I live in Atlanta, so I know all about running in the heat. And you know what? It's not so bad. In fact, if you're smart about it and make some adjustments, summer is a great time of year for running. Even in the muggy South.
And I'm not the only one who thinks this way. You should see how crowded the streets and trails get here in the summertime, especially in the mornings. Which leads me to my first of 20 tips to make summer running fun.
More: 10 Tips for Hot Summer Runs
1. Try Running Early in the Morning
It's the coolest, most serene part of the day, and there's nothing like a morning run to boost your mood all day long.
2. Run Whenever
Maybe the morning doesn't work for you. Fine. The long daylight hours make for lots of other options. Meet with a group several evenings each week and save lunchtime for solo runs. Maybe an occasional morning run wouldn't be so awful. Try it and see. Running in winter is more confining simply because there's so little daylight time. Not so in summer.
3. Drink Like Crazy
Even if you don't feel thirsty, drink at least 8 oz. of fluid each hour, and more if you're outside or tend to perspire a lot. You'll run better with adequate fluid intake, and you'll feel better, too. By keeping your water storage high, you'll also improve your body's cooling mechanisms.
More: The Truth About Hydration in the Heat
4. Acclimate With Care
You need to acclimate to the heat in a safe and gradual manner, not haphazardly. For the first two weeks of hot weather, do no speed sessions and keep your midday running bouts to 30 easy minutes at most. (You can go longer on cool mornings or evenings.) In 10 days to two weeks, you should be fully acclimated.
5. Go Light and Loose
Wear light-colored, loose-fitting clothing. The former will reflect the sun's rays better; the latter will enable you to take advantage of any breeze, including the one you make by running. The new sports-specific synthetics are better than cotton, too. They stay drier and wick moisture better than natural fibers do.
6. Screen it Out
To protect yourself from skin cancer and other skin damage, use sunscreen liberally. Do so even on partly cloudy days; harmful ultraviolet rays are not blocked by cloud cover. Another benefit: Sunscreen can decrease your skin and body temperatures, so you'll stay cooler during exercise.
More: 7 Ways to Beat the Summer Heat
7. Join a Running Club
This is a good tip year-round, but running clubs are especially active in summer. Long group runs on the weekend, evening speed sessions during the week, social nights. You'll love the energy and camaraderie of a running club.
8. Maximize Head Room
You lose a major portion of body heat through your head, which is bad in winter but good in summer. So on hot days, don't cover your noggin tightly with a hat. Cover it, for sure, but with a loose-fitting hat, preferably made of mesh or some other breathable material.
9. Pour It on
There's nothing like the psychological relief of pouring cold water over your head on a hot run. But don't depend on it to keep your body temperature down, because it won't. To help you do that, you need to drink the water.
10. Go Out and About
Once every couple of weeks, schedule a run at a nearby park, nature trail or historical park. Bring the family along or go with a running friend or two. Take a picnic with you for after the run, then do some sightseeing.
11. Start Slowly
I'm a big proponent of doing this in all seasons, but starting your run slowly is particularly beneficial on hot days. The slower you start, the longer you'll keep your body heat from reaching the misery threshold. If you normally run at an eight-minute mile pace, for example, do your first mile at a 10-minute pace.
More: What You Need to Know About Runner Hydration