American author Tom Robbins once wrote that summer weather can often feel like “an obscene phone call from nature.” He’s got that right!
Like a lot of you, my Baton Rouge running group and I “got the call” from nature a few weeks ago. We’ve officially gone into summer survival mode: we will run outside no matter how hot/humid it gets, but we recognize that we have to take it easy on 90+ degree days (which is pretty much every day now) if we’re going to survive down here. Not too long ago, folks were gunning for sub-3 hour Boston Marathon times, high-volume weeks of training, and blazingly fast 10k PR’s. These days, our toned-down summer goals range from “run a PR in the mile” to “run at least 3-4 times a week,” to “try NOT to fall off the training wagon and hibernate in the AC from now until October.”
That last one, sadly, is MY personal goal. I’ve never successfully trained through an entire summer. I’ve also never tried to do it in the deep south. How the heck am I going to make it through a Louisiana summer without feeling totally discouraged by these slow paces and skyrocketing heart rates?! By focusing less on the numbers and more on having some FUN, that’s how!
This season doesn’t have to be a total suffer-fest. Here are 5 little tricks I am currently using to minimize the sheer awfulness of summer training.
1. Go Towel Shopping
Yup. I went out and got the cutest, brightest, fluffiest beach towel I could find. I picked the one that made me smile the most. And instead of taking it to the beach or the pool, I put it directly into the back seat of my car. A designated sweat towel is a MUST for summer running! I learned very quickly that toweling off after a long, hot run (and then placing said towel over the driver’s seat) is key to keeping my car–and attitude–from getting too soggy.
2. Cool It, Sister
When I head out for a run, I leave everything but the bare essentials at home. When I’m not running, I don’t even carry a purse…just a pocket-sized wallet with the essentials in it. No fuss, no frills. Sooo….why have I started lugging a cumbersome little cooler back and forth with me to group runs? Because I get an AWESOME kick out of knowing that, when the run is finished, I will get to immediately enjoy ice-cold drinks and snacks. Pack a couple extra bottles for your running buddies! They’ll love the surprise! Frozen grapes and blueberries are great for the post-run cooler, too. Oh, and if you REALLY want extra brownie points from your group, bury a bunch of damp washcloths at the bottom of the cooler. I learned this little trick at a trail race in Texas, where volunteers waited for runners at the finish line with icy-cold washcloths that we could use to wipe down our faces, legs, etc. I could have KISSED those race volunteers! It’s a brilliant hot-weather treat!
3. Water Works
Grab some friends or go solo and enjoy a Sprinkler Run. Early mornings/evenings are best for this, since that’s when most people water their lawns. Keep track of how many sprinklers you run through, and try to get sprayed by every water feature you encounter along the route (even if it means sprinting across the street or detouring to get to the next one!) My current record thus far is 12 sprinklers and a public fountain in 4 miles. Yes, you get bonus points for hitting fountains, public splash pads, and/or cannon-balling into large bodies of water at the end of the run. Disclaimer: most people don’t mind runners taking a pass through their sprinklers when they’re close to the sidewalk or road already, but use common sense. If old Mr. McSurly is sitting in his front porch rocking chair with a cup of coffee in one hand and a shotgun in the other, SKIP THAT SPRINKLER and move on.
4. Play With Your Food
I use the summer months to try out sports drinks and snacks, which can be fun if you discover something new and yummy. During marathon season, I don’t deviate from my tried-and-true products, so it’s easy to get a little tired of the same old gels, bars, and mixes. Since I don’t have any important races on the agenda over the summer, I feel comfortable experimenting with things my paranoid tummy would normally shy away from during hardcore training. This summer, I’m enjoying some experimentation with Kate’s Real Food bars and Lemon Lime exercise hydration mix from Skratch Labs. Fun fact: the masterminds behind Skratch Labs are none other than Chef Biju Thomas and Dr. Allen Lim, the
creators of Cinnamon’s beloved Feed Zone Portables cookbook. Yay!
5. Chop Job
This one isn’t for the faint of heart, but it’s a seriously fun and freeing fix for hot weather. I hate dealing with a sweaty mop of grossly matted pony-tail hair after hot summer runs. One year, I decided enough was enough: I CHOPPED my mop into a cool little pixie cut. It was fantastic! No searching for rubber bands, no fighting with tangles, no rivers of sweat dripping from my soaked hair. I currently have long hair again, but the pixie cut always tempts me at this time of year.
Help a (sweaty) Salty out and share your favorite hot-weather tips!