Friday, September 30, 2011

"It's Hot/Cold/Rainy/Windy! What do I do?"

I went for a run the other day on what was probably our hottest day of the year. When I got home at around 5 PM, the thermometer in our back yard (in the shade) read 90 degrees! Then, I read the weather forecast, and they say it may rain next week. So it seems like a good time for some weather-related advice.

So what do you do if it's that hot?

First of all, the number one priority in any weather conditions is that you do what you need to do to be safe. If it's hot, you have to be certain you do not put yourself in position to suffer from heat exhaustion or, worse, heat stroke. It's actually possible for most people to safely run in very hot conditions, but you can't just run out the front door when it's 90 degrees out and expect everything to be the same as if it's 60. Here are some thoughts about running in hot weather:

Just like in any other weather, you absolutely must hydrate appropriately for the conditions. If it's going to be hot when you run, you need to hydrate more. And that doesn't mean chugging three bottles of water right before you change into your running gear. I tell my runners to have a water bottle (small - say 16-20 oz.) with you during your school day. During each class, sip on it throughout the class so that you finish one bottle per class. When you change classes, refill the bottle. You should also be peeing between each class - if you're not, you're not drinking enough. Also, if you have the opportunity, take a drink of water (or two or three - whatever you need) during your workout. However, don't expect to make up for lack of hydration earlier in the day by drinking water during the workout. Do drink if you need to, but if you really need to drink during a 45-minute workout, it's a signal that you did not hydrate enough earlier in the day. Don't make that mistake again!!

Wear Light Colored Clothing
I know, black is fashionable, but an 80-degree day will feel like 100 if you wear your favorite black shirt from the latest rock concert you attended (do they still have rock concerts? ;-) ). The guys I coach like to run with no shirts, despite warnings from me and the other coaches about skin cancer. I actually feel cooler wearing a white t-shirt than running with no shirt. The white color will reflect some of the sun away from you.

Wear a Light Colored Hat
I know, it'll mess up your totally awesome hair, but it will REALLY keep the blazing sun off of your head, which is where you are supposed to be dissipating heat. If you wear a cotton hat (like I do), you can also soak it in water to help with the heat dissipation.

Slow Down
When it's hot, you almost certainly won't be able to run as fast as under normal circumstances, so just accept the fact that you have to slow down. You can actually get the same benefit of whatever workout you're doing by slowing down when it's hot. Remember, your body doesn't really know how fast you're going - it only knows what it feels like. So if you're running 7:00 pace on a hot day and your body feels like you're running 6:30 pace, the conditioning benefit will be like running the 6:30 pace on a cool day.

No matter whether you do all these things or not, you won't be able to successfully run in hot weather unless you gradually build up to it. I remember when I worked at Stanford University back in the '80s, and I ran with a great club down there, the Angell Field Ancients. We would meet up at noon every day to run from 5-8 miles on trails up in the hills above the campus. In the summer, it was usually around 80 degrees every day. I always found that it took a couple of weeks after the weather turned warm to get used to it, but once I was, I could run just about the same as when it was 65 degrees a month earlier. I grew to love running in the heat, but always - ALWAYS - had to build up to it.

I was going to write about running in the rain, but this is enough for now - I will cover that topic in a few days....

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