RUNNING IN THE HEAT
HOT ZONE TRAINING (updated June 7, 2017) Temperatures are rising and, rather than to avoid snow, sleet or cold rain, our excuses for not running will shift, sometimes quickly, to those involving the avoidance of hot and humid weather conditions.
Although it’s tough to run outdoors these times, the increased physical demands on the body represent circumstances in which you are training harder and can come out of the summer “heat” season as a stronger autumn racer. Matt Fitzgerald has some good advice on how to successfully train in hot weather.
To understand the science behind his advice some of you may wish to first read Tawnee Prazak’s article, “ 5 Reasons Heat Affects Performance”. Generally, Fitzgerald’s advice includes how to cool before and stay cool during runs, adjust your running to allow for the physical effects of heat, and above all be alert to danger signs the body sends when heat becomes a problem.
Earned Runs summer strategies complement what Matt Fitzgerald recommends. Just as there are ways to deal with harsh winter weather there are similar tricks to summer running that can keep you safe and allow you to persevere with your training plan.
Map out a running route that 1) incorporates small “loops”, 2) maximizes shade and cool breezes, and 3) minimizes exposure to direct sunlight. However be mindful that if you rise early or wait until late to run to avoid the heat, low-light times of the day require extra attention to safety..
Find a 'loop' on a street of a neighborhood or park where you can readily seek help if needed, the traffic is low, and your line of sight is clear to detect potential danger. A shorter loop, about a half mile distance or so, will be easier to find than a longer loop of a mile or more.
If you cannot run before the sun rises or after it sets (you get a late weekend start or take a weekday lunch break to exercise), especially if it’s a long-distance workout, running multiple short loops in shaded or breezy areas can be a more comfortable option. Or running short out-and-backs on a linear route with the same qualities.
To stay near to a central safe point (car or building), I will start at that point, run “out” in one direction, turn around and run “back” to the start. Then run an “out-and-back” in the opposite direction, again retuning to the central start, repeating this centered linear ’loop’ as many times as needed for the miles I plan to run.
I am also a fan of parking structure loops. These buildings often have open walls and are well ventilated. In a big city, air movements through 'street canyons' can result in gusting winds that whip up breezes, depending on their location and orientation. Possibly the structure you avoided in the winter for this very reason is the one to seek out in summer! Those in which cars remain for the entire day will have the least traffic.
More benefits of loops: you can easily cut short your run should the heat cause more stress than anticipated, and you can stash fluids in one spot and hydrate liberally as needed during each circuit.
Running as uncovered as possible may not be the best strategy. Wearing light-colored, loose-fitting tops with sleeves that at least shield the shoulders can decrease the heat generated from direct sun exposure on the skin, especially in less humid conditions. A light-colored vented hat with a visor will keep direct sun off the head and face, and help lessen vision strain, even if you wear sunglasses; one with a neck flap offers more protection. Light-colored loose–fitting shorts may not always be figure flattering but will be cooler than black spandex.
Tie a white or light colored long-sleeved 100% cotton shirt around your waist. You can use it to wipe sweat from your face during your run. Afterward, in the cool-down walk or jog, you may feel uncomfortably cool when you stop generating heat. If you pass through or stop to get a snack/meal in air-conditioned buildings or drive in an air-conditioned car to get to your loop course, you’ll feel cooler on the return trip. If the sun is too much for you on a run, you can use the shirt in the middle of it as cover.
If you partially fill a bottle/container (about halfway) and put it in the freezer well before your run, at home or at work, you can top off the ice with fluid before you start out, and it will thaw gradually and provide you with a cooling drink for the duration of a mid-day run. The ice in a completely filled container may not thaw fast enough for you to drink while you run; the added fluid hastens the thawing process. Drink cool, iced fluids about 15-20 minutes before you start out; this allows time for a restroom visit, and for gastric emptying and absorption to occur (it’s delayed with cold fluids). If you replace electrolytes or fuel with a gel or gummies during longer runs rather than with a drink, take them with you too.
Liberally apply a barrier sunscreen (zinc oxide/titanium dioxide based, advertised for babies or for sensitive skin) to your entire face and neck at home each morning. You are likely to achieve better coverage if you do it before dressing. Re-apply before you start out on a run. Although this application may leave you with a not-so-attractive facial look, you’ll come back sweaty anyway. Best to protect yourself from harmful rays that speed aging and increase cancer risk. Runners spend so much time outdoors we receive more facial exposure than indoor types.
Make sure you have sufficient cash for unexpected needs and emergencies (to buy a drink or food, or catch a ride if you don’t use on-demand services).
IDENTITY PROOF AND RAIN PHONE PROTECTION
Make sure you have easily accessible identity and emergency contact information with you, even if carrying a phone. Llight summer running clothes won’t shield your phone from water when surprised by heavy rain. If bad weather threatens, have a quart-sized freezer bag handy to protect it; the bag can be used to stash cash and a business card with written ID info. I’ve carried one during downpours in my hand,
There’s nothing wrong with taking regular walk breaks during very hot weather runs. If you mentally make this allowance a rule for summer running, it may result in fewer skipped sessions!
Enjoy the SUMMER weather and….
"7 Hot Weather Training Tips" by Matt Fitzgerald
“5 Reasons Heat Affects Performance” by Tawnee Prazak
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EARNED RUNS is edited and authored by me, runner and founder. I began participating in road races before 5Ks were common. I've been a dietitian, practiced and taught clinical pathology, and been involved with research that utilized pathology. I am fascinated with understanding the origins of disease as well as health.
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