May is here and that means summer is just around the corner. As much as I love the warmer weather and all the 5K’s popping up around Columbia, we all know that 100 degree weather is not that far away. The season’s intense heat and humidity can make it hard for runners to get their miles in. If you enjoy running, you don’t have to stop just because of the heat– you just have to run smarter!
- Heat and humidity have a major effect on our bodies when running. That’s why you want to acclimate yourself to the heat. This means reducing your mileage and pace until you’ve acclimated yourself to the heat, then slowly scale back up. Basically, don’t go for your first 60-minute run on a 100 degree weather day if you’ve never run that far or run in that kind of heat. Let your body adjust before pushing yourself.
- Expect your pace to slow. Your pace per mile can slow anywhere from 10 seconds to 2 minutes, and that’s totally normal. Don’t freak out when you see a slower mile time on GPS watch or if you feel like you’ve run for 2 miles when you’ve really only run a half mile. Change your mindset and run based on effort and feel, instead of pace.
- Dress accordingly. This means light colored and loose fitting clothes, giving your skin plenty of room to breathe. Avoid cotton and shoot for sweat-wicking material. Wear a hat, sunglasses, and running appropriate socks.
- Find shade. Experiment with different running routes until you’ve found one that provides sufficient shade on those sunny summer days. Try the trails at Harbison State Forest or Saluda Shoals for some tree coverage.
- Plan to run during the coolest time of the day. This may mean waking up a little earlier before work to hit the pavement, but your body will thank you! Heat exhaustion and heat stroke are no joke. Although the humidity in the evenings can still be pretty high here in Columbia, its better than running under the bright sun in the afternoon. If you choose to run early in the morning or late at night, be sure to wear reflective gear.
- Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. Drink up before you run, while you run, and after your run. If you plan to run longer than 45 minutes, consider refueling with an electrolyte-based drink. You can also carry water with you during your runs using a handheld water bottle or fuel belt. If you need help picking one of these out, send us an email and we’ll be glad to steer you in the right direction!
- Wear sunscreen! This is a no-brainer. Don’t forget about protecting your lips, ears, and the back of your neck. You may need to reapply if you get extra-sweaty out there.
- Stay cool. There are a lot of different ways to stay cool on the run but some of our favorite methods are: freezing a bandana to wear around our head or neck and carrying a frozen water bottle in our hands (because your hands hold a lot of heat).
- Look out for dehydration and heat exhaustion/stroke: If you’re dehydrated you may feel dizzy, fatigued, disoriented, weak, or have dry mouth. Some warning signs of heat stroke or exhaustion are headache, confusion, nausea, clumsiness, and a core temperature above 104 degrees. Get checked out by a medical professional if you suspect you are suffering from a heat-related illness. Whatever you do, don’t push through it!
- It’s ok to skip your run. As a running coach, I write training plans with the intention that some runs just aren’t going to work out. If you need to rearrange your running schedule so that your long run is on a cooler day, go for it. Running in the heat can be dangerous and your health should always be put first.
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