Whether you’re training for a summer race or just trying to survive till a fall marathon, running in the south east summer is draining and exhausting! After just a loop around the block, your clothes look like you’ve jumped into a swimming pool! An afternoon run can easily turn into a dangerous suffer fest if you are not prepared. So before you put on that sweat band and take off that shirt to get a nice bronzed look during your afternoon tempo run, brush up on these 5 heat training tips to prevent heat exhaustion or worse.
1. Adjust to the Heat
Heat training can be beneficial for your running as it can expand blood plasma volume, but one cannot just jump into a full training schedule in high heat. First, you must acclimate your body with incremental improvements over 2 to 4 weeks. Be patient with your runs as the temperature rises. Slowly increase the length of time and effort of workouts as you feel your body adjusting. Rushing into heat training can cause heat cramps or heat exhaustion. Listen to what your body is telling you and adjust. But if you absolutely can’t stand the heat, run in the early mornings or late evenings.
2. Correct Hydration
Re-hydrate after last night’s beer! Drinking at least eight cups of water a day is always important, but your body needs more water in the summer. An average human sweats 1 liter of water per hour of exercise. To stayed fueled (and alive), hydrate with an electrolyte drink 1-1.5 hours before your workout. Run with a hand held water bottle or hydration pack, and continue to drink 16-28 oz of fluid per hour as you workout (or 4 to 8 ounces per mile). If you have to, set an alarm to go off every 20 minutes to remind you to drink or take a gulp whenever your GPS watch beeps.
Electrolytes increase your water absorption rate and replenish the nutrients you sweat out. Drinking gallons of plain water can actually hurt you in a process called hyponatremia where too much water intake dilutes blood-sodium levels. While this usually occurs more often for long distance runners or hikers, it can be easily avoided by adding a Nuun tablet or a scoop or two of Tailwind into your water bottle to properly refuel your body. The electrolytes will also prevent heat cramps and dizziness from heat exhaustion. Remember to continue drinking water or an electrolyte drink post workout so that your body can restore itself before the next day’s run.
3. Slow Down
Running in the heat is exhausting. The body is working double time to push blood and oxygen to muscles and skin to keep from overheating. Since the heat causes an additional stress, times and intervals have to give. Slow down your pace and even take a break for a moment to get fresh oxygen and blood flowing through your muscles and skin.
Don’t panic, your training doesn't have to give. Try running hard workouts early in the morning (time to work on that bed time…), and less intense runs in the afternoon with hotter conditions. Not everyone responds to heat in the same way, so be kind to yourself, listen to your body, and don’t push it! For best recovery, treat your recovery days with extra love. Run on a treadmill in cooler air, run early in the morning, or even deep water fun. To run in the pool or a lake, wear a flotation belt and pump your knees and arms up and down, much like a high knees warm up drill, but with a slight forward lean.
4. Proper Attire
In the hot sun, light weight, bright colored, synthetic clothing that’s loose enough to promote airflow is ideal. Even though it’s outrageously hot, it’s still important to cover up to prevent sunburn which can affect your body’s ability to regulate heat. Wear a hat to create your own shade over your face and sunglasses so that you can still enjoy the scenery without getting a headache from squinting. The extra sweat can sometimes produce blisters, so make sure your shoes are sized and fit correctly, as your feet will swell some, and wear cotton-free socks. Cotton soaks up water, just like a bathroom towel, and keeps it in your shoes. Socks with a synthetic blend wick the water outside of the shoe.
5. Don’t Lay Down
If heat exhaustion does happen, you will probably feel dizzy and overwhelming need to lay down will rush upon you. Resist!!! Pavement and concrete absorbs and stores heat making the pavement hotter than the temperature at head height. If you are feeling sick, try to find shade and slowly walk around, sipping your electrolyte drink. If the suffer fest has progressed to a dangerous level, you or a friend call 9-1-1 (and on that note, run with a phone for moments like this!).
As summer begins, remember these training tips as you embrace the south’s hot, humid hug! Good luck, Fast Breakers!