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Ways to keep cool during the dog days of summer
There’s a lot of that in here
We really went deep to give you our favorite hacks for keeping cool
All winter long, we complain about the wind and the cold, the snow and the sleet, telling ourselves we can’t wait to run shirtless or in sports bras, basking in the summer sun. And then summer is here. Can it be winter already?
Of course, some of you have zero issues, no matter the time of year (we’re looking at you, Bay Area residents). Meanwhile, those of us East of the Mississippi and south of the Mason Dixon are taking outdoor baths in a mix of sweat and humidity, and we’re not even talking about Texas and Florida, aka the broiler racks of America.
Some of you are smart and actually have treadmills or gym memberships for days when the mercury melts; the rest of us are either stubborn, poor, or a combination of both, insisting on enduring the elements. This post is for us. While it may not be an exhaustive list of tips and tricks, it should be enough to keep you as comfortable as possible from June to August.
And we’re always welcome to hear your advice, so please leave it in the comments below.
This may go without saying, but shade is your biggest friend on those days when the sun is fixing to go ten rounds in the octagon. Find it wherever you can. That may mean driving to a shaded rail trail or incorporating more trail running. For those living in an urban area in the morning or afternoon when the sun isn’t directly overhead, plan your route going north or south within the city so you can stay in the shade of the buildings.
If you live in the middle of Iowa farmland or the outskirts of Abilene… okay, yeah we have nothing, other than running in a parking garage (also a great way to get hills in flat areas) or trail running through rows of cornfields (watch out for groundhog holes).
Robbe claims that running in the longitudinal shade of light posts is better than nothing at all, but the jury’s still out on whether looking like a weirdo is worth the 15% extra shade on an afternoon run.
This goes without saying, but the lighter and more breathable your run apparel, the cooler you will be. Depending on the apparel, it may cost you, but trust us– the ventilation in some of the elite singlets just can’t be beat.
We recently saw a post on Instagram that compared the temperatures of white vs. black clothing in the summer sun, and the visual alone should be enough to convince you– wear more white (the surface temperatures were like 20F different). It absorbs less heat than darker materials, less heat equals less heart rate, less heart rate equals less hot. It’s science.
For all you self-conscious fellas– now is the time to scrap the 7-inch short and embrace the 3-inch (or shorter) short shorts. Nobody will judge you, trust us. And if they do, they’re inside their air conditioned car, living that soft life, so go loud and go proud.
Also, it’s Legion season, so make sure you pick up one of our favorite Legionnaire style of hats to give you the most protection possible from the sun while keeping you cool. Everyone’s doing it.
Of course, a good pair of shades is a must-have for summer running, so make sure you check out our list of Best Running Sunglasses.
We probably shouldn’t need to say this, but we will since most of you are doing it wrong. No, you just don’t need a lot of water, or worse yet– only drink when you’re thirsty. You need sodium– lots of it. And all the other electrolytes, too. Before, during, and after a workout. Even the night before a long run.
Your body is losing so much during hot and humid days that you simply can’t replace those losses without taking in extra electrolytes. Prep properly and maintain continually. Because when your body loses sodium, your heart rate increases, which increases your core temperature. Staying hydrated will keep you cooler and aid in your performance and recovery.
Make sure you check out our Best Hydration for Runners list and pick up something to get the job done.
We’ve tested a ton of different drink mixes here at Believe in the Run. Here are our top hydration mixes, broken down by usage, and comparing electrolyte and nutrition aspects of each.
This may go without saying, but a 90-degree day smack in the middle of a heat wave is probably not the best time to crank out 5K intervals. If you must, you must, but the goal is to get time on feet, not to push the pace. Even if you’re not doing a workout, your goal should be keeping the heart rate low on days when the mercury is busting through the ceiling. Now is a good time to embrace that zone 2 training to maintain some semblance of cool.
There are plenty of ways to carry water these days. Whichever way you choose, at least carry something on any run longer than 45 minutes. For 10-mile runs, this may just mean a 16-24 oz. handheld (we recommend the Nathan Quicksqueeze insulated bottle, really the only solid handheld on the market).
For those longer runs without water stops, invest in a hydration vest. Yes, it’s an extra layer, but you can fill the back and chest pockets with ice, plus it can carry as much water as you want, whether in a bladder or soft flasks carried in front. We recommend the Camelbak Zephyr Pro or the Nathan VaporAir & VaporAiress, or the Ultimate Direction Ultra Vesta 6.0 if you’re looking for something ultralight.
This tip is mostly for those of you starting fall marathon training, but strategically incorporating water/hydration stops in your long run will go a long way to keep you feeling strong. If you’re in an urban area, plan your route to include water fountains or places to refill your handheld (i.e. restaurants like Panera Bread or McDonald’s).
Alternatively, instead of doing one long point-to-point long run, turn it into two loops with a midway stop at your car or house where you can refuel on drinks, ice, and even change into dry clothes (or race day shoes). Looking forward to a chilled beverage halfway through a run is a nice carrot on a stick and really boosts the morale for the second half.
Anything that has a pocket or can turn into a pocket can be used to store ice. This includes, but is not limited to: bandanas, hats, sports bras, hydration vests, shorts, arm sleeves, etc. It makes a big difference and lasts longer than you think.
There’s this weird thing with runners that I genuinely don’t understand: their aversion to running in rain. Doesn’t matter what season, how cold or how hot, a lot of runners just won’t run in the rain. If this is you, you need to start– now.
Running in a downpour is a surefire way to stay cool. Plus it makes you feel way more hardcore, and that counts for something. The only downside is heavier running shoes, but if you wear a lightweight pair that’s fairly breathable, it keeps the whole thing break even.
All these depend on where you live and your access to them, but they work in a pinch. If you’re trail running, you’ll probably encounter a creek at some point. Nobody has ever cared about someone’s pace on a trail, so we can assure you it’s cool to stop for five minutes and take a dip in a cold mountain creek. There’s just nothing better on a sweltering hot day.
⌁ Dunk your hat in a water fountain, whether that’s a sink inside of a McDonald’s, an actual fountain where people throw coins and stuff, or basically any body of water. Having a cool layer of shade on your dome will work wonders in the short term.
⌁ Bring a credit card. When you’re 12 miles into the shittiest and hottest long run of your summer training, pulling into a 7-Eleven and crushing an ice-cold 32-ounce Gatorade Frost is a life-changing event.
⌁ Don’t forget to use Body Glide. It’s chafe city out there, so take care of those areas before the run or regret it later in the shower.
Have a cooler with a six-pack of ice cold Modelos and fresh-cut limes waiting for you after the run. There’s nothing better on a summer evening after a run. Not a drinker? Substitute with Coke (the soda).
Need eyewear recommendations?
We’re always trying to keep the UV down, while keeping the style factor up. Check out our list of favorite running sunglasses right now.
Robbe is the senior editor of Believe in the Run. He loves going on weird routes through Baltimore, finding trash on the ground, and running with the Faster Bastards. At home in the city, but country at heart. Loves his two boys more than anything. Has the weakest ankles in the game.More from Robbe