To borrow a phrase from “Biloxi Blues” ..
…”Man it’s hot. It’s like Africa hot. Tarzan couldn’t take this kind of hot.”
For much of the country, that time is now. Folks out here in Cali are complaining about the heat & humidity. Right now it’s 97 degrees, with 28% humidity. So yeah, it’s hot. But folks in Alabama & Florida would KILL for 28% humidity, so there’s that.
But still we runners wanna run. I got a half marathon in 5 weeks man. I gotta get some miles in. I happen to like the heat. Everyone who knows me has heard me refer to myself as a “skinny bald man”, so I’d much rather run in 97 / 28 than in the cold, cold being anything under 55 degrees.
I know, midwest people, I know. But I’ve lived out here for 28 years now. My blood is thin.
But, back to the subject. Should we run in the heat and if so, what precautions should we take?
Glad you asked.
Even if you are well acclimated, heat will slow you down—and can even be harmful. Recently, 141 runners at the 2019 Hamburg Half Marathon in Hamburg, Germany, needed to be treated for heat-related illness—57 were hospitalized. The temperature was reported to be 95 degrees Fahrenheit, or 35 Celcius, since it was in Germany. In a study published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, even at temperatures of 50 to 59 degrees, there was a slight drop in performance, comparable to about a 1- to 2-minute slower time for a 2:10 elite,. For 3-hour males, the time difference amounted to 4 to 8 minutes. Slower runners weren’t included in the study.
Like slow runners aren’t cool enough to be studied.
The Run SMART Project calculator by Jack Daniels, author of Daniels’ Running Formula, (and maker of some fine damn whiskey) calculates that at 69 degrees, a 40-minute 10K runner can expect to be slowed down by 1.7 percent (a bit more than 6 seconds per mile)
Oh, sorry, the whiskey is a different Jack Daniels. My mistake.
However, the human body is remarkably adaptable to heat. Its ability to adapt to high temperatures is faster and more dramatic than its ability to adjust to any other environmental stress that nature can throw at us, such as altitude or cold, says Lawrence Armstrong, a heat researcher at the University of Connecticut. In a paper in the January 2015 issue of Comprehensive Psychology, Daniel Lieberman suggests that our heat tolerance probably results from the fact that our ancestors evolved to hunt and forage at midday on the African savannah—a time of day at which, if you are heat tolerant enough to handle it, you are relatively safe from less heat-tolerant predators, like the Irish. “Heat is a paradox,” Lieberman says. “On the one hand, we evolved to run in heat. But on the other, if one is not well-adapted, it can be mighty dangerous.”
So, what to do. Well here are some tips on keeping safe while you’re out getting those miles under the burning sun.
- STAY HYDRATED
When jogging in the heat, your body tries to lower your core body temperature by sweating more. This causes you to lose fluids and minerals like magnesium or iron. Even a small change in your fluid balance can lead to major performance losses. The most important thing is to start off well hydrated .Drink regularly throughout the day and stick to diluted fruit juices, teas, and water (tap or mineral). If you’re going to be working out for more than an hour, make sure to have a water bottle with you and take a sip from time to time.
Did you hear that?
If you’re going to be out for more than an hour.
Have a water bottle.
Sip from time to time.
As opposed to the folks who wear an entire bandolier of water bottles for their 5k. Seriously, unless you are the appointed water carrier for any entire running club, or plan on continuing on to some local desert, say, Death Valley, and crossing it. Why do you need 5 bottles of water strapped to your hips? That stuff is heavy, man!
But, I digress…
- HEAT AFFECTS YOUR HEART
In summer, your heart rate is elevated. When running with a heart rate monitor, remember that higher temperatures also boost your heart rate even if you run at your usual pace. Therefore, it might be a good idea to take it a bit slower. The fitter you are, the better your body will cope with the heat, preventing your heart rate from skyrocketing
- AVOID MIDDAY HEAT
Choosing the right time of day for your training runs or races is vital during the summer months. Avoid running in the midday heat and head out in the morning or evening instead. At that time of day, it’s not only cooler, but there’s also less ozone in the atmosphere. High ozone values can irritate your eyes and airways.
- PROTECT YOUR SKIN
Cover all skin that is exposed to the sun with waterproof sunscreen (due to the sweat). The sun protection factor (SPF) tells you how long the sunscreen extends your skin’s own natural protection time. How much sunscreen you need depends on your skin type, the time of day, and current UV levels. This may not affect your time, but it will affect your quality of life after the race. Sunburns are painful and skin cancer is no joke. Put it on!
- FILL UP ON MINERALS
Wholesome foods rich in vitamins and minerals should be a regular part of your meal plan the whole year round. But when it’s hot outside, your body loses more minerals than usual due to sweating. Since your body can’t produce these on its own, they have to be obtained through the food you eat. Foods such as bananas, dried apricots and whole grain products are ideal for replacing lost minerals and make great post workout snacks.
- DON’T BE TOO AMBITIOUS
If you experience headaches, intense thirst, muscle cramps or dizziness, you should stop immediately, look for shade, and drink some water. Excessive confidence is often your worst enemy when running in the heat. Save that for the dance club afterwards. . Your body also needs longer to recover when it is very hot. If you don’t feel well, the heat is bearing down, and it’s really humid, then it’s probably a good idea to take a rest day or opt for an alternative workout.
Also, if you’ve gone out and over-cocktailed (is that a term, “over-cocktailed”?) You have already depleted your body of some important nutrients. Going out the day after, in the heat, in search of some sort of atonement, is probably not your best move.
I heard that, somewhere…from someone else.
A few more quick points to ponder;
- Children should run in the morning or late afternoon hours, but should avoid the peak heat of the day to prevent heat related illnesses. It is especially important to keep children hydrated while running and playing outdoors in the heat.
- Do wear light colored breathable clothing. Do not wear long sleeves or long pants or sweat suits.
- Plan your route so you can refill water bottles or find drinking fountains. City parks, local merchants, and restaurants are all good points to incorporate on your route during hot weather running. I have 2 drinking fountains on my go-to running path. And, invariably, no matter how few people are out on the trail, there will be someone, usually with their dog, walking up to the fountain just as I am getting to it. I think it’s a plot and they are on walkie-talkies. Or something like that.
OK, that’s enough from me. Enjoy your summer, enjoy the sun, the beach, the trail and your fellow runners