10 tips for running (slogging?) in sticky heat far from home

temperature sign in Tokyo, August

36 degrees Celsius in Tokyo – phew! That’s hot!

Running is a great way to explore a community whether you are visiting or settling. I ran regularly before I left Canada and wanted to keep it up, yet my new homes were crazy hot and humid! Through running in Thailand, Australia and Japan, I discovered some ways to improve the experience and stay safe.

no racing sign, Tokyo

No racing! Imperial Palace Grounds, Tokyo


When I told my co-worker in Japan that I was planning on running, she told me to carry identification. Her friend was pulled over by police while out for a run with no ID and was questioned. While it can seem like a pain to carry a passport or other form of ID, sometimes the country requires it. It’s also handy if you’re lying on a road somewhere unconscious. (It could happen!)

2. I’m lost. Again. Help!

Running with a cell phone bouncing around in my pocket was annoying and I couldn’t remember my husbandโ€™s cell number if I left my cell at home. Even though I didn’t do this, carry the phone number or business card of someone who can help you (plus money), even if you simply get lost. In Japan, public phones are rare so a convenience store is your best friend (along with free, clean toilets.) In rural areas, all the best!

recreational path in Tokyo

my running route – Adachi Ward, Tokyo

3. Sweat catcher required

My hat is for catching sweat thanks to a strip of terry towel in the band. It also has a long brim and mesh top and I can throw it in the washing machine. A local running or sports store may have something similar.

strawberry wearing running hat

Ichigo-san ready to run

4. H2O is life!

I hate carrying a water bottle. I like my hands free and I cannot stand sloshing water nor a bottle or bag on my back. Drinking on the run also means I need an emergency pee stop when there is usually only open land. If you also don’t like to carry water, check your pee! If it’s pale yellow, you’re okay. Otherwise, consider drinking up. I usually get home thirsty so I have more water then. Water fountains are common in many communities, usually in parks, in Japan and Australia, as long as you are in a city. Rural areas can be more of a challenge.

5. Whoa! Slow down, my friend.

I imagine myself a gazelle, bounding for the first few minutes of my runs until I realize that my collapse is imminent. Relaxing into an easy pace then seems like a fantastic idea. Do the gazelle thing at the end, if you have the energy, and stick with the slug pace for most of your run. You’ll be happier on those 98% humidity, +35 Celsius days when you just have to run. You can also try alternating running and walking.

path in Thailand

path outside village in rural Thailand

6. Touch your toes

The benefit of running in insanely hot weather is my muscles are already warm so I don’t stretch before. Other people always stretch before so it’s up to you. I then take a solid 20 minutes (or more) of an easy walk after a run and before I stretch or my body retracts into a pretzel.

7. Cover up

Consider wicking clothing made for the climate you are running in. I picked up a running shirt in Australia and it made all the difference. Although it seems contrary, consider long sleeves. Your skin is protected from burning, especially if you sweat sunscreen off, it’s cooler since your skin is covered, and you have a sweat wipe. Also, consider the community where you are running. While the foreigner out for a jog where running is not common might be amusing, offending the locals is not so find out what’s acceptable beforehand. (The pic below is me in my travelling running outfit after surviving aย petrifying summit hike in Australia.)

Mt. Tibrogorgan, AU

based of Mt. Tibrogorgan, Queensland, AUย (Credit: H.M.)

8. Stinky feet

My runners reek in hot, humid weather so I take out the insoles, stretch the laces wide and try to leave them in the sun. If you get caught in a downpour, stuff your shoes with crumpled newspapers to soak up the water. This also helps if your shoes are sweaty and you cannot dry them outside.

If you want natural air conditioning while running, consider shoes that have mesh tops. My Salomon trail runners were phenomenal and I could wear them instead of sandals (with socks!) and my feet stayed comfy.

Solomon runners

breezy runners

9. Can you see me?

In Japan, I often ended up running after work in the dark. Know the rules of the road for pedestrians. Some towns want people on the right (against traffic) and others want them on the left (with traffic), especially if there are no sidewalks (common in many rural areas). Consider carrying a light and dress in light-colored clothing. Reflectors in different styles are available at 100 Yen stores in Japan.

10. Get out of your bubble

I want to hear that dog lunging at my calf while jogging on a dusty road in rural Eastern Thailand or dodge the motorcycle whizzing past me on a narrow street in Japan. If you run where you do not know the area and do not speak the language well, consider keeping your eyes and ears open. I did not have any trouble running where I lived, but I saw plenty of wacky goings-on during my daily life. Have fun but be safe. (And watch out for spiders, especially in Iwaki. They are huge!)

large spider on net

Little Miss Muffet’s oversized friend

If you run or walk in hot, humid climates, how do you stay comfortable?

