The Heat Is On - Now What

Well folks, we've feared it for several weeks now but it seems the inevitable has come to pass - we are skipping spring here in NoVA and heading again, full force, into summer.

On Friday morning when I left the house at 5.30 am it was 35 degrees. The same time today it was already in the upper 60s. Yesterday we flirted with the 90s and the sun was blazing brightly in the sky.  While we may be blessed with what I'm sure will be a very short stretch of dry weather before being slammed with our typical hazy, hot and humid conditions - the more than doubling of the degrees in the last week really needs to be respected. It's time to get ready for some hot runs!

And so - to help usher in the heat - I thought I'd put together a list of tips and tricks for dealing with the increasing temps and how to get the best and SAFEST running possible. You've asked, so here goes:

1. HYDRATE - Drink early & drink often - this can simply not be overstated.

2. HYDRATE RIGHT - Yes, I'm double mentioning hydration, but it can be a tricky issue. Are you always thristy? Do you sweat a LOT, leaving salt streaks on your skin? It's important to remember that water alone will not cut it when you are running for more than an hour at a time or in 80+ degrees. You absolutely need to replace electrolytes. Sloshy stomach? Headaches? Fatigue? Muscle cramps? Among the many signs that you're in need of fluids. Water, Gatorade, Powerade, Nuun, and a million other options are out there - USE THEM. Mix them up so you don't get bored. Water before and during, Nuun after. Vice versa. Try several combinations and you will find what works best for you - there is no magic solution except to see # 1: early & often!

3. RUN EARLY or LATE - Headlamps are not just for the early dark dreary hours of winter my friends! Get out early in the morning before the sun starts beating the ground or late at night when it's gone to bed - it may still be hot, but many people can handle the heat alone without the sun glaring down.

4. TAKE IT INDOORS - I don't know how many times I have to repeat myself that treadmill runs ARE real runs. The miles count. Just don't cheat yourself by running too easy - and don't beat up yourself running too hard thinking speeding it up will make it over faster. Treadmills are great training tools, don't be afraid to use them. You can do workouts, long runs, hills, you name it. The best part? Built in water bottle holders!

5. SLOW DOWN - And when I say slow I mean S-L-O-W. We are going for effort here, don't worry about your pace just focus on how you're feeling and how your body is handling the heat. You want to make sure you are staying within the bounds of your breathing and inner-cooling abilities. Who cares if your everyday pace is 8 min/ it should probably be more like 9+ at best in these temps.

6. SHORTEN UP - The toll that the heat and humidity can take on some runners inevitably causes more damage to the body than the good you are assuming your run to do. Especially for the first several weeks, don't think about it as miles just worry about your time on your feet and your exposure. Get 20 minutes of EZ running in with 5-10 minutes of a walking "cool down" while drinking afterwards and be happy with it.

7. KEEP IT CLOSE - As boring as that half mile loop may be, use it. The closer you are to home and "safety" at all times the better. 95 humid degrees is NOT the time to be 4 miles from home traveling sans water/cell phone/company. Loop close to home so you can leave water stashed in a bush, douse yourself in the neighbors sprinkler, or just be able to call it quits and walk home safely BEFORE the delusions and ravages of heat illnesses take over.

 8. SEEK SHADE - Now is the time to hit those trails you've always wanted to explore, go check them out! If you must be out in the sun or high of the heat, then pick a route with as much tree cover as you can find - you body, mind & skin will thank you for it. One of my favorite ways to get by in the summer is running at the Battlefields - 75+ percent of my run will be in the shade and then I can hop in the creek to cool off when I get back to my car - perfect summer run recipe!

9. SUNSCREEN - I know several folks who refuse to wear sunscreen when they are excercising - worried about it's impact on blocking sweat. I'm not talking about lathering your whole body with lifeguard nose-streaking zinc oxide here folks...get thee to the store and buy some lightweight spray sports sunscreen: it's easy to apply and won't even run into your eyes. We're not talking setting track mile PRs here - sunscreen won't slow you down - but skin cancer will. Be smart.

10. BE KNOWN - What do I mean by this? Simply, have people know where you are going, when you will be back, and have ID with you. ID you say? Yes. If you don't have one go visit the Road ID site and pick one up. Get 2 or 3 - give them as gifts even - it could save your life!

Every single runner is different and how you will feel in the heat can be different every day as well. I handle the heat and humidity pretty well - but I also go out of my way to help acclimate as much as I can...this includes riding in the car with no a/c on (except when in a suit heading to a mtg, I'm not crazy!), going for short (a couple miles or less) runs when it is hot out, just to start adjusting, etc. Yesterday for example I did my main run - 6 miles - in the morning before it was light out...already 68 and humid I knew we were in for it. In the afternoon though - sun brightly burning us over the 90 degree mark - I went out with Brian for another 2 miles. 1/2 our route was in the shade and at our farthest we were only .7 miles from home. I can't always avoid the heat and sun so I do my best to be prepared for it.

So, enjoy the pending beach and pool weather - it's time for bbqs, tailgates, and lemonade on porch swings. And enjoy your runs - just do it safely and conservatively so you can enjoy your runs for years to come!! Have questions or want further details/tips? Let me know!

Drink Up, Lace Up, & GO!

 - Shelly


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