Training in the Heat

With summer around the corner, those hot training days are upon us. If you will be doing a winter marathon, half marathon or any other endurance event, a good deal of your training will be taking place during this time. After training for three marathons and multiple half marathons through the humid and sticky Florida temperatures, I think I’ve learned a lot. I will say right off the bat, I’m not a professional, or a trainer (at least not yet), so this shouldn’t be taken as medical advice or anything of that caliber.

Here in the Sunshine State, if we have a high mileage long run day, a run has started as early as 3am. Yes, you read that right, 3am. That is an extremely early hour to run, but if you want something bad enough, you will do what you have to do. I’m a slower runner as well, so it can take more than five hours to do a training run of 20 or more miles. I’d much prefer to go to bed at say 7pm on a Friday night and get my run done by 9am or 10am to avoid the heat of the Florida sun. I also know that if I am running that kind of mileage, that is basically my Saturday plan, just to run. After that run, I tend to not do too much less for a nice nap and some TV watching. I like to allow myself the rest of the day to pretty much veg out.

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Irregardless of how fast or slow of a runner you are, there are still some basics that you should be following when running or working out during those hotter months. Here are some that I’ve learned I cannot live without, or have been a helpful part of my training.

1. Hydrate! You are probably saying, “no kidding,” but some folks still don’t drink enough in the days leading up to a long run or workout. Water loading is important, but at the same time, you don’t want to overdo it either. You should be drinking half of your body weight in ounces of H2O each day. This is the usual rule of thumb, but especially in the days leading up to that long run. Also, ensuring you get enough water while you are running is important. During the workout, drink according to your thirst. Before your long run, drink about 6-8oz approximately two hours before you head out. Allowing an hour or so before you have to workout gives you a chance to use the restroom beforehand. That has worked well for me.

2. Apply sunscreen. Even if you think you aren’t being exposed to the rays of the sun, applying sunscreen is very important, especially in the summer months. Use a sunblock of at least SPF 15 and apply to any part of your skin that is exposed. Also, a visor is important. It allows you to block the sun’s rays, but let’s the heat transfer off of your head. Sunglasses are also a great addition to keep the sun out of your eyes if you are running when the sun is up.

3. Wear light-colored clothing. Wear lighter colors and breathable/wicking materials to allow your skin to breath. This means no cotton. I know most runners avoid cotton shirts when working out these days, but I still see people wearing them, especially at local 5ks with the race shirt. Talk about hot!

4. Slow down. In the heat, you should slow down your pace. Jeff Galloway recommends slowing down 30 seconds a mile for every 5F increase above 60F. I realize this means some of us would have to slow down quite a bit, more than we would like, but I tend to go about an average of two minutes slower for my long runs in the hotter months. You will still get the endurance for your race by slowing down. Save the speed for race day.

5. Cooling cloth. I have begun carrying a washcloth or other small towel that I can get wet at the water support stops with cold water. Then, I put the cloth on my neck, arms, and such to cool down. It really has made a difference for me. Or, you can simply pour water over your head. Just keep yourself as cool as possible.

6. Monitor salt intake. I love using Salt Sticks or Hammer Endurolytes during a long run. It’s electrolyte replacement that really helps with cramping. Sure, gels and drinks like Gatorade have some of the same benefits, but I’ve found these to be the easiest and best way to help with both cramps and sodium levels on a long run.

Lastly, I wanted to mention that you shouldn’t run alone, especially in the summer. Running with a partner or a group not only helps the miles pass by quicker, but in the heat, there is always potential for heat exhaustion. If you are out there solo, you may not recognize the signs as well as a fellow runner will. It’s always best to be safe!

Do you run a lot during the hotter summer months? How do you deal with the heat?


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