August is upon us (where has this year gone!!) and it’s arguably the hottest month here in Louisville and in many other cities in the U.S. and let’s not even talk about the humidity… living in a river valley ensures that our humidity in the summer is on average over 75%. So I thought I would share some of my tried and true tips for staying cool in these dog days of summer and making sure you get the most out of your summer training.
The first rule of summer running is BE SMART and listen to your body! The heat can be a runner’s worst enemy if you are stubborn and push yourself too hard when it’s hot and humid and you might experience some type of heat illness. Here’s what you need to know so you can avoid these setbacks and keep yourself safe.
Heat Cramps: These muscle spasms that are caused by large fluid and electrolyte losses from sweating. They can occur while exercising but also hours after your run. No need to worry, they’re not serious – but make sure you stay hydrated and get enough electrolytes with sports drinks or fruit like bananas.
from exercise is still safe, but any more than that and you may experience dizziness, fatigue, and even mental disorientation.Prevent this level of dehydration by starting your run already hydrated. (Nathan Hydration provided us with these handy stickers a couple of years ago that give you a great visual reference on what color your urine should be and they’re a great reference!) Then replace your lost fluids as soon as you finish running. You can figure out exactly how much fluid you’ve lost by weighing yourself before and after a hot run.
Heat Exhaustion: if you work out too hard in the heat, you may come down with heat exhaustion – a case of dehydration, headache, nausea, and a core body temperature of up to 104 degrees.
If you’re out on a run and you start to feel light headed or nauseated those are red flags that you should STOP running, find a cool, preferably air-conditioned, but at least shady, spot and let your core temperature come down. If you have access to an ice pack hold or cool, wet cloth hold it on the side of your neck at your jugular artery for a quick cooling effect. Drink very cool, but not ice-cold water to speed up the whole process.
Heat Stroke: Danger! Heat stroke is very serious since your core body temperature is probably over 105 degrees. Symptoms include disorientation with clumsiness, confusion, poor balance, and a lack of sweating. Immediate medical attention is required where you’ll be cooled with a cold bath, air conditioning, and cold liquids. If you come across someone with these symptoms or you start to experience them yourself CALL 911!
Now that I’ve given you the worst here’s how to avoid all of these ailments in the first place!
- Run by effort, not pace. Running in the heat is the perfect opportunity to work on the skill of running by feel. Instead of strictly following pace targets that you might normally follow, run by time and effort rather than distance and pace. It takes practice but you’ll be a better runner overall if you can listen to your body and judge your pace.
- Run early. There’s no perfect time to run in the heat of summer. But the early morning hours offer the lowest temperatures and a break from the strongest hours of sunlight (even though the humidity will be at its highest). Try getting out for your long runs before the sun comes up or as it’s rising or even as it’s setting!
- Get off the roads! Asphalt and concrete absorb heat and radiate it back onto your body. The summer months are a good time to try more trail running. Bonus: you have to run a little slower on trails which will keep you slightly cooler and trails are usually shaded. Win-win. Locally, there are great running trails in Cherokee, Seneca, and Iroquois Parks.
- Adjust your expectations. If the National Weather Service issues a heat advisory (when the Heat Index, a score that reflects a combination of both heat and humidity, is over 105 degrees) running fast or long will be difficult and dangerous.Even if there’s no heat advisory, running like you normally do in summer weather is difficult. Maintain the same effort level you would normally give and don’t sweat the slower paces. When the temperatures cool off this fall you’ll see the pay-off of the work you’re doing now. I call it the “Fall Fast,” the temps fall and you get faster!
- Don’t wear dark colors or cotton. Gear matters in extreme conditions so dress
appropriately! Synthetic fabric like polyester is used in most running gear these days and can be found everywhere from your local Wal-Mart or Target, to specialty running and fitness stores like Fleet Feet or Dick’s Sporting Goods. In the heat of summer I find the lighter the fabric, the happier the runner. The Nike Dri-FIT Breeze Tanks and shorts, and a Ponya Band have been a favorite of mine this summer! (If you’re worried about chafing or heat rash, give 2Tom’s Sports Shield a try on those area – it’ll work WONDERS.)
- Start your run hydrated (and keep hydrating). It’s important to hydrate well before and after your run. Hydration doesn’t start an hour before you run, chugging a glass of water then is too late. Drinking water every day is a good rule of thumb, but at the very least make sure you’re hydrating all day, the day before a long run. After your done with your workout be sure to keep drinking water to replenish everything you just sweated out. Replacing salt and electrolytes is necessary too. My go to recovery drink is Sword, but Nuun, Skratch, and Tailwind are also great options. Find what you like and HYDRATE!
- Plan your run around water. I always carry water or an electrolyte mix in my Nathan SpeedDraw Plus handheld with me on a run – even a 3 miler in the summer. You can also plan your routes so you’ll run by fountains in public parks where you can grab some water and stay hydrated. If you live in a dry climate, running through sprinklers can help you stay cool, too. And who doesn’t love frolicking through a sprinkler?
Summer running can be great training time if you do it safely and smartly. Be safe out there folks and happy running!