You’ve made it this far. You’ve been putting in those miles, and checking runs off of your training calendar. Enter August (cue sinister music).
Here comes the heat and humidity. Again, we are in Ohio. This summer, we’ve had some cool weather, and we’ve had some humid weather. Some days have been drier than the desert, and some days you could make a raft and float down your neighborhood street. You never really know what’s going to happen in August, but it’s best to be prepared for anything. In Ohio, we can easily start in the 60’s, and wind up in the 80’s and 90’s by afternoon. Then, there’s the humidity….
If you want to keep logging your miles, stop and consider how you will deal with the heat. For some of you seasoned runners out there, these tips might be a review for you. However, it’s good to be reminded of mistakes NOT to make, so consider this is refresher (no pun intended).
Solution number one? Well, if you want to avoid the heat all together, get up before sunrise and get your run done. At the very least, you will avoid the sun; but not always the humidity. Unfortunately for some of us, first thing in the morning just doesn’t work.
Maybe you have little people that need you first thing in the morning. Or, maybe you have to drop said little people off at certain times in certain places. Maybe your spouse works really early in the morning, so you can’t get out first thing. Sometimes, it’s your work schedule that will only permit a lunch time run, or an afternoon/evening run.
So, the best thing to do is prepare (I feel like I say that every week….). Take a look at the forecast the day before, and see what you are going to be dealing with. If you can adjust your schedule at all, try to plan a run that will be as pleasant as possible, with weather that will allow you to get all (or most) of your miles in.
If you have to head out in the heat, try to pick a route where you’ll have some shade. You may have a bit of a trade off. For example, if I really want shade, I may have to go to Highbanks, which means there will be hills. In my mind, I can handle the hills more than the sun, so that’s fine with me.
Wet down your hat, shirt, or both before you go out with cold water. Then, whenever you pass a water fountain, do it again. It’s amazing how good this will make you feel. There are also cooling towels you can take with you, or maybe a cold washcloth. You get the idea; be creative. At Ironman Ohio, they had sponges soaking in ice water. These were pure HEAVEN during the run (especially when we all thought our shoes were literally melting into the pavement).
Above all, safety first! Remember that your heart rate WILL be affected by the heat; it will get higher sooner, and may remain elevated throughout your run. Keep track of your heart rate throughout the run to make sure you’re staying in your normal range. If you don’t wear a monitor, stop and take your pulse every now and again to see where you’re at. You can also use “perceived exertion” or the talk test. If you can’t carry on a conversation because you are so winded, your exertion might be too high and you may need to slow it down a little. Your pace will be slower in the heat, and it should be.
Take fluids and salty snacks with you; you will need them. Water might not be enough if you’re going to be out there for a while (over 45-60+ minutes). There are lots of options for salt when you’re running: nuun, salt tablets, Gu with extra electrolytes, salty pretzels….the list goes on. Find something you can tolerate.
(Looks like you could cut through the air with a knife…..)
If you’re out there for a while, it’s best to take fluids and fuel more frequently but in smaller doses. Sometimes, on a hot and long run, it can take me a mile or two to get a whole Gu in. I’m fine with that, because I know it’s more likely to stay put if I take it in slowly. If I try to do too much too fast, the party is over and so is the run.
Also, remember that you need to focus on fluids so that your stomach can handle other fuels. If you are dehydrated, your stomach will begin to reject anything you try to eat.
Recap: prepare, plan, and pace yourself. Remember to put safety first. Adjust your mileage and pace as needed, and you will have a much better run!
Run Happy. Run Long.
Amy is a marathoner and triathlete, a mother of four, an Exercise Physiologist and an endurance athlete Physical Therapist. She lives with her husband, Dan (also a marathoner and triathlete), and kids in Lewis Center.