There is nothing like a summertime run when the sun blazes from above, the scorching pavement heats from below and air in between is stagnant with oppressive humidity. It’s akin to running in a sauna while trying to breathe through a straw. Gallons of sweat seep out of every pour making it look like we went for a swim rather than a run. Even the smallest hills feel like mountains.
While we may be enjoying a bit of a reprieve from the heat and humidity this week, we know it will return with a vengeance before long. So unless you enjoy running on a treadmill or are willing to hibernate and lose the fitness you've worked so hard for, the run must go on. Here are a few tips to make things a little more bearable:
Embrace Minimalism. No, I'm not talking shoes, rather wear as little clothing as possible - the lighter (color and fabric) and looser the better.
Slow Down. Better yet, walk. Research shows that the ideal temperature for running is 50-55 degrees. For every 5 degrees above that, your performance can degrade 2% - more if it's humid. This means that a run in 85 degree heat and high humidity can slow you down 15-20%. Don't expect any PR's and don't think your run was a failure if you have to walk. Adding walk breaks can actually allow you to run faster and longer.
Glide Up: Your skin is like a sponge - it expands when you sweat. Don't let chub rub ruin your run. Use Body Glide or 2Toms Sport Shield to prevent painful chafing and stinging showers. Trust me.
Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate. About 60% of your body is water which is secretes via sweating to cool itself. Typically we don't feel thirsty until we've lost 2-3% of our body's water, but mental performance and coordination become impaired at 1% dehydration. The average runner's sweat rate is about 27-47oz/hour (while preparing for the 1984 Olympics, Alberto Salazar had a sweat rate of 125oz/hr!) - which means you need to drink about 6oz every 15 minutes to adequately hydrate yourself. Don't forget to replenish your electrolytes too by drinking Nuun or taking salt tablets.
Carry Ice. Did you know that your hand is your body's natural radiator? Cooling the palm of your hand by holding a partially frozen water bottle stimulates thermoregulation signals to the brain which, in turn, can enhance athletic performance and delay fatigue. Don’t have a fancy hand-held water bottle? We love the ingenious Bottle Band which turns any water bottle (even basic Poland Spring-like bottles) into a hand-held for just $6.
Cover Your Head. I prefer wearing visors because they allow for maximum evaporative cooling from your scalp while soaking up sweat and shielding/relaxing your face and eyes - but lightweight hats are great too, especially for longer races since you can fill the hat with ice and enjoy the benefits of glacial melt.
Shrewd Route Planning. Choose routes that are shaded and feature water stops. Don't forget to linger at those stops to let your heart rate recover. Bonus points for running through sprinklers - and runs that end at a pool or lake. Try to run early in the day or later in the evening. Especially try to avoid running behind a garbage truck (learned this lesson the hard way).
Medicate with 1000 cc's of SIU. That one is courtesy of former staffer Randy, a Marine who served in Afghanistan. Seriously, sometimes you just have to Suck It Up and get it done. Your reward will come on the first cool day when you feel amazingly light and fast. That elusive Runner's High is worth the price.