Surviving the Sauna – One Sprinkler at a Time

I’ve been running for 18 years. I’ve lived in Georgia my whole life, minus a 1.5 year stint in New Orleans (the birthplace of humidity).

In short… I should know better.

But for some reason, every winter gives me amnesia, and come late spring the high temps and humidity leave me feeling really confused and flustered. And sweaty. And really, really thirsty. Where are all the sprinklers when I need to run through them?! Why I leave common sense and experience behind and neglect to prepare properly for running in this weather is nothing short of asinine. Every year it takes me a good month to remember how to be smart about dealing with our lovely Atlanta summer.

For survival sake, is it too much to ask for people to line my normal running routes with fire hoses and various other cooling devices to assist me in this matter? At least I don’t think people mind that I frolick through the sprinklers in their yards mid-run to cool off (wasn’t that lady waving her arms and yelling to encourage my training efforts?). It does make me appreciate those sprinklers along the Peachtree course that much more.

While getting myself back into the summer running mindset, I’m here to remind and/or teach you of the basic rules of survival when it comes to running in the sweltering Southern summer.


* Hydrate like a fool before and after you exercise. Drink 10+ cups of water throughout the day, and be sure to drink an additional 2 cups right after exercise. Plan running routes by water fountains and bathroom sinks. Carry a handheld water bottle if you will be out for a long run.

* Invest in non-cotton, moisture-wicking shirts – light and breezy singlets and tank tops are great. They dry quickly and wick moisture from the skin, keeping chaffage at bay and keeping you more comfortable. Cotton is comfy at home – but wet cotton while running? Not so comfy.

* Sorry to sound like a broken record, but forget your cotton socks and buy yourself some synthetic, moisture-wicking ones. I’ve mentioned it before… only because it’s very important. Yes, they are expensive, but they’ll last and you’ll be a happier runner – trust me. It’s hot, your feet are sweaty and cotton is a surefire recipe for blisters. Give your feet a fighting chance.  

* Consider running with a hat, visor, bandana or headband to soak up that uncomfortable sweat rolling down your face and prevent that salty eye sting (ouch!). If you try the hat, go for one that is light and breathable so you don’t keep extra heat trapped in.

 * Consider running with sunglasses. The sun is more intense during the summer, and you’ll want to protect your eyes.

 * Pay attention to your body. Heat-related illnesses are serious business, so know the symptoms. Stop running immediately and seek assistance if you feel nauseous, dizzy, clammy, or confused; if you have hot and cold flashes; and if you stop sweating and have chills in the heat. [For the record: I speak of light-headed, hallucinating type confusion. Not "why won't that hot blonde I always run by go out with my sweaty self" confusion.]   

 * Replace your electrolytes (potassium and sodium) immediately post workout. Sports drinks, supplements and normal foods will all do the trick. Bananas, yogurt and nuts are great food options. Sports drinks like Gatorade, Powerade and Heed are popular choices. Supplements like S-Caps and Sportlegs are pill options. My personal favorite – the product I swear by – is Nuun. It looks like alka-selzter - you drop the tablet into a glass of water and it dissolves into a fruity-flavored 5 calorie beverage that replaces everything I’ve just sweated out, plus keeps cramps and soreness at bay. It’s easily found at local running stores and REI. Confused by electrolytes? Here’s a handy Running Times article that breaks it down for you.


But don’t just take my word for it. Elite runner, coach and local Atlantan Jeff Galloway provides some great summer running tips in this article.

My most important tip for running in hot weather? Jumping into your neighborhood pool post-exercise is a must (sorry if your local HOA would disagree). There is nothing more satisying, refreshing or down-right glorious than leaping into cool water when you’re fresh off the pavement, clad in sweaty running attire, covered in salty, grimey, post-run nast. It will change your life, perhaps even moreso than the synthetic socks. And you can definitely trust me on this one… even Galloway thinks so!

As temps rise don’t forget to take care of yourself. It’ll prep us for race day, and we’ll be happier in the process.

7 comments Add your comment

Dr. Ortho

June 11th, 2010
2:33 pm

Lauren, I agree with the advice on proper hydration and good socks but also want to throw this bit of information out. Consider walking instead of running. You will still get a tee shirt but will notice far less strain on the feet and joints. It gives you an opportunity to leisurely chat with other participants and get to know them better. Also, the window shopping down Peachtree is far more enjoyable. Hope this helps.


June 11th, 2010
3:09 pm

I’ve been heat training since the weather turned in April. I am still running in a long sleeve shirt. It’s a shirt with a lot of mesh on the back and underarms, and down the sides, and it’s made of synthetic moisture wicking material. But it has helped me to acclimate to the heat. In more ways than one, too. I’ve adapted mentally to the heat. Of course, I hydrate a lot, too.

Daniel Norton

June 11th, 2010
3:53 pm

I think it’s worth pointing out that it’s better to run early in the morning or in the evening when the heat index is lower.

Gen Neyland

June 11th, 2010
4:24 pm

By mid June, I’m thinking snow crunching in 20 degree weather sounds about right. What extremes we runners love to run in..! I try to do my runs before 1000 hrs all through the year, especially this time of year. I have a park about 3 miles from home that has water. On some of my long runs in the heat and humidity, I’ll plan on cris-crossing the water fountain there.

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June 12th, 2010
8:55 am

I use a Fuel Belt on my long runs. It doesn’t do anything to keep drinks cool but it helps when you know that the nearest functioning water fountain is over 2 miles away.

Gen Neyland

June 14th, 2010
7:26 am

Went out for an ‘ Early enough I thought ‘ run yesterday. Failed to make scheduled distance due to zapping from the heat index. All the cold, clear water in Lake Superior wouldn’t have saved the run. Shoot, it’s gonna be one of those weeks a-coming…