Summer is coming: Six tips for hot weather training and hiking

Summer is coming. (Wikipedia Commons photo)

Summer is coming. (Wikipedia Commons photo)

After what was a long and pretty cold winter, a bunch of us eagerly greeted the warmer temperatures of spring.

But here on the Southern Plains, it hasn’t taken long for summer to remind us of its approach. I’ve had a few runs where temperatures edged ever closer to 90 degrees. In the southwestern part of my home state, more than a few 100-degree days have been recorded.

This can make for some pretty uncomfortable hikes and downright miserable training conditions. And if you’re unprepared, high temps and strenuous activity can be dangerous.

But I also believe that training in harsh conditions can give you an extra gear of toughness that training in favorable conditions cannot.

This got me to thinking of a few things I’ve learned about training and exercising in the heat. So for what it’s worth, here goes:

1. Hydrate. A lot. Before you go to bed, drink some water. When you get up, drink some more. And throughout the day running up to your workout or big outing, be drinking more water. Bring some with you (hand-held water bottle, hip belt or hydration pack) or be sure your route has drinking fountains available. Don’t wait until you crash to stop for a water break. Heat-related illnesses and dehydration are no joke. Is a gallon a day excessive? Not if it’s summer and you’re outside working hard.

2. Shade your face. A ball cap or even a wide-rimmed hat will help you keep a little shade on your face and direct sun off your head. If it’s a moisture-wicking cap, it will help you stay cool.

3. If you can, pick routes/places with trees. I love trail running, and many of my trails are in wooded areas. You’ll lose some of the breeze in the woods, but the shade will help keep you cooler.

4. Pace yourself. Your body will not be able to maintain the same intensity at 98 degrees as it does at 78 degrees. But you will still be working hard, and that’s what you’re going for — putting in some hard work. Which leads me to the next point…

5. Watch your heart rate. Whether it’s just listening to your body or wearing a heart-rate monitor, those beats-per-minute will be very telling in terms of how hard your body is working. In the winter, you burn more calories because your body is trying hard to keep your core temperature up. But in the summer, it’s fighting — and losing — the battle to keep you cool. If your pulse is pounding in your temples at 180 bpm or more, maybe it’s time to slow down. No shame in that.

6. Take care of your skin. Got sunscreen? Use it. This is especially important on long hikes and anything near/on the water. SPF 30 or higher.

Those are a few ideas from me. What about you? Share your hot-weather training tips in the comments. I’d love to get some input.

Bob Doucette


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