With summer in full effect, you may have noticed that your runs have begun to feel different. As in...why does my easy pace now feel like I'm running in mud and I'm working so hard to get nowhere fast?
Summer running can make it feel like you need gills rather than lungs. If you are doing heart rate training, good luck. The warmer the weather, the harder your body has to work to keep you cool. Your heart rate will be higher and breathing more difficult. The reason why is your body is directing blood to the skin to cool you off through sweating. That means there's less blood available to transport oxygen to your muscles. What would usually be an easy-paced run feels more like a max all-out effort.
If you don't like running in the heat or humidity, you don't need to retreat inside for the next few months. There are plenty of things to try to make it a little bit more comfortable. And if you do have to hit the treadmill, no biggie. Do what works for you.
Less Is BestWear as little clothing as legally possible. If you are the sports bra only or shirtless kind of person, do that. Stick to light-colored, loose, wicking materials. Now is not the time for wearing all black or cotton. No matter what fabric you are wearing, Body Glide can be a life saver for preventing chafing.
Don't Forget the SunscreenEven if it's early morning or partly cloudy, protect yourself from skin cancer and other skin damage by using sunscreen before every run. Just be sure it's sweat proof. No runner needs to feel the pain of sunscreen and sweat in their eyes.
Wear a Hat or VisorA hat or visor will not only protect your skin from the sun, but it will also help to keep your face shaded. Soaking the hat or visor in cold water before heading out the door can help to lower body temp and feel cooler as well.
Start Slow and End SlowA warm up prior to a run should always be done (try one of these dynamic warm ups!), but even more so when the temperatures are high. You want to gradually increase your heart rate rather than starting out too fast. Same thing for the end of the run. Do a gradual slow-down that includes some time for a slow walk. It will help regulate your heart rate and cool your body a bit.
Run EarlyMorning temperatures are usually the coolest during the summer. It also will give you a break from the strongest hours of sunlight. The humidity can sometimes be high in the morning, but at least you won't have the blazing sun on you. And you may even get the treat of a gorgeous sunrise. You want to be sure to avoid the middle part of the day, which will be the hottest.
Run LateIf you aren't a morning person, wait until the late evening when the sun is starting to set. The temps will be better than mid-day, and the humidity may dip, too. Just like running early, you'll probably get the treat of a gorgeous sunset.
Slow DownYour body has to work extra hard in the heat and humidity running at a "normal" pace, and when you try to pick up the pace, even more so. Run for time and effort rather than distance and pace. Save the hard pace workouts for a day when the temp and humidity are lower or when you can go early in the morning when the day is coolest.
Hit the TrailsWhen the temperatures rise, asphalt and concrete absorb heat and radiate it back into your face. Trail running usually offers shade from trees unless you are going above the tree line. It also forces you to slow down. Bonus if the trail has the perfect place to jump in a lake or river post run!
Drink upIf you are running more than 75 to 90 minutes, carry a hand-held water bottle, hydration belt or hydration vest with you. Or stash water bottles along your intended route ahead of time if you don't like carrying anything in your hands. For an extra dose of cooling relief, freeze your water bottles before your run. By the time you need it, enough ice has melted for you to drink up some icy cold water. Planning your route along accessible drinking fountains is not a bad idea either. You may also opt for adding electrolytes to your water to help balance the extra sodium and potassium lost through increased sweating.
Ice ItUltraruners use this trick all the time while racing in the heat. Stuff a bandana full of ice and tie it so the ice is at the back of your neck. Or fill up your hat with ice before putting it on your head. As the ice melts, it will keep you cool.
Run With FriendsJust like running on frigid cold mornings in January, having friends to commiserate with while you slog through the heat makes it more tolerable. If you are joining a larger group run, there's high probability that water, Gatorade or fuel will be out on the route. You won't have to worry about having enough water with you.
Take It InsideIf it's really hot and humid and your only option to run is during the hottest part of the day, take it inside to the treadmill, preferably to a treadmill in an air-conditioned room.
Not running is unthinkable to some runners, but sometimes the heat and humidity just aren't runner friendly. Opt for cross training instead on the bike or even swimming. Maybe it's time to give pool running a shot?
The good news is that the body acclimates to the heat and humidity rather quickly, so you'll become a more efficient summer runner in no time.
Most of all, have fun and enjoy yourself but use common sense! Most of us only get this weather for a few short months out of the year. Before you know it, we'll be complaining it's too cold, so live it up!
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