Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Summer Runnin', Had Me A Blast....Until I Got Heat Stroke

Doesn't that look refreshing??
 Ok, I didn't really get heat stroke but I have had it and it isn't pretty.

Yup, the summer heat is upon us but you don't hear me complaining.  No siree.  I'd rather it be sunny and hotter than a hairy armpit instead of grey, cold and white.   Here in Southern Ontario we've actually been dealing with the heat a lot earlier than we're used to which leads me to believe that this summer is going to be a scorcher.  Given that we're in our second heat alert and it's only the first week of July, I don't think I'm going to be proven wrong any time soon.

This obviously makes running outside a wee bit uncomfortable and perhaps a bit crazy.  I've always been a little on the crazy side and since I'd rather chew tin foil than run on a dreadmill,  I head outside and usually learn the hard way just what the heat can do to you.  It's funny how I forget from year to year. I must be getting old or something.  Last weeks tempo run was no exception.  Talk about caving.  But I survived and was quickly reminded of all the other heat related meltdowns I've had.  Nothing like a good slap to the back of the head from Mother Nature to remind you that you're not invincible.

If you hate the dreadmill as much as I do and want to run outside, sweat your ta-tas off and not keel over from heat exhaustion then read on.

1.  Start your run hydrated.  People don't necessarily pay attention to hydration during the day.  I know I've had days where I'm stuck at my desk and I'm lucky to get one glass of water down my gullet.  You know you're not properly hydrated when your pee is the colour of mustard.  If you're planning on running in the evening, make an effort to stay hydrated during the day, even if your office is as cold as a meat locker.  If you start your run dehydrated your body is going to have an ever harder time trying to cool itself down. 

2.  Carry Fluids & Sip Often.   I shouldn't have to tell you to carry some kind of fluid with you on a run when it's hot out (booze does NOT count) but I'm always amazed to find that some people don't.  Granted they could just be out for a short run but still.  Maybe I'm just uber cautious but I'll take fluids with me on pretty much any distance when it's this hot out.  On runs longer than 45 minutes, you really should be carrying fluids.  The goal is to drink between 4 - 8 oz of fluids ever 15 to 20 minutes.  That should help you stay hydrated.

3.  Run Early or Run Late.  This may mean running at 4:00 am or 10:00 pm.  Do whatever works for you.  It may mean a few days with a little less sleep but you'll get over it.

4. Ix-nay on the Ava-Jay.  I know some of you are die hard coffee drinkers and you love your afternoon coffee almost as much as your morning coffee.  Well, I hate to break it to you but you might have to rethink that afternoon cup-o-joe if you're planning on running in the evening.  Since caffeine is a stimulant, not only does it elevate your heart rate but it can also cause your body to generate more heat.  Neither of which you want heading into a run in the heat.

5.  Run for the Shade or the Water.  Running in the heat provides you with the perfect opportunity to dice up your running routes.  If you normally run on the open road, try to pick a place that offers more shade.  Or, if you happen to live near a large body of water, like a lake, head to the shore and lace up your shoes.  I live very close to Lake Ontario and there is a marked difference in temperature by the lake in comparison to the city, usually about 5-7 degrees.  As our neighbourhood slogan says:  It's Cooler By the Lake.

6.  Lighten Up.  This is not the time of year to be wearing your black tights and long sleeve shirts.  Unless you're in the MMA and you're trying to cut weight.  Seriously folks, lose the layers.  Get naked.  Or as close to it as you're comfortable with.  It's HOT.  Wear loose, light coloured clothing, you'll feel a lot better, I promise.

7.  Adjust your Expectations.  Heat adversely affects performance.  Period.  If you're training over the summer for a fall race, chances are you're going to have to slow down some of your training runs.  There may be days that you're not going to hit your goal pace.  It's not the end of the world.  Do what you can and don't beat yourself up over it.  The same goes for racing.  Everyone else is suffering just as much as you are and I would bet you $5 that very few people (if any) have ever PB'd in extreme heat conditions.

8.  Make a Stash & Be Prepared.   For those of you training for fall marathons, summer long runs in the heat can be downright nasty.  Who wants to carry enough fluids on them to stay hydrated for 3 hours? It's not like I have hump where I can store my water either.  So you have to be prepared.  Plan your route out in advance and if you can stash water bottles along the way, do it.  This only works if you're in remote areas where there isn't anyone around to pick up your stash.  If you do this in the city, cover your ass and bring some money. 

9.  Channel your Inner Child.   It may not be the best thing to do at the start of a run (don't want squishy shoes right off the bat) but I highly recommend running through a sprinkler or a water park / splash pad, especially if you're starting to feel a little rough.  I actually did this on a long run once, much the amusement of the kids that were playing in it.  It felt great and it re-energized me for the last part of my run.

What are your favourite strategies for beating the heat?

Has the heat ever gotten the better of you?  If so, when and how did you deal with it?

(photo credit: Phaedra Kennedy)


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