Summer Running Sucks. There, I Said It.

Here’s how you can make it awesome.

I really love running. I have the best playlists on my iPod Shuffle (seriously, this tiny square of music is the fitness world’s best kept secret…or maybe just mine), I’m able to zone out for miles and just keep my legs moving while taking in the Schuylkill River/Philly skyline/Walk-of-Shamer views around me, and I come home feeling refreshed, energized, uplifted, and productive. Running is the best free therapy, and while the term “runner’s high” seems so cliche, it’s accurate — there are some days where I feel like I could keep running forever.

Those days are, generally, not during the months of June, July, or August. You know, when the temperatures are pushing 90-degrees and it’s SO. DAMN. HOT. that you’re sweating more than you ever thought humanly possible and the friendly wave you used to give fellow runners has turned into raising one weak finger in a mutual understanding that this is the worst run you’ve ever had and that, so help me God, if there is not a broken fire hydrant or overly-invasive sprinkler within the next half-mile for you to run through, you may just die right there.

Ah, summertime. The most wonderful time of the year for outdoor beer gardens, weekend beach trips, days by the pool and tons of sunshine. The most terrible time of the year for running. After one too many “omg, my legs don’t work anymore. I hate running.” texts sent to my best friend, a fellow runner, following a particularly dreadful three-mile run after work, I decided to make a change. Occasional bad running days aside (we all have them), I vowed to do what it takes to enjoy running, year-round. Summer running would no longer be the bane of my existence but rather, summer would simply be my fourth favorite season for running. There were ways to make it better — there had to be!

I’m saying it so you don’t have to: summer running sucks. But after some tweaks to my fitness routine, wearing the right gear, and motivating myself through running challenges, I’ve found a few ways to make it better (I said better. Not perfect).

Here are five ways to make running in the summertime more enjoyable:

#1 — Wake up a Little Earlier

You may have stopped reading immediately after seeing those three words but hear me out — temperatures are cooler earlier in the morning, it’s bright enough outside to [possibly] avoid hitting the snooze button, and just think of all the #SunriseSelfies you’ll take! Try setting your alarm for an hour earlier on running days and get out the door as soon as you can. That oppressive humidity is almost nonexistent, there’s no sun beating down on your face, and when you’re done logging those miles, you’ll be energized for the rest of your day, and you’ll have one less thing on your daily to-do list. Waking up just one hour earlier makes a huge difference.

#2 — Challenge Yourself

…figuratively (Go that extra mile! Run as hard as you can for 30 seconds! Do some speed work!) but also literally — there are a number of online fitness communities that offer workout challenges, where you can compete against yourself and others and earn some pretty amazing prizes for reaching your goals. Vea Fitness, an app that rewards you for working out with free stuff and discounts on fitness gear, offers monthly workout challenges where you can win up to $500 in prizes. This summer, their “Beat the Heat” challenge rewards users with a free bottle of CORE water for every mile you run, walk, or bike using the Vea Fitness app. The grand prize? An entire summer’s worth of CORE water, plus workout gear for the summer.

#3 — Wear the Right Gear

While wearing the least amount of clothing possible is a great approach, donning the best running gear will make a huge difference. Invest in some moisture-wicking tank tops, t-shirts, shorts, and socks that will wick away sweat. Too hot for a tank top? Philly-based Personal Trainer, Corrective Exercise Specialist, and Nutritionist Rachel Rubin recommends New Balance’s sports bras that are incredibly supportive and stylish, and call for a “shirt off ‘I’m totally empowered’ attitude” while exercising. Run in sneakers with breathable mesh material, providing built-in ventilation so your feet feel less constricted and more comfortable. Don’t forget sunglasses, and while it’s not necessarily “gear,” lather on some SPF30 to protect yourself from UV rays.

#4 — Link Up with a Group

Remember that “wake up an hour earlier” advice? Believe it or not, there are other crazies out there who wake up at the crack of dawn to run. Check within your local running community, like Philly’s Run215, for run clubs that meet in the early morning (like the November Project), or your preferred time, for group runs. Often, there will be days designated for runners of all levels, from beginner to marathoner. Linking up with a group instills accountability so that you’re less likely to bail, plus it’s a great way to get involved in your local fitness community and meet like-minded individuals.

#5 — Hydrate. Hydrate. Hydrate.

I try to run with as little stuff on me as possible — watch, keys, and iPod Shuffle (So lightweight! So tiny! So 2005!) — but in the summer, I make a point to bring water with me, too. Sweating more means losing more blood volume, which means your body is having trouble delivering oxygen to your muscles to help you keep running. CORE sport bottles are light enough to bring along for a few miles, and a sip (not too much!) of cold water every ten minutes or so can feel like the equivalent to sipping from the Fountain of Youth. Staying hydrated is so important for your health, and will give you the fuel you need to keep going…and stop you from hallucinating water fountains in the distance when there most certainly are none.

Summer is the best season, and by far my absolute favorite for so many reasons. While running in the hot, hot heat isn’t one of them, I’ve learned to enjoy it a little more by following my own advice, to keep me active and to avoid the summer fitness slump. My alarm is set for 6:00 a.m. tomorrow and I’ve been drinking water all day in preparation. Mission: “Beat the Heat” will be accomplished.

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