By Zane Thrift
We are about to get hot, very hot. Summer is gradually sneaking up on us, if you can believe it. This is the time of the year that you can tell yourself “it’s just too hot to run”, or you suck it up butter cup, and you make the needed modifications so you can still retain your routine. If you’re able to stick to that routine, there will be advantages later on that will be well worth it. Disclaimer: I am not a doctor and I do not specialize in anything in this article other than my own research, including sweating 20 pounds off during a run.
It’s significant to first recognize why running in the heat is so challenging, and to do that, you need to look internally. When you run, your body heats up and the further you run, the more your body produces that heat and needs to cool itself down. As your body attempts to cool itself down your body is essentially directing the blood in your muscles to cooler air which is located closer to your skin. Your muscles rely on your blood for oxygen, when your blood is being taken away from your muscles to cool down it is leaving additional blood in your muscles to roast because it is not capable of cooling down. This causes a number of issues including overheating because the amount of heat in your body is not able to discharge fast enough compared to the heat that is in the air. Then you have the issue of losing too much water because your body is trying to cool itself down at an exceptionally fast rate, which in turn, makes you dehydrated, so your muscles are basically working energetically while losing key components needed to run. Other issues include heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and heatstroke.
Now, this isn’t meant to scare you away from being able to run in the summer, it’s just imperative to be aware of the vulnerabilities and knowing the signs of when you may need to stop. It takes your body about two weeks to adjust to the heat, so you want to be sure to give your body time for that adjustment.
More importantly, I want to go over one of the principal advantages of running in the heat. Believe it or not, running in the heat can actually make you faster! You’ll hear many runners assertion that this is the time of the year to train hard because it’s almost like altitude training, which is why many runners see their Personal Records in the fall/winter because they have built that endurance, and your muscles don’t need to go into overdrive as recurrently or as relaxed in the cooler months. Your body changes and harvests more red blood cells and it is then able to standardize that internal temperature much easier which results in being able to run faster and longer, particularly once it cools down.
Just because it’s crazy hot outside, doesn’t mean you can’t train. If you’re going to run in the heat, follow some of these well-known tips:
- Bring water with you during training runs (It sounds obvious, but you’d be surprised).
- Understand the heat index. Just because it says 90 degrees, it can feel over 100.
- Know your warning signs for dehydration, heat stroke, and heat exhaustion.
- Always be hydrating, even on your off days.
- Consider running with a partner or group, so you have a buddy with you to also watch for signs.
- Don’t try to go out in the middle of the summer and PR your 5k time on a casual run, you’ll still be fast so don’t worry about your pace as much, just run.
- If you are able to run in the early morning or late evening, do that, and if not, consider running somewhere with lots of shade (probably not an open street, that asphalt is an eradicator).
- Dress like it’s hot outside. Wear fabric that isn’t heavy or absorbent. This means don’t wear those cotton shirts, especially for you guys, bloody nipples on a run is something no one wants to see you go through. Avoid dark clothes and try to stick to tech type tank tops.
- Pickle Juice is a great option to avoid cramping after you run, don’t get it from the jar, buy it in store or online. (https://www.picklepower.com/ or on Amazon.com)
- Body Glide… you’re welcome.
- Check your ego at the door. Don’t do anything irrational and trust the progression.
- Always consult your doctor if you have any concerns with running in the heat.
Training in the summer is problematic at first, however, once your body can make that alteration then you won’t notice a difference and you’ll be killing your races in no time. Always remember to be vigilant, if you follow the right steps then you could very well see yourself having the best fall/winter race season that you’ve ever had, and that’s what it is all about. If you want to run a race that is insanely hot, be sure to check out Too Hot to Handle, the name is spot on and it’s well run with plenty of ways to keep you cool, including an ice cold adult beverage when you’re done.