Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Running on Sunshine

It seems that most of the country (at least by the fitness/running blogs I read), runners are dealing with heat issues.

Tonight was no different here down in H-Town.  I didnt leave the house until around 6:15 and at least according to my phone app it was only 93 with 57% humidity.  Fun huh?

I wait until much later as when I have 6 miles on the schedule at least I know a route I can take that when I run on one side of the road, for 95% of the route I am hidden from the sun by shade.

I know that everyone has their little tricks of the trade for dealing with heat when running and then there are those that throw caution to the wind, and in my opinion, take risks out there.

There isnt a day that goes by that throughout the day, I can look out the windows from where I work, right across from Buffalo Bayou (a very popular place for runners) that I see people running in the middle of the day when the temps and feels like are dangerously high.  I see them running with no hydration that I can see.  And while there are a few fountains around the either 3 or 5 mile route, its not sufficient in my opinion.

I have been running in this mess for my entire running 'career' (for lack of a better word) and I worked full time (and now part time) in a specialty running store, have attended countless sessions on running and racing in the heat etc., so since a few have asked and even on other blogs where it seems to be a common question I thought I would give my 2 cents on how to deal.  Or at least what works for me.

  1. Run in the coolest parts of the day.  If you can, under the cover of darkness or at least on a route where it provides at least shade for part of the route.  If life prevents you from doing this (other obligations) then either postpone the run to another day, run on a treadmill or shorten the distance.  I have done this myself, and in the Summer months here, I do at least 2 days a week on a treadmill.  Its been proven that progressive days of intense exercise in intense heat builds up and can cause problems over time without you realizing it.  I run either early before work (rarely though because I like to sleep and not be rushed in the mornings before work), or I wait till much later in the evening.
  2. Carry hydration.  It sucks and I hate it.  I know that there are those that have always and have no issue with it, but it drives me bonkers.  But I do it for anything over 3 miles.  Thankfully I dont have to do this on my long runs as my running group provides water/gatorade stops every 2 miles on Saturdays.  One of the tricks that I do is I actually freeze whatever fluid I am going to take in the handheld.  Here it melts very quickly so there isnt a need to worry that it will stay solid.  I carry a 10 oz bottle.  If you carry a bigger one, and you dont live in such a hot climate as I do, then freeze half and before you leave, fill it up the rest of the way.  Also I would say, dont take big swigs.  Small swigs work better and enter into the body more evenly.  If you take big swigs, it goes directly to your tummy and just sits there and swishes around making it uncomfortable.
  3. Wear identification.  I wear my Road ID whenever I run alone, but sometimes I just blow it off.  However when its dangerous conditions out, I always always ALWAYS wear it.  If something happens like heat exhaustion or you pass out from the heat, or even get disoriented, at least there is information for someone to know who you are, where you live and an emergency contact.
  4. Wear as little clothing as possible.  Throw modesty out the window.  Trust me you may think people are judging you, but they arent.  Its important to be sure that the body is cooling off properly and while running clothes are high tech and all, in certain climates such as ours (high humidity) no matter what you wear its going to soak through, and not dry fast enough.  In addition to the added weight and uncomfortableness (and chafing), when its high humidity, and you have all that fabric and sweat and its not evaporating, your body has to work harder to cool itself.  This is no bueno!!!  Again, regardless of how uncomfortable you may feel by showing too much skin, its better for you in the long run!  If you must wear a shirt, wear a tank or singlet thats very thin, lightweight and light colored.
  5. Don't wear a hat.  When you wear a hat, just like in the winter, the hat acts as an insulator.  This is great in the colder months, but in the summer, its going to make your body heat up much faster and since heat escapes through the head, well with a hat on, guess what?  No escaping.  If you must wear something to shield your eyes or face from the sun, then wear a visor.  This at least still allows heat to escape.
  6. Wear sunscreen if you are running in direct sunlight!  Get a sports one so that it doesnt sting if it gets in your eyes, or do like I do and not put it on your forehead :).  This way when you sweat and it rolls in your eyes, then it wont sting!  This really wont do anything for your run, but its important!
  7. Salt tablets.  I generally use S Caps (by Succeed), but because I was a yahoo and forgot to order in time, I just bought Saltstick tabs at Lukes.  These are supposed to be just as good or better.  We'll see.  There is also a brand called Endurolytes, but I found that SCaps are better due to more salt and just more than table salt.  Salt tablets, in my opinion prevent more than just cramping.  They keep your legs fresher.  You lose so much salt and electrolytes during the sweating process that simply taking oz's of Gatorade during your run, cannot replace it fast enough.  Be proactive instead of reactive.  I take a couple before my run (over 5 miles) and then 1-2 every 45 min or so.  Sometimes depending on the sweat factor I will take 1 ever 3 miles.  
  8. Slow.  Down.  This is quite possibly the hardest thing to do.  You come off of a cold winter and a cool Spring and then the heat and humidity hit you and you start beating yourself up (literally) by trying to do the paces you were doing before.  This along with the actual running can cause not only injury, but can make you sick and then also mentally it can wear you down to wear you lose the desire.  None of this is good!  Take walk breaks to bring the HR down.  Even if you dont wear a HR monitor, you know when its too high and if slowing down even further doesnt help, then walk for a minute.  Then start back up slowly until you fall back into pace.  In the summer, I do a lot of run/walks.  Its usually 7-10 min of running then a 1 min walk break.  Its in this minute that I will take in a couple of ounces of fluid.
  9. Reduce mileage.  If you arent training for a Fall marathon, then cut back on mileage.  This keeps you in shape and love running, but yet not to the point of where you are hating having to get out there.  This way when you do start training for a half or full marathon, then you arent starting back at square one.
Now having said all of that, tonights hot and humid 6 miles went very well!  I went out slowly, walked a minute after each mile.  Picked it up in the last mile and finished without feeling like I was going to pass out!  I think mentally I have found myself back where I need to be in this kind of weather, and in my opinion, when it is like this weather wise, it becomes all about mental as opposed to the physical.

