Fitness Friday: Running in the Heat (Or HOT RUNNING as I like to call it…) – The Sisterhood of the Shrinking Jeans LLC


Here in Florida, we went from winter, almost straight to summer. Our spring, which usually lasts until the end of May, ended instead at the end of April. It’s the first week of May and already I’m finding myself running in that oppressive summer heat, which means a humidity of 80-90% and a temperature of 80 degrees and higher.

Egad! It’s HOT!!

Instead of heading in to the treadmill this year, I’m going to do what all the experts advise. Train for the heat. A lot of us are running just for running purposes, but if you ever plan on doing a race, the experts advise that you train for races in race conditions. Which only makes sense right? Because I didn’t do that last year. (My mistake!) Last year, instead of training in the oppressive heat, I ran on the treadmill indoors. So that when I actually ran a race (and I use the term “race” very liberally here — because as most of you know, I am a mid-to-back packer and not racing as a contender as in the true meaning of the word “race”, indeed, I am racing against myself) I was not prepared for the heat that race day would bring.

This was not smart.

This year, I want me and you to be better prepared for what’s to come.  I may dread it at first, but I will do it. Because I’ve come to learn one thing: The more I do it, the less I’ll dread it, and the less I dread it, the more I’ll do it!

First, do not worry that your running might change as it gets hotter. The main difference I feel in running in the heat at first is that all bets are off right at the beginning. No matter how well I was running in the cooler temperatures, the heat slows me down. It makes me drag, it makes me want to feel like dying and sweat pours literally from every orifice.

I did an 8 mile run earlier this week as my first foray into hot running, and it was so hot (Cue crowd: “HOW HOT WAS IT??”) It was so hot that I picked up my 2 year old son from school, I put him on my hip and he put his hand on my back and said, “Mommy, you go schwimming?”

It was that hot.

Now to the facts. Here is a nifty little chart I pulled from Marathon Guide.

                              Heat chart by Marathon Guide

It doesn’t matter what the “air” temperature is if humidity is involved. What is 85 degrees, actually feels like 102 degrees, with a 90 percent humidity. And it is just so easy to be overcome by this heat.

So here are some tips for running in it:

  • Hydrate for long runs a day or two before your run. By the time you feel thirsty, you are already in the process of dehydrating.
  • Run with a water/hydration belt like Fuel Belt or a Camel Bak, or a water bottle with a strap
  • During your run, drink about 4-8 oz. of water or sports drink every 15-20 minutes to stay hydrated.
  • Wear very light, light-colored clothing, preferably dri-fit shirts and tank tops and shorts to wick the sweat away. I love my tanks from One More Mile, because they are made of wicking fabric. I also have an Under Armor brand tank that is so thin it’s hardly there and so far, it’s my favorite running shirt. Ps. I happened to have had a summer of running in the heat in pants because I was ashamed of my legs. Do not do this. Wear shorts. Be one with it. It is not worth having your shame actually overheat and kill you.
  • Wear a cap or visor. It’s portable shade.
  • Try to run in the morning or the evening, but do try at all costs to avoid the blazing hot sun of noontime. If you can’t avoid it, make it your short run or take it inside.
  • Wear a heart rate monitor on your runs. You’ll be able to see how hard you are working in the sun and compare it to how hard you are working in no sun. This was very interesting to me. When we stopped for a few minutes to walk this week, my heart rate was still in the upper 150′s for the whole walk. My resting heart rate is in the 50′s and 60′s. When I work out hard, it is anywhere from the 130′s to the 180′s. So I was working pretty hard just walking.
  • Practice your normal safety precautions: Wear a Road I.D. or carry I.D. with you, let someone know your route ahead of time, and bring a phone with you, just in case you’ve fallen down in the heat and you can’t get up.
  • Hydrate afterward, lots. You can weigh yourself before your run and again afterward, and drink at least 20 ounces of water for every pound lost. (I tend to actually gain weight after working out, so I don’t know the science for that.) Oh, and don’t use the water loss as a method to losing weight, because that’s just sillytalk. Replenish!

The first sign of heat exhaustion is leg cramps. Stop and massage your leggies, drink a sports drink or something salty or with electrolytes in it (bring some Gu or energy chews or an energy gel with you just in case.) If you’re feeling dizzy and you can’t breathe well, stop. Go home. You’re on your way to heat stroke if you continue.

The great news is that training consistently in the heat can actually get you used to the heat! Which means your running will improve in the heat. It’s another thing for the bank whenever you train in adverse conditions. So go on, get out there! But be safe! Off to go hydrate now, got a 12 mile run tomorrow! (Go TEAM!)

**Additional Information Sources: Cool Running , Marathon Guide, and About.Com

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