It is going to be a sizzling hot summer. During late spring we already saw marathons cut short and cancelled. Now, as summer begins to descend upon us, it promises to be a brutal one. Don’t get me wrong, I love the feeling of the bright, warm sun on my face during a midsummer day. But the runner side of me cringes. The heat kicks my butt. I slow to a crawl and melt.
Tuesday night my coached track workout was cancelled due to the extremely high forecast heat index. I admit I was bummed because I only have 6 workouts with the group and I love all of them. But a 100 degree heat index and full sun does not sound like a good time to be laying it all out on the track. There are newbies and kids in the group (including my 2 boys). And maybe some overzealous runners too (who me?!)… So they had to be extra safe. Understandable.
The heat is not unfamiliar territory for me. Even though I live in the “frozen tundra” it gets HOT here. Even more important, we have to get used to 100 degree (or more) temperature swings throughout the year. I also lived in Florida for 12 years, so I am used to adapting. It is never easy and always a process.
So before summer officially kicks in, I offer this advice for other runners who, like me, don’t want to kick their shiny new training plans to the curb simply because mother nature has turned up the burners on the oven.
First and foremost. Be smart. Know your limitations with heat and humidity. Some of us do better running in the heat/humidity than others. I have friends who tell me they LOVE running in 80 degree weather. Yeah, not me. I whither, melt and suffer. Whatever you do – it is important to know and continue to monitor how you are doing. You may need to be more careful than others. AND just because you can easily race a 5k in 90 degree heat does NOT mean you can run 10 or 15 or 20 miles in 90 (or 80) degree heat. Be careful and know your limitations.
Watch the temperatures and humidity levels. The various weather reporting channels work well. Check them out and know what you are getting yourself into. As an avid runner, I am also an avid weather-checker. You can’t change the weather, but you can adapt if you know what you are getting yourself into.
Also know the signs of heat exhaustion and the deadly heat stroke:
- you stop sweating
- chills and goose bumps
The last listed factors are very dangerous. Potential death dangerous. So never allow yourself to get there. Or come close to there. If you start feeling weak or dizzy – lay off. Stop if necessary. Yep, call it a day. Call it quits if need be. There is valor in saving a run for a cooler day if you are feeling sick. Be smart.
You also need to be sure you properly hydrate before your run. This does not mean slamming a glass or 2 of water 10 minutes prior to your run (I’ve tried it – it doesn’t work). Hydrate all day long prior to your run if you are running in the morning or all day if you are hitting the road in the evening. During the summer months you should get used to having a water glass at your side that you are constantly refilling throughout the day. Water is pure gold for summer running. Also mix in some electrolytes. You don’t need it all day long like water, but it is helpful to add in. The go-to for many runners is Gatorade. I am personally not a huge fan of the syrupy stuff, so I opt for a lighter electrolyte drink. (My preference is Nuun.)
Eat salty snacks: Don’t go nuts, but sodium isn’t going to hurt you if you are running a lot. I periodically indulge in V8 and Ramen Noodles (and french fries truth be told). My non-running friends hate me for it. But the truth is: you may need to be a salty monster if you run long in the heat. Prepare and replenish (but don’t overdo it).
Get up early. Yes, it is hard. But it is worth it. Even if it is 75 degrees and humid at 5:00 am, it is better than 95 degrees and humid at 6:30 pm. Also, if you luck out with weather, early summer mornings may grant you cool temps! Try it. If you must, go late. But be sure to be safe! (Do that all the time, but especially if you are a night owl).
Wear light colored and loose clothing. It is less apt to attract the heat. If you wear a running hat, make sure it is lightweight and breathable. My favorites are Brooks running hats. Lightweight; moisture wicking; breathable; and usually flattering.
Watch that heart rate monitor. The heat and humidity can cause your heart rate to spike fast. If you wear one, pay attention. Stop and walk or grab some water for a minute if you need to and let your HR drop. If you don’t wear a heart rate monitor, listen to your body (do this even if you do wear an HRM). Especially if you are aiming for a goal pace. Slow down or stop when you need to.
Slow down. I know, this one can be hard. Your schedule says you should run x miles at x:xx pace. Whatever. It is hot. Slow down and be smart.
Find sprinklers. If you see a yard sprinkler hitting the street when you are running – galavant right on through it sista! Also, if you hit a water fountain, dump some water on your head and back. It helps.
Wear your sunscreen! Alright, I admit this one won’t cool you down, but it will protect your skin. I don’t want you getting skin cancer, so please apply liberally. I also know you hate sunscreen-induced-eye-scream. So do I. Fnd a face stick you can apply and then use the goopy stuff for the rest of your body.
Carry water with you. I do this sometimes even if it is under 10 miles if it is really hot. My husband calls it my “goober belt” – I call it making a hard run manageable. You decide what label you can live with, but I recommend the latter.
That’s all I have. Now go get ‘em and be safe (did I say that already?!) :)
This may all sound elementary, but it is important stuff. Remind yourself, get out there, and be safe this summer.
Do you have any hot weather running tips? If so, please share.