Coach Mike Mead

July 2010

Running in Heat & Humidity

Well, summer is here but I’m already tired of the heat and humid we’ve experienced so far. Maybe its age, but I just don’t handle it as well as I use to as a younger runner.

Usually after the Peachtree Road Race, many runners take a little time off to beat the heat. However, if you are a high school or college cross country runner, or someone preparing for a late-fall marathon, this time of the year is where it is important to get in base mileage in preparation for the upcoming fall season.

I believe if you want to be considered a serious runner that you need to get in most of your runs during the summer before 8 a.m. to have a chance at making significant gains at your racing goals. Base mileage requires consistent running week in, week out.

But when the heat and humidity factors in, it does become a challenge. If you are a runner trying to make gains with summer training, here are some things you can try to get you through the hot spots while making progress toward your goals.

First of all, get out during the coolest times of the day. This means getting your butt out of bed a little earlier, but this should be easier since it is lighter in the morning than in the middle of winter. Morning runs do require a trade out – more humidity. But another up-side for those sensitive to bad air is that the quality is usually at its best during the morning hours.

Say you work a night shift and cannot roll out before 8 a.m. The next best thing is to run at dusk. Try to run on a shady trail or in a neighborhood where the heat of the day is dissipating sooner in the shade than in direct sun. You should find that the humidity is less than you’ll find earlier in the day.

To get use to running in the heat and humidity may require you to initially run less than you may need to run to give yourself time to build up to the conditions before increasing your mileage. So, if you were planning to run eight miles when it’s hot – say 85-degrees or more – you need to run four or five miles instead. If you’re compelled to get in the eight miles, break it up into two runs that day.

You need to plan to allow yourself about three weeks of consistent running to acclimate to the heat and humidity. You obviously need to increase your fluid intake, but you also need to increase your sodium and electrolytes as well. You can drink a lot of water, but if you’re not replacing your sodium and electrolytes you’re going to run into potential trouble.

You also need to weigh yourself more frequently in the summer to monitor your fluid loss so you can be sure you are adequately replacing your lost fluids. Last month, I ran a 10K on a warm, humid day plus did some yard work in the afternoon and discovered afterwards that I lost six pounds!

Take advantage of hitting the pool following hard, hot runs. Heck, do a little “pool running” on those extremely hot days to keep you fresh. No pool? Take a cool shower after your run to help your body recover.

Lately, I’ve heard the expression, “What doesn’t kill you will make you stronger.” When it comes to running in heat and humidity, you cannot live by that creed. I’ve personally discovered over the years that the heat may not kill you (it can!), but it doesn’t make you all that stronger, either!

Be safe and beat the heat!