As we have learned on some of the hot nights we’ve already encountered in our Couch to 5k group, heat can be a total game-changer. A distance or time that is normally easy (or at least, easy-ish) feels twice as long & completely miserable.
Legs get heavy…sweat flows like a river…your heart is pounding in your temples…you just plain feel awful and you’re ready to quit. (Why are you doing this, again?!)
And just how are you going to survive the next few months full of hot days?
We’ve got some helpful ideas, some of them being hot tips (pun intended!) directly from Alexandria area runners!
No matter the weather, you can always use this rule of thumb to dress for a run: add 20 degrees to the “feels like” temperature, then dress as if you were going to be standing around your yard in that higher temperature. That means once we near 80 degrees or a dewpoint of 60, even wearing shorts & a tank leaves most runners quite uncomfortable.
So, what else can you do?
First, consider whether you can run in the morning. As our Couch to 5k-ers have discovered, the Saturday morning runs consistently feel much easier, and the lower temperature is a key reason for that.
Starting your day with a run also makes it more likely you will get it in before the busy day disrupts your plans, and the sense of accomplishment carries over into a day full of “I can do anything!” attitude.
Second, if you HAVE to run in the heat of the day, think carefully about your route. Can you find a mostly-shaded path? A tip for locals is to run the alleyways in town; these lie north/south, and offer plenty of shade from the big old neighborhood trees & houses. (Just be very cautious with all those road crossings.)
Trail running in shady woods is an option we also heartily recommend! Lake Carlos State Park, the trails behind Woodland Elementary School, or the old disc golf course behind the YMCA are fantastic options.
Next, you probably need to slow down to make it easier. Reducing the effort level may prevent your body temperature from rising to difficult levels. Add walk breaks, and if you can, put those breaks into shaded sections so you can maximize your reprieve from the hot sun.
Or try changing it up completely with very short sprints or hills (think 10-30 seconds) and long walk breaks (3-5 seconds for every 1 second you sprinted) that let you fully recover between efforts.
Finally, a simple solution that is often neglected for short runs: drink water! If you haven’t invested in a hydration belt or pack yet, no problem: carry a half-frozen water bottle. Wrap the icy bottom with a can cooler to save your hand. If carrying a bottle is a pain, you can stash water &/or electrolytes along your route. (Be sure it doesn’t look like litter that might get picked up & tossed by a “helpful” passerby; try writing your version of “Stashed this water for my 5-mile run on June 10, please don’t throw it away! -Jane Doe” on the bottle.)
You can also plot a route that will return you to home, work, a friend’s house, or your car every few miles, where you have a cooler of cold fluids. Or tuck a few dollars into your shoe to buy water & or a sports drink at a friendly business along your route.
The bottom line in all of these is to PLAN AHEAD.
But what if you just plain didn’t plan well and you’re stuck overheating, far from home? The first answer is to stop running and seek shade. If you’re in town with no cash and in dire need of help, find a gas station or restaurant or hotel, very nicely request a handful of ice, and offer your profuse thanks - then put that ice under your hat or bandana, or (for the ladies) tuck it into your sports bra to get it right to your core, fast.
Or take advantage of the lakes area: if you’re anywhere near Alexandria, there is probably a lake nearby - GET IN IT! The water will be colder than the air, and immersing yourself (even if just to the knees) can make an immediate difference in your body temp. Once you’ve cooled off, log a walk/run back to your starting point, or call for a ride home.
Finally, know that you WILL adjust to the heat as summer goes along, and it will start to feel easier. However, no matter our individual heat tolerance, we will all find days that are awfully hot and require adjustments to the planned run.
Bookmark these tips so you are prepared to tackle your hot workouts with the tools to make it a success!