By Allison Macsas, Coach
It’s summer, it’s Texas, it’s hot. Understandably, you are probably wondering what on earth you were thinking when you signed up for a training program during this part of the year, but rest assured – it can be done and it can be enjoyable! By keeping yourself informed, remaining aware of your body signals and maintaining a devotion to hydration, you can be a healthy and enthusiastic summer runner.
THE BIG RISKS: OVERHEATING AND DEHYDRATION
Overheating is the result of inadequate cooling. As your body temperature rises, you begin to sweat and blood flow is directed to the skin’s surface, where things are slightly cooler. Running, however, requires oxygen, and thus blood, to be directed to the muscles. This causes less blood flow to the skin and less cooling takes place. Slowing down decreases the demand by the muscles and allows more blood to be cooled, but pushing through and forcing it to the muscles puts you at high risk of overheating.
Dehydration occurs when the body loses fluid, primarily through sweating. At best, dehydration increases your rate of fatigue and makes exercise more difficult; at worst, dehydration can lead to heat exhaustion, heat stroke and in severe cases can be fatal. Signs of general dehydration include feeling thirsty and producing dark-colored urine, while serious cases present themselves with light-headedness, nausea, vomiting, sudden sweat cessation and even fainting. Should you experience any of the latter, immediately stop exercising, find a shady spot and replace fluids!
Don’t let the scenarios above scare you away from summer running – it’s easy to beat the heat by developing (and remaining vigilant about!) the following techniques.
It is hot and humid and there’s no way around it, but you can keep your body temperature as low as possible by wearing light-colored, loose-fitting microfiber clothing, ideal for reflecting heat, circulating air and wicking away sweat. Try and run as early in the day as possible; this is when the temperature is lowest, the air quality is highest and the sun is most forgiving (or ideally, still below the horizon!). If you can’t run mornings, do so as late in the day as you can. The temperature may not have dropped much, but at least the sun has gone down. Avoid running between noon and 3:00 at all costs, as this is the time of day when the sun is strongest and risk of overheating is greatest. If you must run during daytime hours, make sure you take plenty of precautions: find a shady route, take it easy with plenty of water stops, and wear sunblock, sunglasses and a cap.
Hands down, there is nothing more important than staying hydrated when it comes to summer running. The best and easiest way to monitor your fluid loss is to weigh yourself before and after each run. Whether you use your own scale or the one available in the Rogue training room, try and make a habit of doing this each and every day so that you can see just how much water was lost.
A good rule of thumb is to drink 4-8oz every 15-20 minutes during exercise, then, once you return, drink 20oz or so for every pound lost. Keep in mind that sweat isn’t plain water and plain water won’t fully rehydrate you. You need to replace salts and electrolytes as well, which is easily done via sports drinks. Experiment with different brands and flavors of sports drinks to find what works for you, and include them in your post-run routine. It is also important to increase your salt intake, especially for those who sweat profusely or tend finish runs with salty white residue on their skin.
Remember, if you’re thirsty then you are already significantly dehydrated! Make an effort to drink all day (caffeinated and alcoholic beverages don’t count!), make note of the color of your urine (you want it to be very light, the color of straw) and then drink some more.
Successful and enjoyable summer running can be had as long as you stay proactive and carefully monitor your body. By taking steps as simple as running early, dressing appropriately, drinking plenty and routinely replacing electrolytes, you can run straight into a very fit (and cool) autumn!