We’re in the heat of the summer [literally]. Running in the heat can be difficult in so many ways, not to mention uncomfortable and unpleasant. Luckily I am usually a morning runner, but on these 90+ degree days with humidity, even a 6am run can be brutal.
According to Strength Running, heat can wreak havoc on your training for two important reasons.
First, the dry air evaporates sweat from your body almost as quickly as you’re producing it so you can become dehydrated much more quickly. If you start a run slightly dehydrated or run long without any fluids, your performance will significantly decrease (and you’ll feel like death).
Second, as you become more and more dehydrated throughout a run, your heart needs to work harder to pump your blood because it’s becoming thicker (among a few other reasons too). This is called cardiac drift: your heart rate increases over the course of a run even when the intensity stays the same.
You may have noticed your times are slower – or your effort to keep a pace is more difficult – when the heat rises. While frustrating, it is actually a studied subject. Here is a calculator to determine what your pace might be at a specific heat.
So, if you must get out there (be careful!!) here are some tips to be more comfortable:
- Chill a bandanna to wrap around your neck during the run: A recent study found that such cooling tactics during a race are more effective than precooling strategies when it comes to boosting performance in the heat.
- Do your workout inside, or halve it, to avoid overheating too early — your muscles warm up more quickly in hot conditions.
- Avoid out-and-back routes.
- Bring your own water. Hydrate.
- Plan a route that goes by water fountains to re-fill your water.
- Freeze water in your bottle overnight, as much as 3/4 full, to make it ice before you head out. It’ll melt fast enough for you to drink it, but stay cool longer than typical water.
- Create a route that loops around your house so that you can change clothes, cool down, and re-fuel.
- Avoid heat-radiating roads and sidewalks, but rather seek dirt or grass trails if possible.
- Take a hot bath?
Practical running tips:
- Make sure you are HYDRATED and are supplementing your electrolyte loss. Nuun is great for this. Before, during, and after.
- Monitor your heart rate to determine perceived effort. Studies have shown that between 60 to 75 degrees, heart rate increases by two to four beats per minute. From 75 to 90 degrees, heart rate increases up to 10 beats per minute. Humidity increases it even more.
- Try running for time instead of distance on super-hot days; for example, if an 18-miler normally takes you three hours (at a 10:00 pace), run for three hours at the same effort level. You might not go as far, but you get the same benefits.
- Again… HYDRATE.
But above all, be SAFE and listen to your body. Have a plan to get home if you need to get out of the heat quickly. Bring money, a cell phone, and have identification on you.
If you can get out there, you will see benefits in your training once your body acclimates to heat training. Some of these benefits are:
- Your body gets better at sending blood from your core to your skin, helping to dissipate heat
- With all the blood rushing to your skin, your muscles now get less oxygenated blood. So to compensate, your body produces more and becomes more efficient at doing so.
- The body learns to control its core temperature and it won’t increase as much after you’ve acclimatized.
- You start sweating sooner at a lower body temperature to improve the cooling process.
- The sweat begins to contain less salt, so you maintain the right electrolyte balance.
- It may present a good opportunity to “train your brain” to be comfortable being uncomfortable. Mental training opportunities are so important!
All these adaptations improve your efficiency and make you ready to run even faster as soon as the heat and humidity drop in the fall. So embrace the heat and run through it!
What are some of your tips for running in the heat?
– Kathlyn Ehl