The clichéd triple H effect — heat, haziness, and humidity — has rolled into the Philadelphia area, confirming that yes, it truly is summer. And while kids flock to community pools, outdoor runners might feel inclined to head to the nearest air-conditioned cardio gym. But don’t be in a hurry to ditch the trails or asphalt for the treadmill — at least not for the entire season. Smart planning and a few supplies can keep your beloved outdoor runs a go.
Follow these six tips to keep your summer runs cool:
- Hydrate before, during and after your run. Those eight or so glasses of water you typically strive for each day are great, but when you plan to go sweating through a few miles in higher temps, you need more to make up for all the water you’ll be losing. Exactly how much? Well, that depends on several fitness and training factors — your body weight, your run length, the temperature and humidity that day, etc. Check out this Runner’s World guide to hydration for more tips on what and how much water to reach for before you hit the road.
- Choose your time wisely. Early riser? Those first moments of sunlight aren’t only a gorgeous backdrop for a run, but they’re also some of the coolest times to run. Same goes for running at twilight. Try to avoid running during the most heated times of the day (10 a.m. to 3 p.m. in Philadelphia) to prevent the risk of dehydration or other heat-related injuries such as heat cramps, heat exhaustion, or a heat stroke. If you really prefer a mid-day run, find a nearby gym or a fitness facility with an indoor track or treadmill.
- Pick the right destination. Running aimlessly may help you clear your head, but planning your route with purpose can pay off on hot summer days. Instead run along Kelly Drive, or on the Schuylkill River Boardwalk, or down the up-and-coming piers on Columbus Boulevard. What do they have in common besides some of the best scenery in Philadelphia? Water! Areas near the water tend to have slightly lower temperatures and cooling breezes. Plus, just seeing the water can be mentally refreshing. Also, try to plan your routes along shaded areas to reduce the beaming heat from the sun.
- Protect yourself. If you’re outside in the sun — running or otherwise — you need to be sun safe. Invest in SPF-treated running gear, wear a light colored hat, slather on sunscreen (remember scalp, nose and ears!), and wear protective sunglasses to help protect your entire body from UVA and UVB rays.
- Join the club. Need a little motivation to keep you going during those sweltering summer running sessions? The community and energy of a running club could be the ticket. Our corporate running group, the IBX Blue Streaks, has made a big difference for many IBX associates, and the city is full of passionate groups welcoming runners of all abilities and styles. Find your pack with this guide to Philly-area running clubs from Be Well Philly. The other bonus of being a part of a running club is participation in the Philadelphia Mayor’s Cup, the inaugural running club championship – a day of five races happening in August.
- Know your limits. First, and most importantly, you will need to slow your pace — it’s not always a race! Be prepared to take short breaks to walk, catch your breath, or cool down, too. If meteorologists are shouting terms like “excessive heat warning,” it might be a good idea to pay attention and head indoors for your daily run. If you do venture out, know the signs of heat exposure — like severe cramps, fatigue, and nausea — and listen to them.
Yes, running in the heat is harder. But if you train smart and keep yourself safe, you’ll not only keep up one of your favorite ways to exercise, you’ll be a stronger runner for it! Studies have shown that athletes who train through heat not only teach their bodies to tolerate the heat better, but they improve their performance. So grab that water and let’s run this town before summer runs out!