The first heat wave has finally hit New England after weeks and months of optimum running (albeit gloomy) conditions. Don’t be surprised if your times temporarily start to drop and your easy routes suddenly feel HARD. Acclimating to the heat is a VERY real thing, so here are some tips to make it as smooth as possible.
1. Plan AHEAD. If the forecast calls for heat, planning out your runs make ALL the difference. Can you run early before temperatures soar? Or if the humidity really gets to you, can you run later in the day? How about your routes? Is there one that is tree-lined and shady or could you do several loops around your house so that you can shed layers, refill water bottles, etc.? Thinking out these details is the difference between the run happening or you totally bailing.
2. Dress for success. Speaking of thinking ahead, make sure you have the proper hot weather gear. Most runners prefer the least amount of clothing possible but make sure you have these essentials.. While some ladies opt to wear just a sports bra most prefer more coverage. Pick a top that is a light in color, made of a breathable fabric, and in a flowing style. For shorts, many actually prefer a compression style when the humidity rises. This is because when the skin stays in place, you are much less apt to get chaffing or hot spots (sometimes in less than ideal places). Lastly, sunglasses and hats make ALL the difference in keeping the sun out of your face and the body cool.
3. Run by EFFORT not pace. When I coach runners I always advise training under a perceived level of effort scale. You need to know what easy, medium and hard FEELS like in your body – not just what your watch tells you is fast. The humidity, heat, or even your lack of sleep the night before are ALL affect how hard your heart has to pump to do the workout. Your body can only deal with one stressor at a time. And it will always prioritize keeping your body safe over performance.. So when the heat rises, you HAVE to slow down the pace until you acclimate. Eventually the body will adapt and begin to perceive the heat as less of a stress. But plan on a good two weeks of “easy” paced running before you can push the pace.
4. Drink early and often. When it comes to hydration, drinking water and electrolytes is truly critical for performance and recovery. A good gauge to whether you are adequately hydrated is that you pee at least every 3 hours. In fact, I advice people to preload their day with water so as not to be up all night peeing. Additionally, in the summer I would encourage you to use some electrolytes regularly too. As for hydrating on the run, plan to bring either a handheld water bottle, or do loops around your house or car so you can re-hydrate adequately. It is annoying, yes, but honestly once you get behind in your hydration, it is GAME OVER. Your body will become overheated and it will slow down if not worse.
5. How about food? Does the heat make you nauseous? Do you lose your appetite after hot runs? Then you should consider drinking your recovery meal. Hot weather running can be even more stressful to the body so getting in the proper post-run nutrients is EVEN more critical. Plan to get in a smoothie, or some cool fruit, even a fruit based popsicles works well. Just protect those 30 minutes post-run – a time known as the recovery sweet spot- to get in the best quality food possible!
Bottom line when the heat first hits, runners should SLOW way down, drink lots of water and electrolytes, and allow your body to adapt to the new conditions.
BONUS Virtual Racing Hack — if you are running in a virtual race on a hot day, ice should be your friend. Have a cooler stashed along the route, or at your house and loop by it. Place pre-made ice bags in your sports bra or even shorts to help cool down the body. I also have been known to suck on an ice cube while running – it leaves you refreshed and puts some pep back in your step.