Last week I tipped on heat stroke and heat stress and the importance of avoiding it, and as we are coming into another summer, I thought it time I reiterate it
Driving to Brisbane this morning for a LR Ho Hum Run, at 5am the radio announcer casually told me that its 22 degrees Celsius and 88% humidity! And it’s still one hour out from run time…and as I was alone in my car a few choice words slipped out, translated they meant 'Oh No', there is only one thing I dislike more than humidity, thats running in it!
However, the LR group followed my suggestions for these conditions, cut back our distances (7km and 5km, not 10kms), we ran the direction we thought would be the most shade and coolest, along Brisbane River; we knew that we could get at least three drinks out there; and no hills or hard stuff.
All of that didn’t stop us coming back in hot, sweaty and red faced, but we were Ok
Claire then said to me, 'so what should we actually be doing with our running in summer?'. I thought that was a great question, as I am good at warning about the dangers of heat stress, but Claire’s right what about some good guidelines to follow….firstly here are a few things that happen when we run in the heat.
Sweat-We sweat when its warmer and the humidity is high (DUH!!). This is the body’s response to trying to regulate its temperature. But what you may not know is that it’s not the sweat that cools us, it’s the evaporation of that sweat from our skin, that does the cooling. That is why a breeze in the heat can cool us down quicker than a still air. So when someone doesn’t seem to sweat a lot, it is not actually a good thing as they could end up hotter, and their core temperature higher than someone like me who is sweating buckets and looks really hot. Don’t be fooled by someone who looks cool and sweat free on a hot day, they could be suffering more.
Another thing you may not know is wiping your sweat away or towelling yourself down is not good in the heat, leave the sweat on your skin, the longer it stays on the more cooling it will be. Also don’t strip off your top (talking to the boys now) and hat when the sun is out, thinking you will be cooler. The sun on skin not only burns it but it heats your insides like an oven, whereas the sweat on your clothes and hat will in turn protect you from the heat and cool you.
Heart rate increase- One of the reasons we seem to struggle in the heat and feel slower and tireder is that we are working harder. Our heart is beating faster as the body is working harder to process the heat. So if it’s about 18-25 degrees then your heart rate increases by 2-4 beats a minute, and when the temperature rises to 25-32 degrees, your heart rate increases to 10 beats a minute. So everything goes up a notch. Therefore you may run at 70% heart rate comfortably on your long runs and then when the weather is warmer, your 70% effort could jump to 75% and you are wondering why you are finding it so hard…slow down
And then you bring in the annoying little bugger called humidity- levels of humidity between 50-90% (which is most of the time in QLD now for the next few months) will increase your heart rate to an extra 10 beats a minute…once again, how do you feel and what do your do? You feel like crap and you slow down, well you should anyway!
Pace- Some runners are obsessed with their pace. They work hard at it all year, time themselves constantly, compare all their times and take it hard if they are off their pace. Well this chart may help anal runners to accept that humidity and heat affect pace and you just need to get over it
18-21 degrees: 5% drop in pace
21-24 degrees: 7% drop in pace
24-28 degrees: 12% drop in pace
26-30 degrees: 20% drop in pace
Above 30 degrees: don’t even look at your watch!
There are also documented statistics from marathons around the world of how runners pace is affected by heat, and that is all runners in all events, even the fastest runners times are affected by the weather on race day…and I think that says a lot, as the elite runners train for all eventualities and yet the hotter the marathon the slower the winning time.
A runner who can run a 3 hour marathon when its 12 degrees, he will run it in 3:10 if its 18 degrees C and 3:21 if its 25degrees
A runner who can run a 4 hour marathon when its 12 degrees, he will run it in 4:19 if its 18 degrees C and 4:48 if its 25degrees
A runner who can run a 5 hour marathon when its 12 degrees, he will run it in 5:30 if its 18 degrees C and 6:00 if its 25degrees
So as you can see the heat affects pace but also needs more time taken to drink, and refuel etc
Hydration- You knew this would be coming, but one of the biggest side effects of dehydration is tiredness and listlessness, which is what we often feel when we are running in the heat. It is very hard to refuel and replace all the fluids you lose running in hot weather, whilst on the run, you will ended up dehydrated after your run…so what do you do?…fuel up the day before. You hear me on about it all the time, have a double up drinks day before your running days, so just double everything you drink with water.
If you drink more the day before I guarantee you will feel better on your run, you may end up sweating more, but as I said above that is not a bad thing, as long as you have the fuel in you to sweat out.
Also drink along the way. Never run on a course that you don’t know if you can get a drink, and when you do see a tap, stop and have a drink. Even if you don’t feel thirsty, or don’t want one, stop and have a drink. Sometimes just wetting your lips is enough for the body and mind to trigger a cooling response in you. Never run past a tap without having a sip on a hot day, as sure as you do you will be 5 mins up the road and want one, and what’s the bet you can’t find one…don’t take a risk or a chance…stop when you see a tap.
And no don’t look at your watch and think you have lost time. There are two legal stops in running, and stopping for drink is one, it doesn’t count as stopping!
Ok , you’ve got all the whys and wherefores, now to answer Claire’s question, what do you do with your running in Summer
Here are my suggestions
Run earlier- just to try to beat the heat, it’s hard to beat the humidity, but you can beat some sun
Cut back your running days- I always say to be a runner you need to run 3-4 days a week, in Summer I suggest you run 3 days and make the most of Summer by doing something else on the other day. Swap a run day and make it a swim day, a cycle day, learn to surf, kayaking etc…three days of running a week in Summer is fine, you will not lose any fitness.
Cut back your distances- I have already shown you above that you are working harder in the heat anyway, your heart rate is higher and in turn you are worker harder, building more cardio fitness and burning more calories, so shorter distances will be equivalent to longer distances depending on the heat and humidly
I still think you should have a longer run one day a week and two shorter runs
So if your run a 10km now and 2 X 7km,..cut back to a 7km and 2 X 5km
I don’t think anyone needs to running over 10km in Summer, unless you are training for an event. If you are running to stay fit and not training for anything, keep your distances under 10km, or don’t run for over an hour
Assess the heat- the thing I find with humidly is that it creeps up on you. At the start of a run you feel fine, good in fact even might tell yourself you are going to bash our a fast 10km, then one km up the road the water buffalo has broken out, hot, sweaty, heavy…change your plan…yes, mid run…if you are feeling this way, turn at 2.5km, you have still run 5km and have done well.
On the other side of the coin, if you think it’s going to be a hot run and surprise, surprise, nice sea breeze, and you feel good, then make up your distances and go on to run 8-10km. Don’t set your sights on a long run and struggle all the way through and even cause yourself damage just because you think it has to get done…it will get done...just not today
Drink More- It’s basic but vital, drink more the day before your run, drink more generally in summer. Set out your drink routine, so have the required amount you mean to drink for the day in the fridge and make sure it is gone at the end of the day. If you are a big sweater like me, try the sports drinks, they do help in humid weather. One before or after a run will replace many of the good things you sweated out
Change your course- Find a course that is shaded at the time you run, even drive to it if you have to. If you are a morning runner, run on a course that doesn’t get the morning sun. CBDs are good in Summer in the mornings, as usually the buildings provide lots of shade, or river and coastal runs are often a bit cooler and have a breeze, parks and gardens as well. Even if you have to run loops of shaded gardens, is better than running out and back courses in hot sun. And of course the first priority about your course will be can you get a drink, if you are not sure carry water in Summer.
I’m like a little dog when running in Summer, I hug the fences and tree shade, I have no hesitation crossing roads lots of times when I see shade on the other side, I spend my whole summer sniffing out shade and water!