Running in the heat does not have to be all bad.
There are some serious racing advantages to be gained after a tough summer of slugging it out on hot days while training for a fall race or a race in a different part of the country that is going to feature cooler temperatures. The downside of summer training of course is that it tends to complicate things quite a bit.
Hydration, Pace, Duration, Gear, Sunblock, Body Glide, Sock and Shoe changes on long runs …. all are things that in the winter training in Austin I never pay much attention to. I know that on a cool morning I can run 8-10 miles with nary a sip of water. If I am able to hit a water fountain or two I’m good up to 15-16 miles without any worries.
But this time of year when the coolest part of the day from a temperature perspective occurs at 4:00 a.m. and it is already 72-75 degrees with humidity between 82 and 88% – things are a little bit more dicey out there.
There is always the treadmill alternative I suppose – but for me – that conversation is really a non-starter.
With the exception of running two hours earlier this spring during a 12-hour treadmill challenge for Back on My Feet I have not stepped on a treadmill in over two years. Not once.
572 runs, 4,652 miles – and all of them outdoors. In the two years before that I ran on a treadmill twice. Once the day of my 25th High School reunion where I had just enough time on the hotel treadmill to get in my 14 miler (brutal) and another marathon training run I couldn’t skip in Iowa in the winter with frozen streets and high winds outside. That’s it. Two times in four years. It’s just not for me.
Running is meant to be done outdoors. At least in this part of the country here in the 512.
For the folks here in Austin and the rest of the South/Southwest we all should be just about through our heat acclimation period. but with temperatures dipping back into the 40’s this week in the Midwest and East early in the mornings – I am quite jealous by the way – I thought this would be a good time to share the following 10 tips to help cope with rising temperatures.
1. Know your Body: Weigh yourself before and after your run. After your run make sure you drink 16 ounces of fluids for every pound that you lose during your run. This is not “weight loss” – this is dehydration. Take this very seriously.
2. Run Early: If you are not a morning runner, you might want to become one from June-September. Here in Austin even on the hottest summer day reaching 105 degrees will fall below 80 again overnight. At 5:00 a.m. the temperature is rarely higher than 77. Better still, if you can have your run completed before the sun reaches the horizon you are even further ahead of the game.
3. Sun Protection: Morning running also removes the need for sunscreen if your run is shorter than an hour or so. If you do have to run in the heat of the day, apply a sunscreen that is a “non-drip” variety. These are designed so the sunscreen will not get into your eyes as you sweat. SPF #15 or #20 at a minimum.
4. Hydration: During your run make sure you are drinking every 15-20 minutes. I plan my routes so I can hit a water fountain or pass by the house where I leave a bottle in the driveway with electrolyte replacement every 2 miles. For me on most runs that means I am able to drink a bit every 14-16minues. If you carry a water bottle or belt with you, drink at the start of your even miles. It will give you something to look forward to.
5. Clothing: Wear light-colored, technical clothing that is moisture wicking. If you are running in cotton it will trap your sweat against your body and will not allow for evaporation – which helps cool your body. You will also be prone to chafing as the material gets wet and heavy.
6. Anti-Chaffing: Apply Body Glide or another anti-chafing product liberally and everywhere that skin meets skin. Moisture in the form of sweat is just like running in the rain. If you do not prepare for it properly it will lead to chafing and blisters.
7. Slow Down: This is science guys, not opinion. Less blood to your muscles = slower pace. Don’t fight it and try to be a “hero” or “heroine” – slow down and enjoy your run. This is especially important on your “easy” or “recovery” days. If you need to run 8:30’s on a recovery day and the temperature is 50 degrees – it requires a certain level of “exertion”. You do not run 8’s on that day because it will not let you get ready for your next workout right? So to hold 8:30’s in the summer, you have to “work just as hard” as you would to run 8’s in 50 degree temperatures. Follow me? It is about the effort – not the watch.
For me it is :05-:10 seconds for every 5 degrees above 65. If my pace per mile for an 8 mile run is typically 7:10 at 65 degrees or less, I will adjust my pace to run at 7:25 on a 77 degree morning. I finish the run feeling the same in July as I would in November – and my fitness level is EXACTLY the same.
8. Adjustment Period: “They” claim that it takes two weeks for the average runner to adjust to running in the heat. That to me sounds about right – one trick however is to make sure you are also out “in the heat”, not just going from your air-conditioned environment to the running trail and back. I make sure to do yard work and spend some time “in the heat” when I am not running to help with this adjustment.
9. Run Naked: Now, now – we talked about this before. By “naked” I mean no GPS and no iPod. I do this frequently when the summer arrives to help me simply “enjoy being out there”. This has helped me not be so conscious of every mile split and think about pace on every run. Without my Garmin beeping at me every mile I simply run by feel.
If the heat and humidity is forcing me to dial back my pace so be it. I run by the effort I want to expend instead of by time. If you know how a “Hard” vs. “Moderate” vs. “Easy” run is supposed to feel – you are ready to embrace “Naked Running”.
10. The Dreadmill: Look, if it’s simply too damn hot out there – it is. If you need to do a speed workout or a hard interval workout to train for a race and it is 100 degrees outside – be smart. Last time I checked our gym it was about 70 degrees at Fitness 19. That is definitely a better option than skipping your workout all together or even worse, putting your health at risk.
So there you have it guys. And for those of you doubting this and still trying to nail all your workouts. When I was training for the NYC Marathon back in 2011 – we had one of our hottest summers in recorded history in Austin. My approach to training was a bit different then, no track work, very little speed work – just volume and hill work.
I NEVER ran a long run faster than 7:50 pace that entire training cycle. Some of them were in the 8:00-8:10 range.
I ran 7:11 on race day.
So as much as we would like to always be able to run in perfect weather conditions – that just isn’t the reality of the sport. Embrace the seasons, let it help with your training adaptations and lastly, don’t get too worried about a flat workout here and there – especially in the early portions of the summer. That is just part of the deal.
But on that first cool morning when you take off the layers and are just standing at the starting line in shorts and a singlet – a slight shiver waiting for the gun – when you cross that mat, take a moment to reflect on all the tough runs you put in the books over the summer.
You will feel like Superman/Superwoman – and you will crush it out there.