How to handle the heat and humidity on your daily run
In case you didn't know — and if you haven't read it, I'm sure you've felt it — over here on the East Coast, we are stuck in a major heatwave. It's been nothing short of record-breaking. I ducked out of a run last week because the temps were well into the 90s in the Annapolis area, and I just didn't feel like breathing in the thick, humid air practically steaming off the Chesapeake Bay. But it left me wondering: Was it worth skipping out on the training?
I mean, the fact is, summer is hot. And this summer will probably continue heating up, and scientists predict that future summers will be even hotter. The predicted low late last week was 80°F, and that's just the temperature. There's a whole thing about a heat index, which I don't entirely understand, but humidity and wind play a part in it. If it's super-humid, 80° can feel like 90°, and 90° can feel like 100°. But what should I pay attention to? Facts or feelings?
Normally, the answer is facts. But feelings play a big part in summer training. And humidity plays hard on what a runner feels. With the air so heavy around you, the sweat isn't able to evaporate as easily from your skin, leaving you with that fur coat feeling that traps in the heat. So ... what should you do about it?
1. Make friends with Mother Nature.
Find the shade. This one is the most obvious and the most difficult to do. Depending on where you live, trees and sun cover can be far and few between. But try to block the sun as much as possible. It really does help. Shade can cut down on up to 15° just by blocking you from direct sunlight. And good news if you live by water: the air coming off the water can be up to 5° cooler. You know what else? Stick to the grass. It may feel easier to run on the sidewalk due to less resistance, but the pavement bakes in a way grass doesn't.
2. Slow down.
Higher heat indexes (hello, humidity) mean higher heart rates. Higher heart rates are a quicker route to fatigue and high body temps. With all this working on you, it's going to be harder to run at your normal pace — and more dangerous. Your heart and lungs are working harder which can lead to nausea, cramping, and heat exhaustion. It's okay to stop to walk or stop for a drink. You're still working out your mental toughness!
3. Become a camel.
I have a CamelBak hydration pack for those super-hot days. Bringing water with you is a good idea. Yeah, it can be a pain to bring extra gear with you on a run, but it'll be an even bigger pain if you get dehydrated in the middle of your long run.
4. Stay inside.
Pull out a fan and get on the treadmill. This is the easiest solution. Swim laps at the pool. Go to the gym to do some cross-training. Sometimes being outside in the dead of summer just isn't an option.
Well, it's always an option, but it's not always a smart option. We talk a lot about safety and listening to our bodies. It's even more crucial when the temperatures — sorry, heat indexes — get high. But here's hoping this week promises some cooler temperatures for us. Fingers crossed!
The Run-Around is a weekly feature, focusing on fitness in and around Annapolis, MD.