I finished up my long run on the trails Sunday and was about 15 minutes slower than anticipated. Funny thing about the heat and humidity...it doesn't care what your goal is for your long run. You just have to learn to work with the heat, rather than beat it because it will beat you every time!
Like altitude, it takes a good two weeks for your body to acclimate to heat and humidity. That is, your body learns to cool itself more efficiently. The key is you have to run in the heat to acclimate. You won't acclimate if you are in the nice air conditioned gym. It just doesn't work that way...so here you go. My top ten tips for running with the heat.
10] Run at cooler times of the day; in the morning or at dusk until you acclimate.
9] A few times per week, run at mid-day if possible. Your body will better learn how to acclimate if you actually run in the heat. Keep the pace slow and remember to hydrate.
8] Wear loose-fitting, light colored wicking running clothes like Dri-Fit or Coolmax and sunscreen and sunglasses.
7] Let's not get crazy...Run Smart. If there is a heat alert or poor air quality day, take your workout indoors. You won't get any super-human reward for pushing in dangerous heat and it will most likely take your body longer to recover from the workout. Train smart.
6] Cross-train to acclimate. If you always have a hard time with the heat, consider taking Bikram Yoga (Hot Yoga). I did this to prepare for crewing for the Badwater Endurance Race - a 135 mile ultra-marathon in DEATH VALLEY in JULY! The Bikram Yoga classes help your body learn how to adapt to hot conditions. It really helped the team and I noticed a huge difference in my warm weather running performance as well.
5] Use your many gears and adapt. Slow your pace, reduce your intensity and get the run in rather than pushing through it. Doing so will allow you to more efficiently acclimate and continue to run. Your body will gradually become better at cooling itself in the warmer weather allowing you to continue to run at your normal pace.
4] Change how you define your runs. Run by your effort level rather than your typical pace until you acclimate. You can also add power-walk breaks every 4-8 minutes to cool yourself during your runs. This also works well for speed work. It is all about managing your body core temperature and not allowing it to rise too much, risking overheating and really slowing down. Like a car, if the temperature rises too high you will overheat
3] Hydrate every 15-20 minutes while running and take a look down when you go to the bathroom. You'll know if your well hydrated if it looks like lemonade and pail yellow. If it runs clear, you are drinking too much. If it runs dark, you need to hydrate a little more! For runs 45 minutes or longer, consume a sports drink to replenish electrolytes lost via sweat.
2] Pay attention to your body's stress signals and if you begin to feel dizzy, light-headed, overheated, experience cramping, stop running, seek shade and a way to cool yourself.
1] Be flexible with your goals for the run. You may need to get in a tempo run or easy run at a certain pace according to your training plan, but the heat will get in the way of that. Be flexible ad modify your plan. You can switch days, modify pace or the workout so you have more rest, less speed or take it inside to a treadmill to get in the quality.