QT: Summer Running and Staying Safe with the Heat and Humidity
Ready or not, it’s about to get hot yall!
That is, of course, if it’s not already hot in your part of the country.
(And if you live on the other side of the equator where you’re approaching the winter months, please revisit this episode/post in October/November!)
When it comes to putting in your miles this summer, safety is obviously priority number one.
So what are some things we can do to make sure we stay safe while training in the high heat and humidity?
Heat is a Factor for All of Us
Too often, runners think that if they don’t live in Florida or Texas or Arizona or *insert hot location here* they don’t really have to worry about heat-related issues.
Obviously, those of us that live in the swamp/desert have to worry about the heat for much of the year.
I can’t begin to estimate how many times this summer one of my athletes or someone on social media will complain about the heat/humidity but then qualify their complaint by saying it’s not nearly as bad as it is in Florida.
Can I tell you a little secret?
Hot is relative.
Just because it’s not 94*F with 96% humidity at 8 AM doesn’t mean that it’s not hot to you!
A 75* high temp with 80% humidity sounds pretty lovely to me right about now, but depending on where you live and what you’re used to, that can absolutely be the kind of heat/humidity that can impact your run.
And, more importantly, that kind of heat/humidity can be dangerous if you’re not used to it.
Heat illness is no joke yall!
If you’re going to be training outside in the heat/humidity this summer, there are some things you can/should do to reduce your risk of a potentially life-threatening case of heat stroke.
Tips to Stay Safe This Summer
When it comes to heat illness, I want to make it clear that you can do everything “right” and still find your core temperature rising up to dangerous levels.
Sorry, but there is no silver bullet.
So do yourself a favor and familiarize yourself with some of the signs and symptoms of heat exhaustion and heat stroke.
If you start to see these signs in yourself or in your training partners, take immediate action!
Don’t wait. Don’t try to keep going.
Stop running. Get someplace cool. And get your temperature down.
And if symptoms persist/seem to be getting worse, calling 911 is absolutely recommended.
While there are no guarantees that you can completely prevent heat issues from creeping up on you this summer, there are some things that you can do to tilt the odds in your favor.
Be Well Hydrated (All the Time!)
It’s important to be well hydrated all the time for optimal bodily function, but in the summer it gets stressed a bit more as sweating is how our bodies try to cool themselves.
If you aren’t hydrated, your capacity to stay cool is definitely diminished.
But too often, we are lured into a false sense of security simply because we are peeing clear.
Hydration is important, but mild dehydration is hardly a critical concern.
Make sure you’re drinking plenty of water on the daily, drink to thirst during activity, and you’ll be fine from a hydration standpoint.
I’m usually a less-is-more kind of guy when it comes to deciding what to wear in the summer.
It’s hot. I’m going to sweat.
I need a pair of shorts and that’s about it.
For those that are a bit more modest, some sweat-wicking clothing is a good choice to help you stay cool as well.
The sweat-wicking fabrics help to pull the sweat from your skin to help it evaporate more easily, which is how the whole cooling process works.
Apparel that doesn’t wick the sweat away from your skin actually slows the evaporation process because the air can’t get to the sweat and the evaporation can’t take place.
So if you’re going to wear something other than the barest of necessities, invest in a good shirt that will actually help you stay cool!
(Need one? Check out the gear at XO Skin. And my code should still be working, so use DizRuns at checkout to save 20%.)
Slow the Fuck Down
Sorry for the colorful language, but this may be the most important tip for staying safe on your runs this summer.
If you are focused on running a certain pace for each run/workout in the heat, you’re almost asking for trouble.
The hotter and more humid it is, the harder our bodies have to work to stay cool.
The faster you’re running the more body heat you’re generating. And the harder your body has to work to cool itself.
If you keep pushing your engine too hard, it’s not going to be able to cool itself enough to offset all the body heat you’re creating.
So the choice is to push it until the engine blows up completely (not the best idea) or dial back the pace a bit.
You know I’m a fan of making sure the easy runs stay easy.
That may mean you need to adjust your per mile pace by as much as 1-3 minutes, especially if you are heart rate training in the summer.
Don’t freak out. Don’t fight it.
Just slow the fuck down.
Avoid the Hottest Parts of the Day
If at all possible in the summer, running before the sun comes up is the best option for reducing the risks of heat illness.
When the sun is out, the risks of heat issues are at their greatest.
While running later in the day is better than running while the sun is high, during afternoon/evening runs you’re still going to have to contend with heat radiating off the pavement/sidewalk/trail that has been baking in the sun all day.
If you can get out early, it may still be pretty warm, but at least you won’t have to deal with the hot sun or hot pavement.
Cool Yourself Intelligently
When it comes to keeping your body from overheating, it’s all about that core temperature.
If you can keep your core cool, everything else will be fine.
If you can’t keep your core temperature down, you’re fucked.
So how can you keep your core temperature down while running/racing in the summer?
In addition to the aforementioned suggestions, there are a couple of other things you can try.
Shirts that are cold/wet are great for helping to cool your core from all directions.
If you’re wearing a shirt on a hot day, getting it good and wet will definitely help you stay cooler.
Another thing that is good for keeping the core temperature in check is to cool the blood that is heading back to your heart a bit.
The best places to do this while still being able to run are your wrists and your neck.
Soak a buff or a handkerchief or a towel in some cold/wet water and wear it around your neck or wrap it around your wrists.
In both situations, the veins heading back toward your heart are near the surface. So those cold fabrics will cool the blood and help keep you from overheating.
When In Doubt, Use Common Sense
The best tool at your disposal for staying safe this summer is your common sense.
Summertime heat isn’t something to brush off as NBD.
It will impact your run. That doesn’t make you less of a runner or weak in any way.
All it does is prove what we already know: that you’re human.
As humans, we are better equipped to run and train in the heat than just about any other mammal.
But we have our limits.
And if there is any doubt in your mind that you are approaching your limit on any particular day, shut it down.
Because the consequences of blowing past your limits can literally be deadly.
And I’m sorry, but no PR is worth taking that kind of chance.
Be smart to stay safe when #running in the summer heat and humidity. #runchat Click To Tweet
How Hot is Too Hot for You When Running in the Summer?
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