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May 23, 2023

Running in Hot Weather

ThedaCare Sports Medicine Specialist Explains How to Keep Cool While Getting in Your Miles

Running is becoming more popular as a healthy activity that’s easy to engage in outside of a gym. According to Running USA, about 15% of Americans say running outdoors is “one of their top ways of staying fit.”

“Running is a great way to release stress, have fun and get in shape,” said David Hirschi, M.D., a non-surgical Sports Medicine Specialist with ThedaCare Orthopedic Care. “Running outdoors especially offers many benefits. It can have a calming effect on our nervous system, breathing fresh air often improves our sleep and more exposure to sunshine increases our vitamin D levels. Those are all great reasons to incorporate running outdoors into our workout routine.”

As the medical director for the Community First Fox Cities Marathon, Dr. Hirschi also understands the need for runners to continue training for competitive events, even in the heat.

“While running outdoors offers lots of benefits, in hot weather, it also requires paying attention to temperature and humidity and how your body is reacting,” he cautioned.

As we transition from spring into summer here in the Midwest, Dr. Hirschi recommends runners give themselves a couple of weeks to adjust to running in warmer weather.

“Runners should be aware of how their body is reacting to the warmer weather and the amount of effort they are exerting,” he said. “If needed, consider reducing running time or speed a bit to help adjust to warmer conditions.”

His other recommendations for running in hot weather include:

  • Avoid peak sun hours between 10:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. Run early in the morning or later in the evening.
  • Hydrate before running and drink water while running; 4 to 6 ounces every 20 minutes is a basic hydration guideline.
  • Supplement your fluids with sports drinks that contain electrolytes, which increase water absorption.
  • Wear clothing that is light-colored, loose-fitting and moisture-wicking.
  • Wear sunscreen, a hat and sunglasses to protect against harmful UV rays.
  • Adjust your route to run in shadier locations.
  • Know the warning signs of heat illnesses.
  • Rehydrate after running. If your urine is dark yellow and not clear, drink more fluids.

“Running in hot conditions can put someone at risk for heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heat stroke,” he said. “Be aware of the symptoms of those three conditions and take action to slow down and cool down immediately.”

Dr. Hirschi noted that runners should be aware of the symptoms of heat stroke, which include:

  • High body temperature (103°F or higher)
  • Hot, red, dry, or damp skin
  • Fast, strong pulse
  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Confusion
  • Losing consciousness (passing out)

Heat stroke is a serious condition. If someone believes they, or a loved one, are experiencing that event, they should call 911 immediately, get into the shade/a cooler place and cool down with damp cloths or a cool spray, if possible, until help arrives.  

“With its longer hours of daylight, summer is an inviting time to run outdoors, just be flexible with your expectations,” he said. “Listen to your body. If the heat and humidity are causing you to overexert, reduce your speed and/or distance or switch to a cross-training activity such as swimming or lifting weights on extremely hot days.”

He noted that ThedaCare is proud to return as the Fox Cities ThedaCare Half Marathon sponsor in 2023.

Dr. Hirschi knows that runners who push themselves too far too fast or regularly overexert also put themselves at risk for the most common running injuries. That lists includes:

  • Plantar fasciitis
  • Runner’s knee
  • Iliotibial band syndrome
  • Achilles tendonitis
  • Shin splints
  • Stress fractures

“ThedaCare Medical Center-Orthopedic, Spine and Pain is prepared to help runners who might experience orthopedic issues,” he said. “If you are unable to continue your normal running or workout routine because of a continuing or reoccurring problem, our Orthopedic Walk-in Care Clinic is available to help.”

At the first visit, a person will be seen by a medical specialist, have any needed imaging taken and receive an initial treatment. Then, a provider will arrange for follow-up care as needed, which may include pain management, physical therapy, a surgery consultation or other therapies. The Orthopedic Walk-in Care, located at 2400 E. Capitol Drive, Appleton, is open Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. and on Saturday and Sunday from 8 a.m. to noon. To save time ahead of your visit, go to and click on “I’m On My Way.”

About ThedaCare

For more than 110 years, ThedaCare® has been committed to improving the health and well-being of the communities it serves in Northeast and Central Wisconsin. The organization delivers care to more than 600,000 residents in 17 counties and employs approximately 7,000 health care professionals. ThedaCare has 180 points of care, including eight hospitals. As an organization committed to being a leader in Population Health, team members are dedicated to empowering people to live their unique, best lives. ThedaCare also partners with communities to understand needs, finding solutions together, and encouraging health awareness and action. ThedaCare is the first in Wisconsin to be a Mayo Clinic Care Network Member, giving specialists the ability to consult with Mayo Clinic experts about a patient’s care. ThedaCare is proud to partner with Children’s Wisconsin and Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin health network to enhance convenient access to the most advanced levels of specialty care. ThedaCare is a not-for-profit health system with a level II trauma center, comprehensive cancer treatment, stroke and cardiac programs, as well as primary care.