Summer Running Tips
It is summertime in Georgia and if June’s weather was any indication, this summer is going to be hot and miserable for runners. The weather usually begins to heat up in July, but this year runners may be better acclimated for this month’s races like the Peachtree Road Race.
The challenge for many college, high school, and serious competitive runners is that the summer is the prime time to build one’s training base in preparation for the fall cross country and marathon racing season, but the heat and humidity wrecks havoc on a runner’s body. To avoid the dangers of running in heat and make training gains, consider the following tips this summer.
Run early – One way to beat the summer heat is run early in the mornings to avoid the day’s hottest temperatures. Another benefit running in the mornings is the sun is up earlier throughout the summer and one can get out before traffic gets too busy and not have to stumble around in the dark. Since most road and cross country races are run in the mornings, you can get your body use to running and racing early. Keep in mind that while the morning runs may be cooler, it is usually more humid in the morning.
Run often -- If you are trying to build your training base and acclimate to the heat, one safe trick is to run shorter runs, but more frequently. Say you are trying to average 10 miles a day during the summer which is 70 miles a week. During hot days (over 85 degrees) or when the heat index is over 100-degrees; you may consider running five miles in the morning, two miles during your lunch break and three miles just before the sun sets. Breaking up the runs and keeping them shorter will keep you from risking heat stroke and/or dehydration.
Chill – If you must run in the heat, be sure to chill after your runs. You may not have the access or the money cryogenic chamber therapy to recuperate from those long, hot runs. The easiest way to chill after a hot run is take a cool shower. A more effective method is taking an ice bath after a hard, hot run. The cold helps rejuvenate the body while relieving any inflammation one’s body might be experiencing. A good swim after a run is also beneficial. The key is to chill!
Hydrate – As just mentioned, a cool shower or an ice bath is helpful on hot days, but maintaining proper hydration is critical in the heat and throughout the summer. During hot, humid days, we sweat a lot and we need to replace our lost fluids with plenty of water. If the medical professionals say to drink six to eight, 8-ounce glasses of water a day, remember that is for the pedestrians. Runners need to drink more fluids and need to include some beverages that contain potassium and electrolytes. Just lay off the wheat juice.
Rest – When the heat is on during the summer months, rest can be beneficial in recovering following a hot, humid run. If you run regularly in the summer, a daily nap can recharge and rejuvenate you after a tough run in the heat. You may consider taking a total rest day on extremely hot days or on days with high heat indexes. However, if you are trying to make gains, cross training (swimming, cycling, etc.) is a more productive alternative. While I am not a big fan, another alternative is staying indoors and getting your run in on a treadmill.
The bottom line about running in the heat – use common sense. I have mentioned before in previous writings how in my younger days, I did not run smart on hot days. A few times I got close to heat stroke and now pay for it when the heat and humidity hammer me.
When the heat is on, take it easy, shorten your runs, and be sure to keep hydrated. Stay as cool as possible until the weather cools off – oh about October!