Tired of running in the heat and humidity? No matter what part of the country you run in, you're likely already sweating your Summer runs as you prep for Fall races. To cope, we have you covered with the five best ways to avoid burning out before you finish your Summer miles.
1. Know the numbers.
You likely already know to check the temperature before planning your Summer runs, but it's also imperative that you check the humidity. Humidity is the moisture content of the air and the combination of humidity and heat is what makes Summer runs difficult and potentially dangerous. During every run, your body's core temperature increases, causing you to sweat, and your body naturally cools itself down when the sweat evaporates from your skin. High humidity makes it impossible for the sweat to efficiently evaporate from your skin, leaving your body defenseless against its rising core temperature.
When you look at your weather app, make sure to note the humidity and the "feels like" or "heat index" in addition to temperature. The humidity is most likely to negatively impact your run when it surpasses 40 percent. If you can't avoid the heat and humidity in your part of the world, opt for a treadmill run or choose your time of day wisely.
2. Know the danger signs.
High temperatures and humidity levels can have potentially dangerous side effects that go beyond discomfort and a slow pace. Listen to your body and be on the lookout for any signs of physical or mental discomfort that can happen to newbie runners and professionals alike. Physical symptoms of heat-related illness may include excessive fatigue, nausea, dizziness, or inability to maintain proper form while running. Mental symptoms of heat-related illness include feeling cool despite the heat and confusion.
If you wear a heart rate monitor when you run, keep a close eye on your heart rate and stop and take a walk break if you exceed your normal heart rate zone. If you experience any physical or mental discomfort or symptoms of heat-related illness, stop your run, find a shaded spot, and elevate your legs to allow your body to cool down naturally.
3. Run by feel.
High Summer temperatures and escalating humidity levels will not naturally lead you to PR a training run. Instead of being a slave to your stats, apps, and GPS gear, run according to feel and not by pace. Allowing yourself to slow down and take walk breaks as needed is perfectly acceptable when finishing a Summer training run.
4. Watch what you eat and drink.
As your body has to work harder to regulate its core temperature, less blood flow is available to your GI tract, making anything you drink or eat susceptible to causing runner's trots (diarrhea). Drinking plenty of water before, during, and after your workout not only keeps your body cooler, but it's the least likely culprit to cause the unwanted stomach issues.
If your run is over 30 minutes in the heat, be sure to add electrolytes in the form of a sports drink, but avoid gels that may cause stomach distress. If you need to eat before you head out, try a handful of pretzels or a glass of tomato juice — the extra salt will allow your body to sweat more efficiently and better regulate its temperature.
5. Dress for the heat.
Opt for light-colored, moisture-wicking clothing over cotton fabrics to help the sweat evaporate from your body. If you need something on your head to block the sun, wear a visor instead of a hat. The visor will block the sun from your eyes while allowing heat and moisture to evaporate from your head. No matter what time of day you choose to run, if the sun's up, wear sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15 to protect your skin from both UVA and UVB rays. And if your long run is scheduled for more than two hours, take the necessary time to stop and reapply. When shopping for sunscreen, be sure to choose the formula that won't run into your eyes when you sweat (think stick formulas over lotion formulas!).
Summer heat and humidity pose significant dangers for runners, but attention to the tips above will ensure that you are ready for your Fall race!