18 thoughts on “10 tips for running (slogging?) in sticky heat far from home

  1. I’m thinking about getting into running, but the thing that was putting me off is that it’s summer.. in Korea.. which is bad enough for a non-summer person like me as it is! However these are some good tips. I think I need to get myself some suitable equipment and then give it a go ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Ha ha! I know what you mean about being a “non-summer person”. I hated to be hot growing up and hated being sweaty even more (my head sweats like a rain storm!) so when the temp went past +25C, that was it for me. Spending time in Asia and Australia made me discover that hot wasn’t so terrible. Others were sweaty just like me!

      Yes! Give it a try! The nice thing is you can always start slow – even 10 minutes or start with a brisk walk or a walk/run program. 5 minutes run with 5 minutes walk and then reduce the walk breaks by one minute over time and increase the running parts by a minute as you get more comfortable.

      I think shoes and socks are so important. It might take time to find something you like but a shoe with a lot of mesh on top and some wicking socks can make a big difference in comfort. As for clothing, I imagine that Korean sporting shops probably have all manner of wicking shirts and coverup type things if the aversion to sun is anything like in Japan. ๐Ÿ˜€ But then again, you can start with what you have and go from there as you find out what you like or don’t. I’d love to hear how you go!

      • Thanks for the ideas! Yeah the shops here are full of suitable stuff haha :p
        Hopefully this is something I can get started on and write a blog post about at some point ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. Great tips! I think the same can be used for several sports. My husband is an avid cyclist [he participated in a 100 KM event yesterday with lots of inclines]. He always has two bottles of water [and refills them along the way] as well as energy bars stashed somewhere just in case. Plus, equipment to do a quick tire repair. He usually cycles with his buddies so at least if something happens, there is someone to help out.

    Sorry, I kind of went off topic!

    • Thank you and no worries! I have no problem with going off topic. That keeps the conversation going. ๐Ÿ˜€ Do you ever ride with your hubby? I used to like to do long distance trips when I was in high school. Cycling Jasper to Banff was a big deal and then I found out that people do that as part of their regular training ride but it didn’t dampen my feelings of accomplishment. ๐Ÿ˜€

      • I went riding with him a couple of times. I went on an older bike that made me go slower and exert more energy while he was on his new road bike for road racing [which cost a pretty penny, I might add]. He used to do circles around me on the more deserted roads because I was going so slow. I put complete blame on the bike. I refuse to go cycling with him again until I get a new one! ๐Ÿ™‚

        • Ha ha! This reminds me of when I cycled from Jasper to Banff in high school with a group of girls. I took my dad’s steel framed mountain bike circa oh, late 1980s. It weighed a ton. You can imagine how fast I zoomed down the mountain passes alongside my friends on touring bikes.

  3. I think it really helps that there are so many vending machines on the streets in Japan, even in the inaka, so you can almost always get some cold water. Other than that I heard that running in the morning before 6 is really refreshing, but as I am not a morning person, I have not yet been able to get up that early ^^;

    • Very true about those vending machines! And yes, getting up early… painful! ๐Ÿ˜€ I love the quiet and peace of early mornings but so much of my work happens at night. Even now after having a baby, I think I burn the candle at both ends too often. When I lived in Japan, my shift was noon to 9pm so I sometimes ran late, but then I had to contend with tripping over those darn curb thingies or falling into the moats beside the sidewalk. ๐Ÿ˜€

  4. I am no big fan of running but do it occasionaly. In China I tried during summer at daytime but that was more like suicide. From that point onward I started running in the very early morning around 5-6 am and that helped a lot ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Did you have to run as part of your swim training? Or did you do the regular swim training thing and move full time into the pool? Oh yes… I can imagine running during the day was nuts. Early mornings would be nicer too if I could get up. Getting up early for high school swim practices turned me off of the practice for a looooong time. ;D But then I had a baby and didn’t have a choice.

      • We had running few times a week as a practice unit during my swimming time. However after I quit swimming over five years ago I needed to do something else so I picked up running again for a while ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. Good tips!
    Ryosuke runs a lot, so he has one of those arm bands where you can shove coins (and a small phone) into the strap, without worrying about it moving around too much.

    For “short runs” we bring our own water, for longer runs, we just buy at vending machines (since they’re EVERYWHERE!)

    • Thanks, Grace! Good point. Those armbands *are* useful. My sister swears by hers and uses it for her tunes.

      Yes! Vending machines are so convenient and that’s a great tip! Funnily enough, there was nothing on my runs near our place in Shinden/Heart Island in Adachi. I think it was because I liked to run on the trails beside the river. The closest option for me was the water fountain back up on the main path above the lower trail. Do you have many fountains around your place?

      Oh! I think you said you live near the Ghibli Museum. That would be a fantastic place to run!!! Have you gone in that area? I remember it being really well shaded along the river and of course, in the park!

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