Lazy, Hazy, Crazy Days of Summer
Last month’s writing dealt with preparing for the summertime running weather. I like getting out in the mornings and beating the heat. But as I’ve grown older and slower, I have observed during the past few summers that the heat and humidity is tougher to handle. If you are experiencing similar challenges, perhaps a different approach needs to be taken during the hot, humid summer days.
The months of May, June, July and August are my main months to get in any serious running and racing. As I’ve gotten older, it is much more difficult for me to run quality workouts or races, particularly in July and August.
During my college days and a few years afterwards, summer running did not affect me much. I did have to be mindful of staying properly hydrated and avoided the heat of the day. But there were a couple of times I pushed my body to the edge of heat exhaustion and dehydration. I believe now I’m paying for it as I approach my “golden years” of running.
Yeah, I know I’m slowing down, but I really feel it on the warm, humid days. The running feels sluggish and the pace slow. If you’re feeling slow during the dog days of summer, consider doing some of the following training alterations until cooler weather returns.
Run during the coolest time of the day. This one doesn’t work if you are not a “morning person.” That’s right, getting up at the crack of dawn and running. It may be more humid at this time of the day, but the temperature is more manageable.
Shorter-quicker or slower-longer. If you must run during the summer, go out for shorter runs at a more intense pace. If you typically do a six mile run at seven-minute mile pace, opt for a three mile run at 6:30 pace. If you need more mileage, go for a much slower pace on your longer runs. Another option during extremely hot, humid weather is to run short runs at a slower pace. Of course, you could also consider running indoors on a treadmill at room temperature or living in cooler places during the summer.
Less is more. Too many of us runners get too caught up with daily and weekly mileage. During the summertime, less will likely be better for most of you hard-core runners. Include racing less during the summer, too. It is one thing if you are up North where you will find cooler weather to train and race, but if you spend your time in the South during July and August, back off on the training and racing. Some high school and college coaches will disagree with me on this, but this is more directed to inexperienced and older (over 40 years young) runners. It use to be hard to find a road race between the Fourth of July and Labor Day. In the past 10-15 years, more races are available during the Dog Days. If you are racing every weekend during July & August, you are just increasing your chances of risking your health and sub-par results in the fall.
Stay hydrated. The mistake I made on the couple of times I put myself at risk of dehydration was I did not carry any water with me. That was particularly stupid on 12-mile runs in South Georgia in August. If you must run more than an hour at a time during the summer, be sure to carry water with you, or plan your running route so that you can stop for a water break. The running experts say that runners need to take in fluids about every 20-30 minutes of running. However during hot weather, is probably wiser to take water every 15 minutes. Once you have finished your run, be sure to drink plenty of fluids for at least an hour.
Stay cool. If you don’t like training in the mornings, you need to do your best at staying cool. Run in well-shaded areas. Avoid running between 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wear light-colored clothing and use sunscreen. Once you have finished your run, cool off with a swim. It not only will refresh you, but help your body to recover more quickly. If you do not have a pool, take a cool shower or ice bath. I recommend ice baths if you are feeling particularly sluggish. It takes some getting use to, but you will feel rejuvenated for your next run!
Sleepy time. Finally, be sure that you get plenty of sleep during the summer. I find myself taking more naps after long runs. The extra daylight can throw you off leading to less sleep each night during the summer. But you either have to stick to your routine or get in more naps. Sleep is crucial in recovering for the next day’s run.
The bottom line is you have to listen more closely to your body. If you don’t listen, you’ll eventually be getting that rest, but not under your terms and you’ll be miserable. Be safe!