especially if your hydration goals aren’t met. I find best results with emphasis on building hydration late in the evening and through the night. Some people say, “I don’t want to get up late at night to pee.” A serious runner or walker would be OK with getting up a couple of times, drinking enough so his or her pee is clear, the only proof that hydration has been achieved.

I have often lost 3-5 pounds on a long summer run and every bit of it is sweat loss. One thing I tell my beginning runners classes about hydration, “Without proper hydration, your workouts will be much harder.” Simple water and summertime fruit will achieve proper hydration for most runners and walkers. Keep drinking!

Whether you run early morning or not, don’t stop because its hot. Find shade if you must run during the day. Don’t be afraid to get up at 4 a.m. to run in the dark, usually the coolest times. Wear light dri-fit clothing and socks, never cotton which will collect your sweat. Use a treadmill if you must, but don’t stop running.

Rowan’s next 5K is the Run for the Greenway 5K and Fun Run at the former Knox Middle School site. We just changed the course for a downhill start and a flat finish. I hope to see you there, runners and walkers all.

Look for this 5K and other events at