Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Tips for Running in the Heat

(Note: I wrote this at about 10:00am but blogger hated me for a while. I think I got it figured out.)

I just got back from running and I have to tell you, I feel pretty good about myself.

I set my alarm to wake up at 6:00 so I could run before it gets melt-your-face-off hot, but... well... I didn't get up. I could blame this on a myriad of things, but really I just didn't want to get up. I figured I could run later tonight.

So I finally got up, drank my coffee, ate my cereal, etc. and started planning my day. Today is my day off this week- I really love my summer schedule! Anyway... I realized we had planned to cookout and watch the Mavs game tonight with some friends, so running was out of the question.

At first I just wanted to forget the run, but then I reminded myself of the love handles that have somehow appeared above my waistband lately and my goal of running everyday that I wasn't working. So I decided to be brave and face the heat... all 90 degrees of it (at 9 o'clock in the morning!!).

I've now run through 4 summers in Texas and in that time I've discovered ways to make it less miserable. Dare I say, I even enjoy it sometimes. The other night I went ran at eight in the evening, right when the sun was going down, and it was honestly one of the best runs I've had in a while. So without further ado...


1. Respect the heat. This is probably the most basic tip you'll ever find, but its really important. It gets really freaking hot in Texas (and other parts of the country) and people just aren't made to be out in that heat. When it's hot outside your body can do weird things and start rebelling against you if you aren't careful. If you feel lightheaded or faint in anyway, stop. The best way to avoid the most intense heat is to not go by my earlier example and try to run early in the morning or later at night when the sun isn't in full force. 

2. Don't wear a hat. Some people like wearing a hat and I did so for a while because I worried about skin cancer. However, most of the heat in your body escapes through your head, so I like to keep it uncovered during the summer months. Make sure to wear sunscreen though. And wear sunglasses because otherwise you'll be like me and end up getting fine wrinkles around your eyes from squinting into the sun so much.

3. Slow down. Unless people are watching (kidding). This morning my pace was about  60-75 seconds slower than it normally is during cooler months. That's okay. I find it really is so much better to run at a pace that is comfortable than to run at a pace that you think you are supposed to run at. During the summer I usually set either time or distance goals for a run, ex. "today I'll run 30 minutes, no matter how far I go" or "today I'm going to do 4 miles, no matter how long it takes me." I've also discovered that I'm better about keeping the pace slow if I listen to slower, more mellow music. Instead of running to my usual playlist (Black Eyed Peas, Britney, N'Sync, Kesha, etc.) I'll listen to Mumford and Sons, Adele or Jack Johnson. Since I run with my iPhone (for safety) I just pick a pandora station and listen to that. (* This isn't a heat tip, but I've started skipping the headphones if I'm running along streets and just listening to the music from the iPhone. I'm more aware of what's going on around me and generally feel less distracted.)

4. Don't wear cotton. Cotton will make you hotter because it holds on to your sweat rather than letting it evaporate. Find some sweat-wicking performance shirts or tanks (Target has some really reasonably priced ones) and use those instead. Don't wear a cotton sports bra either. Cotton straps + sweat = chafing. You do not want that to happen, trust me. If chafing is a problem you can either buy body glide (which I've never used but have heard good things about) or vaseline to use on the spots where you normally have a problem (ex. front of shoulders, along your rib cage).

5. Run on the shady side of the street. If possible, run along shady streets. You may not think it will make a difference, but it really does.

6. Find the sprinklers. I've found a couple of houses that ALWAYS have sprinklers going (wouldn't want to see their water bill) and I make a habit of running passed those houses. You'd be amazed at how running through one can cool you off (just stay on the road, don't run through their yard or anything. That's weird.)

7. Drink some water. Then drink some more water. After that, drink some more water. Hydration is key. You should try and drink lots of water during the summer anyway, but especially if you are planning on going on a run. If I drink too much water beforehand I get a stomach cramp, so I try to sip water for an hour or so before I run (if possible) and then I typically take a water bottle with me if I'm planning on running more than three or so miles. When I get home I will chug a bottle of water before I get into the shower and then after I'm out I'll drink some more. I really cannot stress how important water is when its hot outside. A good way to see if you are hydrating enough is to weigh yourself before you run and then weigh yourself after you run. If the numbers are too different (like, pounds different) you need to be drinking more water.

8. Save speed work for the end of the run. I still like to challenge myself on runs, but I'll normally save any type of speed work for the end of a run. For instance, if I'm doing speed work on a 3 miler I'll run a comfortably-hard pace for 2 miles and then try and pick it up for the last mile, maybe sprinting the last 1/4 of a mile or so. It's good practice to get in the habit of finishing strong... you'll have better endurance and better "kick" towards the end of a race and will have trained yourself not to peter out.

Those are all I can think of at the moment. I know it's kind of a basic list, but hopefully it's helpful to someone! 

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