Born and raised in Florida, I still have to get used to running, as the heat and humidity sets in across our state every June. We may have it especially bad down here but everyone across the country has to deal with it to some degree!

First, you should know that the human body has an inherent ability to adapt to heat, but our systems can get overloaded when:

  • There is excessive heat and humidity (Thanks, Florida!)
  • A runner isn’t overall conditioned properly
  • A runner has introduced heat too rapidly
  • A runner is dehydrated

Also, there are different levels of heat illness(1):

  • Mild heat illness commonly consists of fatigue, weakness and headache and is treated by getting out of the sun, resting and hydrating.  
  • Heat Exhaustion brings in nausea and vomiting and treatments include cooling with ice packs.  
  • Heatstroke, is a true medical emergency. Symptoms include inappropriate behavior, frank psychosis, and possible coma. Treatment includes preventing, then prompt recognition and rapid cooling.  

So here are the 5 most important tips for preventing overheating and successful running this summer.

  1. Train Properly

Just general fitness that is appropriate for the desired pace/distance helps greatly with preventing heat illness.  Enough said. Please train properly! Get a coach if you’re unsure of how well you’re training.

  1. Acclimate

Experts in the field of sports medicine recommend a minimum of 10-14 days of exercise training in heat to help prevent heat illness. Treat it like elevation: Would you run a mountain marathon without training some elevation first?

  1. Strip it down

Don’t wear what you don’t have to wear! Loose fitting, light-colored, wicking clothing is best. Check out Lululemon’s metal vent tech short sleeve T-shirt. Extremely breathable and the vented back is awesome for a run in the heat.

  1. Drink it up

Develop a customized fluid replacement program for yourself. Only you will ultimately know how and when to replace fluids.  Here’s what I do: First, I make sure I am pre-race hydrated. This takes some planning ahead.  During running, I carry a fuel belt and fill half with water and half with a drink with electrolytes and carbohydrates (sports drink, coconut water, 100% juice, etc.). I drink when just mildly thirsty. The heat ensures I’ll feel some thirst. You cannot afford to ignore this internal warning system. Post race, I hydrate as much as I did pre-race.

  1. Hide from the Cruel Sun

Best way to avoid heat illness from the sun? Avoid it all together. Impossible? OK, then just compromise by not running between 10 am-4 pm. Hey, it makes your day feel great when you run first thing anyway! Still difficult? Pick a shaded path or simply succumb to the dreaded treadmill.

1.  Halperin JS, Khan KK, Hess CJ.  “Environmental Injuries.” Running Medicine. 2ed. Ed. Wilder R, O’Conner F, Magrum E. Monterey: Healthy Learning, 2014. 646-664.

Dr. Eric Schweitzer, DPT

Founder at IdealRun
Doctor of Physical Therapy, author, professor, runner and triathlete – has practiced physical therapy for more than 15 years.He runs a successful physical therapy practice, Premier Physical Therapy, located in Clearwater, Florida and is the founder of IdealRun a personalized online running gait analysis.
Dr. Eric Schweitzer, DPT

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