Most runners are happy to see that the frigid weather of the winter is giving way to the warmer temperatures of spring and summer. But, that means that the cold will soon switch to soaring temperatures. Not just about the heat, when things start to get hot, you have to worry about things like humidity and ozone layer, which can significantly affect your ability to breathe outdoors.
Don’t hit the treadmill for months on end just yet. If you still want to brave the outdoors, there are ways to keep yourself safe. Dehydration, especially for long distances, is real and can be really serious. Messing with electrolyte balance, it can lead to severe muscle cramps, and, in extreme cases, your cardiac rhythm. So, even if you are a running warrior, know that what defines the best warriors is not that they go into battle full force, but that they do so with a plan of action and the resources to conquer whatever comes their way.
Most runners are conditioned to go great lengths without water, but when the temperature gets hot, your body has to sweat a lot more to compensate for the heat and cool you down. On hot, humid, days, that can have you losing a whole lot more water. Since nature didn’t supply you with the hump to feed off, you might have to consider wearing the dreaded fanny pack and taking some bottles along. Take heart, they are much more stylish and functional than the clumsy bottles of yesteryear. Many provide you enough hydration packed in without being bulky or messing with your normal stride.
For those days when the sun is really beating down, try to choose a running path that is off of the beaten path. If you take the extra time to map out a trail run, the trees will provide you with cooler temperatures and shade. It will also help you to mix things up a bit, provide you better scenery, and help you get in a little cross training. Find the nearest forest preserve and commune with nature to stay out of the punishing sun on those days that are super steamy.
As a runner, you always want to hit the pavement, well…running. But, on those days that the weatherman says are going to be a scorcher, plan to pace yourself a little slower to get through your run. There is no sense trying to beat your own record, or even to put the pressure on yourself to run as quickly as you always do. Listen to your body, and if it says that it needs to slow a bit to accommodate for conditions, listen to it and give yourself a break. You can resume you fast pace when it is more tepid. Think about it this way, would you rather go full speed ahead and have to quit halfway, making yourself frustrated? Or, would you just rather have a non-self-competitive day where you run from start to finish and put it in your cap as an accomplishment?
If you are like most seasoned runners, you are always looking for signs that your glory days of running are nearing the end. If it is has been several weeks since you have been able to do what you used to, and you are either going shorter than you usually do, or slowing down significantly, don’t take it as a sign from the heavens that your running days are over. Realize that everyone, from kid to senior, is experiencing a harder time moving in the heat, and give yourself a much-needed break.
If you typically run when you get off of work or during your lunch hour, you might have to adjust things until the fall air rustles in. Choose to run in non-peak hours so that it isn’t as hot. Getting up and running before the sun really starts to shine, or going out after the sun sets, are both ways to avoid hitting the trail in the midst of the most grueling conditions. Just make sure that you make accommodations for the lighting conditions, and find a path that you are familiar with, as well as wear reflective clothes. If you can’t see cars, they certainly can’t see you. Once more, they aren’t anticipating you coming or going.
When the weather is super hot, you probably think the fewer clothes, the better. The problem is that you don’t want to risk getting sunburned. Even with sunscreen, if you go long distances, the sweat can make your sunscreen obsolete, not to mention it hurts when or if you get it in your eyes. Choose loose-fitting clothes that aren’t cotton. Cotton holds the heat in and will contribute to your overheating. New whisking athletic materials do a great job helping the surface of your skin cool down, so that your body temperature stays at a safe range.
For women, make sure to wear a comfortable running bra. Not just about support, running on days that make you sweat just breathing, will make it more likely that you will have some chaffing that leads to blisters. Find a sports bra that fits well and consider using anti-chaffing lotion, otherwise, you will have blisters in all the wrong places.
If the weatherman is calling for severely dangerous temperatures, or there is an ozone warning issued, take the day off or run indoors. When it gets that hot, your body can even feel it inside. It is okay to skip running for your own health. You aren’t going to lose any ground by taking the time off and doing something other than running. Try doing yoga or pilates to build core strength on those days when it just isn’t healthy to risk running outdoors.
Summer can be an excellent time to start your fall marathon aspiration training, but not if you don’t play it safe. Heat stroke and dehydration are both very serious conditions, and they can lead to an increase in injury when you are running outside. Make sure to be a prepared warrior before you head out to battle, so that you come back unscathed, time and time again. That which doesn’t kill you might make you stronger, but then again, why take the risk that it just might kill you?