Runners are a different breed. Kind of like “horse people,” they run to a different drum, literally. When other people see rain or hot weather they think, "What a good day to sit on the couch and watch television". Die hard runners think “Water and sweat!”. As you get older, as hard as it is to accept, those little hurdles and obstacles that used to enhance the runner’s high and create an additional challenge, can start to get you down and wear you out quicker.
One of the hardest things for a lifelong runner to admit is that they can’t run the way that they used to. But, instead of thinking of that way and getting yourself down, consider this. It isn’t that you can’t run the way that you used to, it is just that you are smart enough to hear what your body is telling you, and kind enough after your many years together, to give it a break once in a while.
When I first moved to South Carolina from the Midwest, I could barely run to the mailbox during the heat of the summer. For a while, I thought it was just my age, and then I realized that heat and humidity both put a huge strain on the body, more so than when I was up north. So, no matter where you live, give your body a break when it calls for one. Once the cold weather started rushing in, I was able to return to my old running ways.
You don’t have to run a marathon to feel good about yourself. The fact that you stay active, continue to persevere, and do things to further your health against the aging process, is something that you should put in your back pocket. If you change your mentality to see that aging isn’t what is keeping you down, but wisdom is, you will stop finding angst in something that can be a huge favor to your body.
For starters, if you are going to run in the heat, then choose to go in the morning before the heat gets to be too much. Once the humidity meets the sun, running becomes much more difficult, and may be taxing your body more than you need it to. If you start early in the morning, you will have the energy of starting your day and the cooler temperatures to help you meet your mileage.
On those days when 90 is the norm from morning until evening, opt to run inside. I know, be still my heart for those of us who want to hit the great outdoors, but running inside is better than not running at all. Sometimes to achieve our goals, we have to find more than one way to get there.
When it really starts to heat up, no matter when you go running, it is important to stay hydrated. Even if you are part camel, when you lose fluids your muscles don’t have the energy to continue, and you can experience muscle cramps, which will put a cramp in any efforts at long distance running. If you are going to hit the trails or the open road, make sure to bring some water along. Even if that hasn’t ever been your thing, make it so. You will be amazed at how much a little hydration can keep you on track instead of sitting on the sidelines.
If some days you feel like you just can’t or don’t want to head out, don’t. The marathon police are not going to come to your house and arrest you for taking the day off. If your body is telling you no, it is time to stop strapping those shoes on and telling it yes. Take a softer and kinder position with your body, and it will treat you a lot better back. If you continually ignore it and don’t give it a break, sooner or later, it will catch up to you. If you are feeling tired and worn out all the time, it just might be because you aren’t letting your body have the recovery time it is asking for.
Stay out of the burning sun. So you used to look at the sunshine and laugh in its face, who is laughing now? There is something to be said about getting enough Vitamin D, so running while the sun is over head is not always a bad thing. In fact, it can be a super good way to get exercise and increase your Vitamin D reserves. If you are going for a short run, then skip the sunscreen and soak in the goodness.
New research is showing that getting Vitamin D from the sun during peak hours isn’t bad for you unless you overdo it; it can actually be healthy and essential. The guideline to follow is that you can only be in the sun half of the amount of time that it takes to burn without doing damage. So, don’t worry about the block if you are going to hit the trail for a short time.
If you are going to use sunscreen, then choose one that doesn’t have chemicals in it. While you are running, all those chemicals sprayed on the skin are being absorbed into your body and are probably doing you more harm than good.
Vitamin D is important, but if you are going to run during the day when the sun is out, then you will want to increase your intake of antioxidants. Oxidation occurs in the body due to being exposed to the radiation of UV rays. Oxidation leads to something called “free radical” damage. It is when a molecule in the body is missing an electron. In an attempt to find a match, it bounces around and creates chaos to find its charge. Antioxidants work by giving up their charge to stabilize the free radicals and stop their ability to cause cellular damage that can lead to aging and chronic illness.
So, this summer, stop beating yourself up both mentally and physically. Sure, not being twenty anymore kind of sucks. But, it isn’t that you can’t do it, it is that you choose to take better care and to be kinder to your body by listening to what it needs, when it needs a break, and giving it one when it asks.