Keeping Your Cool While Running Outdoors

With summer officially here, an early trail run or a warm, evening jog along the beach with the lasting daylight can make it a lot easier to fit some exercise into the hectic daily routine.


And, even for the most die-hard indoor exercisers, with the allure of inviting weather, adding some outdoor training can provide a nice balance to your current regime, especially for those runners out there.


I, for one, love a good run on the treadmill. The ease of being able to choose a pace and stick with it makes it perfect for doing a speed specific workout; the conditions are fixed and there’s no need to focus on stopping at traffic lights or rolling an ankle by stepping too quickly off a curb. But, by only running on the tread, you’re putting yourself at a disadvantage. Every foot strike is identical. Without variance to the running surface, overuse issues can begin to develop.


Further, treadmill running is quite different from outdoor running. Physical Therapist Dr. Jamey Schrier explains it best: when you’re on a treadmill, the surface moves under our feet, whereas outside, our feet move over the pavement or ground, causing the body to work differently.1


So, must we nix the tread? Not by a long shot! But here’s your chance to add some variety into the mix! By combining treadmill work, trail running, some track sets, and avoiding running on pavement or cement as much as possible, we hedge our bets to stay injury free, thus allowing the progression to become fitter and faster as runners.


With the increased opportunity to get outside and sweat, there are a few factors we need to address before transitioning into the great outdoors, even if your great outdoors happen to consist of an urban jungle.


The most obvious is temperature. That comfortable, aerobic pace you’re used to holding in the air conditioned gym can seem far more challenging when you add in heat and humidity. It’s one thing to be slightly uncomfortable, but the consequence of overdoing it before you’re ready can be deadly. Heat stroke is the most serious form of heat injury, and considered a medical emergency when it can kill or cause damage to the brain and other internal organs. Although heat stroke mainly affects people over age 50, it also takes a toll on healthy young athletes.2


Give yourself time to adjust. It takes about two weeks for your body to adapt to the heat and cool itself more efficiently. Slow your pace and reduce your intensity and get the run in rather than pushing through it. Doing so will allow you to more efficiently acclimate and continue to run. Your body will gradually become better at cooling itself in the warmer weather allowing you to continue to run at your normal pace.3


Don’t forget to factor in nutrition and hydration, as well as sweat rate. As the body becomes more efficient at using fat for fuel, demand for water and sodium increase.4 This makes it even more important to properly balance water intake with electrolytes to avoid hyponatremia, a condition that occurs when the level of sodium in the blood is too low.


Refer the American College of Sports Medicine guidelines for an easy way to begin assessing your own sweat rate and subsequent need for replenishment:5


Sweat Rate = (A + B) ÷ C, where


A = Pre-exercise body weight – Post-exercise body weight, recorded in ounces. (1 lb. = 16 oz.)

B = Fluid Consumed During Exercise, recorded in ounces. (1 cup = 8 oz; 1 gulp = about 1 oz)

C = Exercise Duration, recorded in hours. (40 min = .66 hr)


An equally important consideration is something we have less control over – our interaction with traffic.   While there is no there is no national database on runner-vehicle collisions, an estimated 4,000 pedestrians die from crash-related injuries each year in the United States, according to the CDC.6 All the more reason to run sans music in order to be more alert to your surroundings!


The pros of running outdoors far outweigh the risks. There’s nothing more therapeutic, energizing, and invigorating, in my opinion, than starting your day with a run. No matter where you are, with no gear needed (although shoes can certainly come in handy), running and walking are two of the most intuitive forms of movement to us as bipedal creatures. All it takes is a little time to adapt to climate and mental focus to keep alert and you’ll set yourself up for a lifetime of being able to partake in an incredible form of movement for the long run.




[1] “Is the Treadmill Really Bad for You?” Washingtonian. N.p., 01 Feb. 2012. Web. 23 June 2015.

[2] “Heat Stroke: Symptoms and Treatment.” WebMD. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 June 2015.

[3] “The Beginner’s Guide to Running in the Heat.” Health News / Tips & Trends / Celebrity Health. N.p., 27 June 2014. Web. 23 June 2015.

[4] “Art and Science of Low Carb – Jeff Volek, PhD, RD & Stephen Phinney, MD, PhD.” Art and Science of Low Carb. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 June 2015.

[5] “How to Calculate Your Sweat Rate – Beverage Institute for Health and Wellness.” Beverageinstitute-us. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 June 2015.

[6] “Motor Vehicle Traffic-Related Pedestrian Deaths — United States, 2001–2010.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 19 Apr. 2013. Web. 23 June 2015.