Sunday, July 1, 2012

Tips for hot weather running

It's been a crazy busy week, what with getting ready for a week-long canoe trip next week as part of the Nature Conservancy of Canada's Time for Nature initiative, as well as other domestic commitments. Instead of running four times this week, I only managed two -  last Sunday's 13k long slow distance and a hot and humid 10k tempo run on Wednesday. As we're only entering week four of training, I didn't stress out too much that I'd missed a few runs, knowing that I'll catch up next time.

But this morning, I knew that I had to go back on track - especially since I'll be in the middle of a wilderness area all week next week. I headed to the Spring Garden Road Running Room to meet up with the rest of our running clinic for our 13, 16 or 19km long slow distance (Coach Wendy is doing a fantastic job of providing options for folks depending on their race dates -- so thoughtful!). It was great to see so many runners wearing red and white for Canada Day (I was wearing pink and white, because I don't own any red running gear that's cool enough for this heat, is just another shade of red, right?).

Since I'm planning to run the Valley Harvest Marathon this fall, the schedule called for a 16km run. I was a little worried, because already at 8:30 it was promising to be another hot run. And since I'm normally a warm runner anyways (it might be my small stature but I find I warm up really quickly and stay hot...), I was a little trepidatious about what the run would bring.

In the end, I peeled off at just a little over 12km, choosing to practice caution rather than risk heat exhaustion or worse, injury (at about an hour in, I hadn't had the stomach to absorb a GU in the heat, and I knew my glycogen reserves would likely be draining pretty soon).

The dog days of summer are upon us, runner friends. So with that in mind, I thought I would share with you some of my tips for hot weather running:

1. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate!!!!
Whether it's by bringing a water belt, carrying a bottle or even a camel pack, depending on the distance, make sure that for those long runs (anything up to and over an hour), you carry water with you. Take small sips of water every 10 minutes or at lights, to absorb slowly rather than guzzling it all in and risking hyper-hydration (or overhydration).

2. Protect yourself from the sun
There are three key elements to protecting yourself from the sun: sunscreen, hats and shade. Let's face it - if you're training for a half or a full marathon, you could be there for two, three or up to four hours on your training runs, so a hat and sunscreen will at least help shade and shelter your face while you're out there. You may want to plan your route so that it keeps you in a residential area where there are more trees, or on the shady part of the street.

3. Listen to your body
As with cold weather running, it's important to be aware of how you're feeling, to ensure that your body doesn't endure any extreme temperatures for an extended period of time, to the point where your core body temperature becomes too elevated and you may experience heat exhaustion. Make mental checks of your body as your run progresses, and ask yourself, "How do I feel?" Headaches, dizziness and cramping may all be indicators of heat exhaustion or heat stroke. Try taking in some fluids if you do notice a headache, and you may want to opt for a walk break in a shaded area until you feel cooler.

4. Time your runs to avoid peak heat
When the days are above 20 degrees, there's really no reason why you should be running in the middle of the day when the sun is at its peak. Early morning or evening runs will give you a break from the hottest hours.

5. Give yourself a break
Remember - unless you're an elite athlete training for the Olympics, there is no  shame in deciding on a given day that today may not be the day for your long run, if the weather isn't cooperating. You may opt to take the day off, or to run inside on the "dreadmill." Either way - skipping a day or two of running is not going to make or break your training cycle. In the end, you'll avoid injury or illness, and come out stronger for it.

For more hot weather running tips, check out this article from Runner's World >

Until next time, keep healthy, keep hydrated and happy running!