Well, that was a BIG mistake. By the time I got out it was in the 70s and not a cloud in the sky. Great weather for sipping margaritas on the patio, but not-so-great for running. Of course I had no sport drink on me and I was keeping my usual training pace. That worked out for me for about 2 miles, until the heat really started to get to me and I felt a bit nauseous and light-headed. I thought about pushing through it (after all, race day heat is always a possibility) - but then opted to cut it at 4 miles and make it my short run for the weekend, and then reschedule my long run for the next day, when I could wake up earlier and get out before the sun really set in.
So, in honor of my mistake (which really, I should know better now) here are some tried-and-true tips for running in the heat. Sure it's nothing groundbreaking, but it's always good to get a reminder in as the weather starts to change...
- Adjust your pace. Generally speaking, your body is most comfortable running in 50-55 degrees. After that, your body will have to work harder to keep your core temperature cooler. I think this is especially true if you are used to running in 50s-low 60 degrees, and all of the sudden it's 70+ degrees out. The general rule of thumb is slow anywhere from 30 seconds to 2 minutes depending on the heat/humidity - but as any runner knows, there's no one steadfast rule that works for everyone. Listen to your body, know your limits, and don't try to be a hero.
- Invest in a heart-rate monitor. Believe me, I hate numbers, and wearing a strap underneath my bra is not my favorite thing. But there's a reason why they are such a valuable training tool - numbers don't lie. Sure you might feel like you are crawling, especially if you are going slower than you're used, to but if your heart rate is sky high, that's your first warning to slow it down. Don't let dizziness and nausea come next.
- Ditch the cotton. I know the price tags of some tech gear can be scary ($13 for one pair of socks?!) but it's worth it. The good stuff will wick the moisture off your skin, keeping you cool and dry (well, relatively speaking) while the cotton will absorb the moisture and weight you down. And if the cotton is on your feet, you're likely looking at your blister culprit.
- Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate! I know this is not the first time you've heard this before - but seriously, your body needs its water. Keep drinking throughout the day, so you're not dehydrated before your run even begins. And make sure you have access to water on your run. Whether you carry a handheld, wear a hydration belt, or stashed some bottles along your route the old-fashioned way - just make sure you're drinking. I personally prefer to wear a belt, and if I'm planning a particularly long run on a hot day, I plan for a loop course and keep a cooler full of cold bottles in my car that I can swap out halfway through.
- But don't forget your electrolytes/salt. I know we tend to think of sodium as a food addictive we would like to avoid, but it's really a nutrient, and your body needs it! When I know I'm going to be running a ton, especially in the warmer temperatures, I make sure to included some salted foods in my daily diet (popcorn, crackers, nuts - even baked chips). I also will alternate between water and a sport drink on any run longer than a hour, on top of any gels/blocks/chews I might also need.
- On race day - don't depend on anyone else. This is true no matter what, but I find it especially crucial when you are racing in less than ideals temps. Just because a race says they will have water at every mile, doesn't mean that always happens (Chicago 2007 anyone?) If I know I'm going to be a race, especially a distance race, in awful conditions, I will make sure to carry my own water. Sure it might slow me a bit, but I know in those temps, I won't PR anyways...so better safe than sorry, right?
- Avoid the middle of the day. Generally speaking - the coolest part of the day is the early morning, and the second coolest is at the end. The middle of the day is the warmest and the sun is strongest. Plan your run accordingly
- Give yourself time. It's all relative, but your body does tend to acclimate a bit to the heat after about two weeks. At the very least, high temperatures won't be a total shock to your system.
- Don't compare yourself to others. Some runners handle the heat better, some handle freezing temperatures better. What is warm to me now - 75 degrees - sounds like winter to my parents in Miami. But when it's 45 degrees out, I'm in one layer, and they are bundled up like they are going on an expedition to Antarctica. Adjust your run to you, and you only.
- When all else fails, there's always the treadmill. Hey, it's better than nothing, right?