The dog days of summer are HERE. Seemingly endless hours of daylight allows for more time outdoors – great! But, here in the South, and elsewhere, that means HIGH heat and humidity. It takes about five seconds before the sweating begins. I like to think of it as “sparkle,” but when it’s this hot, it’s truly sweat! It is difficult for me, and I think many, to acclimate initially, and know how to run in hot weather.
How does heat impact me?
Given that, here are some tips on how to run in hot weather so your runs and workouts don’t nose dive. But first, know that your body must work harder to cope with increased heat and humidity. Therefore, adjust expectations and goals in terms of pace, recovery time, and workout intensity. An informative article on Runner’s World states a few key facts:
- Heart rates can increase as much as 20 BPM at the same pace when heat/humidity stressors are present. Translation: you work harder to maintain the same pace.
- Given above, there is a “slow down” factor, where we must adjust our pace to maintain target HR. This equals a range of 30-90 seconds per mile! That’s a BIG difference.
- Even at a slower pace, training can still be overall effective as it correlates to your heart rate achieved while training. Your heart rate remains in the same range, and possibly even higher due to adverse weather at a slower pace. You condition your body to that heart rate range regardless of actual run pace. When cooler temps/less humidity return, your quicker pace will also, possibly even faster after slogging through such tough conditions.
Tips to Cope with Hot Weather
Below are some tips on how to run in hot weather, but remember those points above!
- Run when temps are lowest (Captain Obvious)! Either early morning or early evening, but know that humidity is highest early in the day.
- Avoid direct sun if possible. “Feel like” temps in direct sun are 10-15˚ higher than in shade because of the radiating heat (solar radiation) of the sun.
- Lightweight (wicking) and light colored fabrics are a must.
- Hydrate! More sweat can equal dehydration if intake is insufficient. Your body cools itself by sweating (so don’t hamper that process by drinking too little). Include an electrolyte beverage in your hydration (ie: Gatorade, Nuun). A hydration vest is a great option to keep you hydrated!
- SLOW DOWN. A slower pace, and running more by feel/heart rate are important. Additional walk breaks, or incorporating a run/walk split run in your workout can help.
- Run inside. Set treadmill for 1-2% grade to more closely mimic outdoor running.
Pre-cooling, what’s this?
In addition to the above tips to manage the summer heat, try pre-cooling! Pre-cooling is a technique used to slightly lower core body temperature before outdoor exercise, allowing you to exercise longer before reaching the critical temp threshold where you are forced to slow down.
Ideally, a cooling vest for 10-20 minutes prior to a run or during warm-up is most effective, but most of us don’t want to shell out $$ (although a highly rated version is available on Amazon for $30).
Option CHEAP: Two less costly ways to pre-cool at home. 1) Freeze a PAPER CUP of Gatorade or buy some freeze pops. ~10-20 minutes before your next hard workout in the heat, eat the pop or Gatorade slushy. While this won’t cool your entire body quite like a cooling vest, you will see some benefits during your run. 2) Grab a few hand towels and wet them. Place in freezer overnight and put them on your neck/head/back 10-15 minutes prior to your workout. It will be very cold initially! Plus, put them back in the freezer, and put them on again upon your return.
What works (for me) when running in hot weather?
My experience with above “cheaper methods”… they are easier to do if leaving from home. I ran a 10K race on July 4th, and bringing a slushy/ice cold towels wasn’t practical. What DID help, however, was munching on ice cubes prior to the race, and icing down my arms/neck. My run the morning prior to the 10K, I did use ice towels, and it helped! Note: it’ll get your shirt wet, and the frozen towels can be a bit inflexible. I may invest in the above mentioned cooling vest given its low cost. There are many more weeks of hot weather left during my marathon training, and it will be nICE to make these hard runs a bit more bearable!