Summer is officially here, and things are already starting to heat up! So much so that officials just recently delayed competition on the final day of the Track and Field Olympic Trials after the University of Oregon track temp displayed a scorching 107 degrees. Yowsers! While I hope you aren’t forced to train in 107-degree weather, chances are that heat and humidity will play a factor in your training over the next few months, especially here in the South. So here are some tips to help you stay successful:
· Start Early: We all lose water while we sleep through sweat, moisture in our breath, and fluid that is processed through our kidneys, leaving a water deficit the moment we wake up. Try including a tall glass of water as part of your morning routine to get a jump on hydration needs.
· Ensure Access to Fluids During Your Run: It doesn’t take long during a hot, humid day for the effects of dehydration to catch up. It is important to ensure access to fluids DURING your run to prevent finding yourself in a dangerous situation. Some options include carrying a handheld bottle, wearing a hydration pack, running short loops around a central location where you can leave fluids, or storing fluids at pre-planned stops along your route ahead of time. It may take some experimentation to find what works best for you.
· Include Electrolytes: Along with losing water when we sweat, we also lose key minerals known as electrolytes. Electrolytes assist with several critical functions and if we run low, symptoms such as fatigue, headaches, nausea or muscle cramps may occur. It is important to replenish these electrolytes, along with water, to avoid significant imbalances in our bodies. While many people turn to sport drinks for this, there are several quality products on the market that make it easy to increase electrolyte intake. One of my personal favorites is UCAN Hydrate due to it having 0 sugars. Other popular brands include NUUN, Liquid IV, and Skratch Labs, among others.
· Run by Feel, Not Pace: Running in the heat can increase heart rate, expedite fatigue, and ultimately reduce performance. It can be tempting to feel like your fitness has decreased because of this, but it is important to remember that it may simply be a result of harsh conditions. Rather than fret about slower pacing, focus on running by perceived effort, and don’t be afraid to walk if needed. This can help keep you out of your own head and ensure that you are executing your workout as it was intended.
· Consider Running for Time Rather Than Mileage: Per the previous point, it may be beneficial to target a “1 Hour” run vs heading out to knock out 6 miles when temps are high (replace time and mileage with whatever is applicable to your situation). The reason is that this helps adjust for the variability in pacing due to the increased stress of heat and humidity. Whether you are cruising at PR pace or barely hobbling along, 1 hour is always 1 hour. Whereas a 6-mile run can look significantly different depending on the weather. Making this adjustment can help avoid the frustration and doubt that may accompany a miserable slog under the blazing sun.
· Remember That It Will Still Pay Off: As mentioned before, running in the heat can be demoralizing. But the truth is that it is phenomenal training! Not only will you begin to acclimate to the heat over time, but when temps do begin to cool, you will feel like you suddenly have rockets attached to your shoes. Running becomes effortless. If you have trained through the heat before, you know exactly what I am talking about. If not, keep the faith that your summer torture sessions will eventually pay off big, because they will!
· Plan Your Clothing: Lightweight clothing that doesn’t soak up too much moisture can be your best friend on a hot, sticky day. It is best to avoid materials like plain cotton or standard polyester because of their propensity for trapping sweat. With several readily available materials like Poly-Dri, Nylon, Spandex and others on the market, finding something that will keep you more comfortable should not be too hard. Or if you are like me, you can opt to minimize the amount of clothes you wear (I prefer running shirtless) and let your body use its natural sweat system for cooling. Either way, don’t forget to apply sunscreen to exposed skin. You may also want to consider a hat and sunglasses for increased protection from the sun.
· Plan for Chafing: Bloody nipples. That’s all I have to say. The pictures are out there and if you haven’t seen them, consider yourself lucky. In all seriousness, the risk of skin chafing increases in hot, humid conditions, and nothing is worse than hopping in a post run hot shower only to figure out that parts of your body are rubbed raw. For prolonged efforts where I know moisture will be a problem, my go to product is Salty Britches. Compared to most lubricants, it creates a barrier on the skin epidermis that prevents chafing, and it won’t wash away with rain or sweat. For day to day use, there are a ton of options including Squirrels Nut Butter, Body Glide, Gold Bond Friction Defense, or even good old Vaseline.
I Want To Hear From You!
Hopefully you found one or more of the tips above to be beneficial. Have a question that I did not cover or a good tip of your own? I would love to hear from you!