So do you live in a hot and humid climate?  Are you struggling mentally?  Are you training for a Fall marathon or just maintaining for when you start training for a Winter or Spring marathon?  Which one(s) are you doing?  Any additional tips???


Karen said...

All of your points were dead on! :0) Thanks for sharing!

Karen said...

Are you running Houston in January, by the way? I got into the Full!

Adrienne said...

Good points, great perspective. We gotta work with what we got, so might as well just run anyway:)

TX Runner Mom said...

Great tips June! Thanks for the S Caps tip, I am using Endurolytes now...they help, but I am always looking for something better.

Junie B said...

Christy, SCaps are only available online though! And I got that tip from a few Iron(peeps) I know. Lukes carries the SaltStick capsules, which I will be testing out over the next week. Product review to follow!

Anonymous said...

I'll be looking forward to the review. It is ridiculously hot lately. I'm a night runner and I abide by nearly all your tips. I have yet to try the salt tabs, I'm intriqued.

saroy said...

When I run in the heat, I stay hot ALL DAY. I'm still in search of a good way to cool down, especially when I do morning races. It's ridiculous that I find myself sitting around 10 hours after a race and my face is still warm to the touch.

I've never done salt tablets but maybe I should try.

My standard solution is that I run inside on a treadmill a LOT more often in the summer, especially if I want to run at tempo pace or do intervals. No matter how acclimated I get, my body does not handle the heat well.

Neeraj Rohilla said...

Interesting take about runners in middle of day along Bayou. I plead guilty as I have done it several times because I am stubborn. I also do somethings little different for example:

I believe if I have access to water fountain every two miles even in 100 degrees, then I am fine and hence I never carry hydration with me.

I don't use/need Gatorade for anything shorter than 8 mile run. Infact, I only use it on my long runs and on Wednesdays because BCRR provides it. I start to use salt tabs/Gu Gels around November when my long runs are consistently 16 miles or longer.

I am with you on carrying ID and probably some money as well. Very important.

JunieB said...

Excellent points Neeraj, but you are a MUCH faster runner than the majority of my blog audience :O)

If I could run 8 miles in under an hour, I wouldnt take fluids either possibly.

And I dont take salt tabs in the winter. Only summer.