How do I run in extreme heat? Ask a “Son of the Desert”

Last weekend I made a classic summer running mistake. I hit the snooze button. I really only wanted to sleep for an hour, and the heat couldn’t be much worse later, right?

As I rolled out of that comfy bed and that sweet, sweet air conditioner, I was hit with a wave of regret, heat, and glasses steaming wetness. I knew this was coming. My long run was more like a long drudgery.

When you have to go outside to run and the temperatures are hot no matter how early you wake up, how do you train successfully? Sure, I know the basic tips. But how can extreme athletes excel in these conditions?

I spoke to Max Calderan, whose Instagram account is titled Son of the Desert, for advice. Calderan, a 55-year-old desert explorer — who described himself as a 25-year-old who “spent too much time in the sun” — has spent much of his life training for extended hikes through the world’s most extreme climates. In February 2020 he traversed the Rub’ al Khali Desert in the Arabian Peninsula, some 700 miles in temperatures exceeding 115 degrees Fahrenheit. Surely he would be able to tell me how to train better in the heat.

“The key word here is deprivation,” he began. Oh boy. I asked him to withdraw the proposals. We’re talking about running in the heat, I clarified, and not necessarily trekking hundreds of miles across pristine deserts.

Here are some of his top tips for the more average athlete:

This interview has been abridged and edited.

For the timing: It is best to start your physical activity early in the morning or late in the evening. If you spend all day in the air-conditioned office and then run in hot temperatures, you will naturally feel tired! Start customizing. Turn off the air conditioning in the car or set the air conditioning so that it is only on your feet, not directly on your face.

For hydration: Adjust what your body needs. The best energy drink ever is water with some lemon juice and some salt. Drink this during the day. Drink small amounts of water often, every 15 minutes or 30 minutes.

On clothes: It seems strange, but start running and exercising while wearing clothing that fully covers your body. Try to feel the difference between running in shorts and a t-shirt and long pants and a long-sleeved t-shirt. Synthetic material, of course. The more air between your body and the outside environment, the less you feel the hot air.

On shoes: If you run a lot in the heat, you may need to buy a pair of shoes one size larger than what you normally wear. In hot temperatures, your feet can expand.

About the mentality of an athlete: You have to see yourself as an athlete. You’re not a runner and then an ordinary person because you work in an office or something. You’re a 24-hour runner, so you need to eat, drink and think like an athlete.