Believe it or not, this blog entry is about running in the summer heat. However, I wanted to be up front, I am a cold weather runner. I live just outside of Pittsburgh, and while everyone was complaining about the winter I was loving it. I will take below zero, snow, ice, etc., any day of the week over the heat. All of my PRs are in races that had a starting temp of 55 or less, some in the low 30s. My ideal running weather is 40 degrees and overcast. Because of my preference for running in cooler temps, running in the heat and humidity of Pittsburgh spring/summer is not easy for me, but I love the challenge. Here is a little insight into how I keep it going in the heat and humidity (those things do really exist in the North, after this winter nobody may remember).
One of the biggest keys for me to run in the summer temperatures is motivation. The best way for me to stay motivated is to schedule races. I have a half at the end of June, and that half kick starts my training for the Chicago Marathon in October. I will probably add a few halfs at the end of the summer, and some local smaller races along the way. I take training commitments very seriously, so when I have races on the calender and training runs scheduled I am guaranteed to get my runs in. I know this doesn't work for everyone, so you may need to work on the motivation piece. Find something that works, it will give you the extra push you need when the temperatures start to rise.
Something else I have found helpful is finding out when the best time to run in the heat for me is. Personally, I like the morning better. The humidity is higher, but the temps are a bit lower. I struggle a great deal with trying to run in the heat after a full day of work. Running in the morning allows me to get a better workout in because I have more energy, can run at a better pace, and on the off chance the heat is really bothering me I can cut my run short and make up the mileage in the evening if I would like. I also run better on an empty stomach in the heat, another advantage that running morning offers me. This will obviously be different for everyone, so don't get discouraged by a bad run. Try different times of the day and see what works best for you.
Route changing is something I also start to do in the heat. When temps are cooler I run a lot of routes that on my long runs can have me as far as 8-10 miles form my car. When its hotter I will run more loops or shorter out and backs to stay closer to my car in case I overheat or need to cut a run short. Thankfully neither of these have happened to me yet, but I take the precaution anyway. Additionally, when I travel somewhere to run in hotter weather I bring a cooler with water, some type of sports drink, and something to eat in it. I always bring more then I will drink in case I run with a friend or see someone who really needs a drink. I normally don't eat after a hot run, but I would rather be safe then sorry.
Hydration is a big issue in the heat for obvious reasons. I will admit, I do not bring water with me enough, and I am challenging myself to do a better job of that this summer. I own a Camelbak and have only used it a handful of times (always on longer runs). I normally run with no water at all regardless of distance, but I am working on it. Hydration during a run is all personal preference. The Camelbak bothers me the least (it still bothers me) so I went with that. Outside of my runs I have trained myself to constantly stay hydrated. I drink a lot of water, Nuun, and juice, and constantly have a bottle of water with me. It has taken me a long time to get to this point, but my goal is to be hydrated so I can go for a run whenever I want, even in the heat. I also drink a lot of water after a run to replenish.
For running apparel in the summer I don't change things much. Even in the heat I do a compression shirt and shorts underneath a running shirt and shorts. The compression helps me with chaffing as I have never really had an issue with my chest or lower areas. I personally like the compression clothing instead of body glide or another anti chaffing product because I don't like the way they feel on my skin. I wear Injinji running socks, which are toe socks so I don't normally have blister issues on my feet. I shave my head so I have had issues with sweat getting in my eyes, I will be sporting a RunJunkEes hat this summer to deal with that issue.
The final important thing to remember when running in the heat of the summer is safety. Know your body. Don't be afraid to stop running if you don't feel right. Bring your phone and call if you need help. Let others know where you are running, when you are running, how far you are running, how long you are running, etc. It doesn't hurt to have a backup plan either. If you belong to a gym or own a treadmill and the heat index is too hot, take it inside for the day if necessary. A lot of runners will post about there running accomplishments in the heat this summer, but don't make comparisons. Know your limits and push them when you can, but be smart, be safe and run happy.
There is no finish line.
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