People are often surprised to hear that I haven’t always been a runner, but it’s true. I’m not athletic or even very coordinated. I never played a sport in school, and I don’t even really like the outdoors all that much — although I’ve gained an appreciate for it after years of running.
I tried running for exercise off and on throughout my life, but it never really stuck until I was well into my 30s — almost 40, actually. But, I’ve been running fairly consistently ever since.
My longest distance was a half-marathon back in 2013, and I don’t expect to ever run that far again, but I do enjoy hitting the pavement for several miles a few days a week. It’s my thinking time, and the best way I know to clear the cobwebs in my head, plus those endorphins are no joke. I miss it terribly when I take more than a few days off.
I always struggle a bit to make it through the winter, but since the weather has warmed up, I’ve been getting out more consistently. While I much prefer running in warm weather, summer running still has its fair share of challenges. The heat and humidity can really take a toll on you, so if you want to be consistent about running outside during the summertime, these are some of my best tips.
#1. Hydration is key. What you eat and drink the day before you run matters. A lot. I try to drink the recommended 64 ounces of water every day, but especially the days when I plan to run the following morning.
That’s usually enough to sustain me for several miles, but if you plan to run more than 5 miles in the heat, a hydration belt is helpful to have. Or I’ve been known to plant a water bottle along my route, if it’s one where I plan to make several loops.
#2. Consistency matters. This is true for any exercise program, but the more consistent you are, the less likely you are to get injured. I try to block out time on my calendar to help me make the time on a regular basis.
#3. Go early (or late). In the summer months, I try to get outside before the sun is very high in the sky, to avoid the hottest part of the day. Evening works too, but for me, if it doesn’t happen in the morning, it won’t happen. Again, blocking out the time on my calendar is key to making it happen.
#4. Invest in proper gear. Wearing lightweight, moisture-wicking fabrics will help prevent overheating when you work up a sweat, and they also keep you from getting a chill when cooling off afterwards. Chafing can also be an issue in the summer heat, so look for garments with flat-lock seaming and tag-less designs for optimal comfort.
I recently updated my summer running gear at Nordstrom. I picked up a couple of running tanks and these running shorts. I like how this Sweaty Betty running tank is cut with a looser fit to skim the body without being too voluminous. The moisture-wicking fabric and breathable mesh panels help keep you cool and comfortable in the summer heat.
I also picked up this Nike Dri-FIT training tank. It’s also loose-fitting and made of moisture-wicking fabric; plus, the antimicrobial fabric inhibits the growth of odor-causing germs.
I used to run in bike shorts, but I discovered good old-fashioned nylon running shorts last summer, and now they’re my go-to. These stretchy, moisture-wicking Brooks Chaser Running shorts have a wide waistband and jersey liner that doesn’t ride up or bunch.
It’s hard to find running shorts with a higher rise, but these have an 11 1/2″ front rise, so they don’t give me that dreaded muffin top. There are also two interior pockets and a back hidden-zip pocket for your key or license. For size reference, I sized up to a medium in both of the tanks and the shorts.
#5. Create a good playlist. I can’t run without music. I have a Running Playlist that keeps me energized and motivated. I add to it regularly, and swap out older songs for newer tunes so it doesn’t get stale.
Everyone is different, so pick songs that speak to YOU and make you want to push through when you’re feeling hot and tired and ready to quit.
#6. Replace your shoes regularly. I track the wear and tear on my running shoes with my Runkeeper app, but basically, you should probably replace your running shoes every 400-500 miles. You can also take a look at the treads for signs of wear, or press your thumb into the midsole — if it feels tough rather than slightly spongy, it means the cushioning has compressed and no longer offers proper support.
Everyone has different needs, and Nordstrom has a good selection of running shoes from a variety of popular brands. I’m personally a huge fan of the Brooks Ghost neutral running shoes. They’re designed for road running so they have a lot of cushion and support. I’ve also worn the Saucony Guide, and I was happy with those as well.
#7. Don’t forget to stretch. I’ve been plagued by various injuries during my running career, and I can usually track those back to inconsistency or lack of proper stretching. When blocking off time on your calendar for your run, be sure to schedule enough time to gather your gear, get your run in, and thoroughly stretch out afterwards.
I don’t like to stretch cold muscles before I run, but warming up with a walk or active stretching is helpful to preventing injury, and that will also help you feel better during your run.
And of course most of these tips apply to walking or biking or hiking, or whatever warm weather outdoor activity you prefer. How do you like to stay active and fit in the summertime?
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photos: Alison Cornell