“Out of the silver heat mirage he ran. The sky burned, and under him the paving was a black mirror reflecting sun-fire. Sweat sprayed his skin with each foot strike so that he ran in a hot mist of his own creation. With each slap on the softened asphalt, his soles absorbed heat that rose through his arches and ankles and the stems of his shins.” ~James Tabor, from “The Runner,” a short story
Because of this, and because it is the first day of summer, I thought it fitting to write about running in the heat. By now, whether you live in Maryland, Atlanta, Texas or Oregon, you’re feeling it…amd if you’re like me, it doesn’t feel too good.
I had big plans this summer. I would be in the best shape of my life after my first marathon and ready to work on my kick in summer speed sessions but apparently, my body had other plans, as did my piriformis. So instead of running like a glistening gazelle, I’m sluggishly sweating it out in this sauna otherwise known as Atlanta, as I claw my way back into getting in shape.
Let’s face it, running in the heat is no walk in the park. It sucks. There’s just no way around that. BUT, I have learned some things to make it easier on yourself.
1. Stay hydrated: This is the most important and easiest thing you can do to beta the heat while running. It’s critical not just for performance sake but for your health. Heat related illnesses such as dehydration leads to muscle fatigue, cramping, heat exhaustion and even heat stroke.
I don’t know about you but I hate drinking water. I know this is going to sound strange, but I just don’t like the taste. Although I was noticing that during the day I would get these nasty headaches and I would feel light headed after my run. I thought it was just because I was out of shape. Wrong. I wasn’t hydrating. It’s so important for us as runners to watch how much we drink before, during and after exercise. It’s also important in the summer to watch what you drink that dehydrates your body such as coffee, alcohol etc.
I have gotten into the habit of always having a water bottle at my desk and making sure I drink at least three throughout the day. And as for not liking water, slice up some lemons, grab some crystal light OR, try cucumber water. Yes. Cucumber water. Beth Eats got me hooked on it. It’s so refreshing! Check it out.
As for during the run, I need to get better at that. The rule of thumb I go by is…if my body tells me I’m thirsty, drink water. I hate drinking too much and then feeling it slosh around so I wait till my body tells me I need it.
2. Replenish: During longer workouts, especially in the summer, you not only need to replenish water after a workout but the electrolytes and salt that you lose. After a run, some of your fluid intake should be something like Gatorade or Powerade. This will give your body back the electrolytes and salt you lost on your run.
Some people also use salt tablets or even salt packets (like from McDonald’s) during a run. I have a good friend who fell over and fainted after her half marathon in record heat because her body was so depleted of salt. We don’t want that happening kids so lets keep that salt and those electrolytes flowing!
3. Wear only what you need: Time to talk clothes. It’s summer which means absolutely no cotton. I know, running clothes and tech gear can be expensive but splurge on some nice running tees or check out your local running stores sale rack because you will need a moisture wicking fabric to run in.
4. Sunscreen: Wear it. I love to be tan just like the next person but keep it safe kids. I used to run without sunscreen and just let it burn because eventually it would turn to tan but I’m trying to be better. It might sound harsh but I came to the conclusion that I’m running to stay healthy so I don’t want to die of skin cancer just because I didn’t take time to put on sunscreen.
I use Aveeno or Neutrogena 15 on my face and put it on about a half hour before I run to make sure the sweat doesn’t make it run. Stinging sunscreen in your eyes isn’t fun for anyone.
5. Run Early or Late: I know, running at the crack of dawn isn’t the most alluring thing on a Monday morning but when you are driving home and watching the steam rise off the pavement, you’ll be glad you did it. Make the extra time in your day to run when it’s cooler out, either in the morning or late at night.
6. Go Slow: This is the lesson we all as runners try to learn but can’t seem to master. This will help you start out slow in a race too so you don’t go out too fast. It is so important during the summer to start out slow. Starting out too fast will make your core temperature skyrocket and then it’s hard to bring it back down in the 90 degree heat and humidity. ALWAYS remember to stop running immediately if you feel faint, find some shade, take a breather and drink lots of water.
Also, for those of you who have a four-legged running buddy like me…these rules apply to them too. Make sure your friend gets plenty of water before and after running and pay close attention during the run to make sure they aren’t getting fatigued.
Hopefully that will help take the edge off the heat! I’d love to hear your tips on how you make running in the heat bearable.