Korean Runner’s Guide: Surviving the Summer Season

Summertime Running in Korea
How to Run in Korean Summers

Photo courtesy of Stephen Walter

There’s no denying that living in South Korea will test a runner’s patience. Springtime brings the dreaded yellow dust, which makes for a disrupted training cycle for the outdoor runner. Fast forward a few weeks and here we are in the summer monsoon season. The mixture of 30-degree temperatures and 90% humidity doesn’t make for ideal running conditions. Despite this hot and humid weather – all is not lost! Some forward planning before your daily runs will pay dividends in the long run, and ensure you won’t feel the ill effects of training in the heat. Here’s how you can turn this Korean monsoon season into your launch pad for future running success.


So what exactly happens when the body is exposed to hot and humid conditions? Running in this weather forces the body to work much harder. Because your heart beats faster and you lose sweat at a higher rate than normal, it is important that you take steps to avoid heat exhaustion and/or heat cramps. Your traditional training approaches have to be altered to deal with this new stressor.


How to Survive the Korean Summer

How to Run in Korean Summers

Photo courtesy of Stephen Walter

  1. Take caution and decrease your pace in temperatures over 25 degrees and over 80% humidity.

Due to an increased heart rate in the heat, heart rate monitors become less relevant. Say, for example, your easy run heart rate is between 140-150 beats per minute (bpm). In the heat, this would likely creep up to 160+ bpm at the same speed. The biggest mistake I see amongst runners is rigidly sticking to training paces, despite increasing temperatures.


  1. Run indoors or during cooler times of the day.

Ask yourself, what is the purpose of today’s run? If the answer is recovery from a workout the day before, err on the side of caution and complete the run in a local gym, if possible. The purpose of recovery runs is to help the body recover from a previous hard workout. The heat makes recovery difficult to achieve because the body must work harder than normal. Trying to complete a recovery run in the heat is counterproductive, as the body becomes overly fatigued rather than recovered. If you don’t have access to a gym, try to run either in the early morning or late in the evening to lessen your exposure to heat from the sun.


  1. Wear loose fitting and breathable running gear.

The lighter the clothing, the less you will sweat, and the cooler your body will be. Wearing light, bright clothing will increase the cooling effect. Whereas dark colors will trap the heat.


  1. Bring a small bottle of water on the run – but not for a drink.

Pouring water over your head every now and again can help you to stay cool. Around half of the body’s heat is lost from the head region.


  1. Be sure to consume isotonic drinks post-run.

Isotonic drinks are a good option after a longer run in the heat and humidity. The likes of Powerade and Gatroade are sugar and calorie laden. You’re better off keeping it simple. A homemade isotonic is effective and quite simple to make. Simply combine some type of sugar (ideally 1-2 teaspoons of honey or maple syrup), a pinch of salt, and 10-50mL of fruit juice. Fill the rest with water.

In the heat, sweat loss is increased, so rehydration becomes the main focus. Water alone can further the dehydration process by increasing blood plasma levels, resulting in frequent urination. Adding the electrolyte drink into your post-run routine will help with rehydration. It will also give your body some much-needed carbs and help speed up the recovery process.


  1. Cooling towels.

I’ve recently discovered the power of cooling towels. You can find them in E-mart and several sports stores. Simply wet the towel with cool water, wring it out, and tie it around your head. It helped keep me cooler and therefore less fatigued.


Running in the summer can be a challenge, but these tips can help you reap the benefits of hot weather training. Getting out for a run in the heat, even at a slower than normal pace, will reap long-term benefits. The mental strength that can be gained from running through the hot season will set you up for your best fall-winter racing season yet. Happy running!


~~ Stephen Walter

Stephen Walter is from Ireland and holds a degree in Exercise and Health Sciences. He is a certified EHFA 3/4 Group Fitness Instructor and Personal Trainer. He is also an AAI 1 coach. Read more on his personal blog by clicking here: Steve’s EPIK Journey.