Friday, July 13, 2012

Run Smart in the Heat

Temperatures hovering in the mid to high 30's. Humidex values add another 5 degrees just for the heck of it. The tiniest exertion causes sweat to pour from the forehead like those cartoon characters. No end in sight right through to the end of July.  

There's no question friends; running in this heat is dangerous.  I have had heat exhaustion and let me tell you it's no laughing matter. It's pretty well the closest I've been to death, but that's another blog post.  

So what's a runner to do?  How do we run in extreme heat and live to run another day?

Take a break from running? LOL! 

Run on a tread mill? Heck no! 

Run laps at your local gym? I get dizzy just thinking of lap runs.. no way!

Complain to your spouse...for sure, but it's not going to get you anywhere. 

The answer is Run Smart.  Think... what would Einstein do?  

Here's a few tried and true suggestions that have kept me alive over the last few weeks. 
  • Plan Smart: Run early in the morning or later in the evening. The sun is less intense and if you're lucky the temperatures have dropped a few degrees.
  • Carpe Diem Smart: Run in the rain. We haven't had much rain lately but it did spit a little yesterday so I seized the opportunity and ran a 6 miler.  It was joyful!
rain drops, blissful running

  • Hydrate Smart: Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. Drink double your normal running consumption of fluid. On a typical run I take two or three sips every mile or so (think ...sip, sip, sip...). In these extreme temperatures I ditch the sips for GLUGS (think ... glug, glug, glug, burp, glug, glug, glug...).  Plan your routes with water stops in mind.  I have a favourite 6.5 miles route that passes two water fountains, AND I carry my own water. That's a lot of H2O for a 6.5 mile run, but I live to tell the story.  If you click on the pic you'll see the beads of sweat (lovely I know) and that's after only 3 miles. Typically you can expect to lose between 2 to 4 pounds over the course of a 10 mile run in this heat... that's 2 to 4 pounds of sweat!  And all that sweat has to be replaced or you may get sick.  And by the way, don't be a purist, Gatorade and Powerade work wonders in this heat. They replace electrolytes that are lost in sweat. Use 'em on runs longer than 45 minutes.
glug, glug, glug...
  • Motivation Smart: Have a special cold treat waiting for you in the refrigerator for your return. It provides motivation on the run and replenishes much needed protein immediately upon arriving home. I have a fresh strawberry or pineapple smoothie with Greek yogurt and tonnes of ice chips.   Mmmmm... makes me want to go for a run right now!

  • Drink Smart: Limit your beer or wine intake the night before a run.  Wine is especially hard on the hydration system so, if you drink, drink smart.
  • Trail Smart: Run trails. They're fun and often provide more shade. Trails don't hold the heat like concrete.  City street are huge heat sinks so avoid them whenever possible. If there are no trails in your area (poor you) than run on the shady side of the street.

trails offer shade
  • Clothing Smart: Run with as little clothing as possible and what you do wear should be technical (cotton is rotten).  Wear your hair up. Replace the clothing with sun screen. Wear a white hat... grade 6 science actually is correct.. white repels heat. I know many female runners that will run in a sports bra and completely ditch the shirt when temperatures reach the red zone.. now that's smart!
  • Pace Smart: Slow down eh!  Add at least one minute to your pace. For instance, if your comfortable running 9 minute miles on your long runs, slow it down to 10 m/m, or even 11 m/m.  Heck, no one is going to care and you'll feel way better.
  • Heart Smart: Listen to your vital signals. If you have a heart rate monitor use it and understand the numbers.  You have to know your resting heart rate, your maximum heart rate and that magic 60 to 80% of max.  If you don't have a HRM than check your pulse on walk breaks. If you're experience difficulty breathing or if your heart rate doesn't slow even on walk breaks,  head for shade immediately and phone 911. Yes, even Einstein would carry a phone in this heat.
  • Know the Signs Smart: If you stop sweating and you feel clammy you are very seriously overheated. No amount of drinking will help at this point... it's too late, seek medical help asap.
  • Eat Smart:  Avoid deep fried foods and huge amounts of animal protein.  As a society we tend to consume way more protein (much of it animal protein) than our body's can absorb. Most of it passes through with zero benefit.  Eat lighter meals and your body will love you on those long runs.
Useless fact...My record cold weather run is 10 miles in -50 degrees Celsius. I've run the same distance in +40 degrees many times. That's a 90 degree difference from winter to summer running!  That's what I like about running... the ever changing elements.. you just don't get that in a gym.  

more trails, love this vegetation, come run with me...
So friends, run in the heat, but run smart, and always remember...  it is a good day to be alive.

Mike :)