Thursday, July 5, 2012

Running in the Heat

My biggest concern about training for this marathon was the heat. I love summer, until it hits about 90° F, in which case I’d rather ball up in the air conditioning and watch reruns of Storage Wars. However, marathon training doesn’t care that we’ve had two heat waves since I started June 25. You can’t postpone your run because it’s gross out. You just need to do it somehow.

I typically run at about an 11:30/mi pace. Not fast by any means, but I get by. Not in this heat though. In this heat I’ve been averaging a 12:49 pace. Frustrated, I turned to the internet for answers. According to Runner’s World magazine, every five-degree rise in temperature above 60° F can slow your pace up to 20 to 30 seconds per mile. Okay, that makes me feel a little bit better. Now what’s the best way to not suffer from heat exhaustion while out there? Here are some of the best tips I’ve found:

  • This is the most important thing I’ve found across the board: stay hydrated. You need to drink enough to balance out sweat loss. Sweat keeps you cool in the summer heat, and is vital. Drink that water! The American College of Sports Medicine guidelines suggest drinking anywhere from about 14 to 27 ounces per hour, with the higher end of the range applying to “faster, heavier individuals competing in warm environments and the lower rates for the slower, lighter persons competing in cooler environments.” Easiest way to tell if you’re hydrated enough? Go pee. If it’s darker than the color of straw, get back inside and keep drinking.
  • Put down the coffee – it’ll just dehydrate you more. Sad but true. While I don’t think I can quit coffee entirely, I’m going to try to keep consumption at a minimum.
  • Get that salt intake up. Sodium not only makes you thirsty (so you drink more), it helps your body retain fluid.
  • Get acclimated. Don’t avoid running in the heat necessarily, especially when coming up on heat wave season. However, keep the exposure limited to your shorter runs. Always do your long runs in the coolest weather possible. The internet tells me that after two weeks of training in the heat, I'll experience less discomfort and adapt. I’m wary, but it looks like I’ll find out one way or another.
  • Plan  your route to double past your house. Leave a water bottle or sports drink in the mailbox.
  • Start off slower than normal. If you’re feeling good after you’re halfway done, then you can work on speeding things up. Even if you don't push the pace, running in hot weather forces the body into overdrive.
  • Stay out of the city! Meteorologist Cecily Tynan of ABC's affiliate station WPVI-TV in Philadelphia says, “It's hotter in cities than in surrounding areas because asphalt and concrete retain heat. If you must run in a city, look for shade, and try to go in the early morning or late evening.”
  • Wear light colored, moisture wicking clothing. It’s not just a scam by Nike to make overpriced sportswear. Bonus points for gear that has SPF protection. I’d say wear sunscreen, but in this heat, I’m pretty sure it’d melt off in the first five minutes.
  • Do interval training. Alternate running and walking to avoid overheating. This has been crucial for me so far.

These tips don’t just relate for running – this goes for any type of activity outside, whether you’re playing tennis or sitting on the beach. Mother Nature can be a mean, mean woman, and it’s better to play it safe.  Stay cool out there!

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