Let’s Just Go There….Humidity Is The Worst!

I think most of us would agree that there is nothing more frustrating or even demoralizing than humidity.  This time of year it seems to hit most of us and unfortunately, it is one of the biggest factors that impacts our running in a negative way.  Humidity leads to decreased paces, profuse sweating, light headed sensations, and overall horrible running experiences.  I have been known to get frustrated on the first humid days of summer and even end up crying.  I always get upset with myself and cannot understand why I am running so slowly or why my body can barely handle just one mile.

I saw this on my run the other day and thought it was perfect!

I saw this on my run the other day and thought it was perfect!

Unfortunately, when it comes to humidity there is not a lot you can do to really combat it.  But the good news is that your body will get used to it over time and handle the conditions better.

Here are a few things to keep in mind to make your running in humidity a bit more tolerable:

Slow down and just go with it.  The humidity slows us down no matter how hard we try to push through.  If you fight it, you will lose.  The best way to endure these conditions is to just slow down and go with the flow.  If you typically run an 8:00min/mile you might have to slow down to a 9:00min/mile or even 10:00min/mile.  Don’t let this get you down.  It won’t slow your pace in the long haul, but it will allow you to get your planned mileage in.  Remember that if you slow down now and get your mileage in your body will adjust and soon be able to handle these conditions better.  Be patient with your body.

Runnerstrials.com

Runnerstrials.com

Hydrate.  There’s no way around it and you should be hydrating a lot more during the summer months anyway.  Make sure you get plenty of water in before, during, and especially after each run.  You will sweat a lot more in this weather so you will need the extra water to keep you going.  If you forget to hydrate afterwards you risk illness, cramps, and a terrible training session the next day.  If water isn’t your jam try adding some fruit like lemons, berries or cucumber to your water for a little added flavor.  Sparkling water is one of my favorite ways to get liquids back in me after a run.  Sports drinks like Gatorade are also great for adding electrolytes back in but they are also laden with sugars.  Go ahead and have some but remember that there is no better replacement than good old fashioned water.

Embrace the wind.  I am one of the biggest gripers when it comes to wind.  Remember that time I was in Florida and I had my dad drive me 7 miles out so that I could run home with the wind?  Exactly!

But when the humidity rolls in the wind can be your friend.  A few weeks ago we had a large group of runners do the Chicago Spring 13.1.  It was a super muggy day and for the first half of the out and back race we were against the wind.  Everyone was really looking forward to turning around and having the wind help them on the way home.  It came as no surprise to me however that everyone began struggling on the return back to the finish.  On a humid day when you run with the wind you lose the cooling effects and you begin to sweat more profusely and therefore struggle more.

As I said earlier, you need to embrace the slower paces under these conditions.  So go ahead and enjoy the wind at your face.  It will cool you off and make the weather more tolerable.  Sure you will likely run slower but didn’t we already agree that was part of the plan?

Sprinkle the salt.  Normally I am not one to encourage a high sodium diet.  But under these circumstances added salt will actually help you.  If you are racing the next morning go ahead and have some chicken noodle soup or drink some pickle juice (yum!) the night before.  Adding some salt into your diet will help you and also keep the cramping away.  Odds are you will sweat out the excess salt over the course of a longer run.

When in doubt, take it indoors.  If you hate the humidity or you just can’t sacrifice your pace go and hit the treadmill.  Sure it isn’t ideal but if it eases your mind, there is nothing wrong with it.

Humidity

How do you deal with the heat and humidity?

Patience Sweaty Grasshopper

Right now is the time of the year when I head out for one of my usual runs and a mile in I begin  to feel horrible.  I feel slow, sluggish, and like I can’t go on.  That is when I start to cry (and whine).  Usually my husband is with me for this run and he gets the brunt of these emotions.  “I did 10 yesterday what is wrong with me?  I can’t even do three!  I’ve lost everything.”

The sad part is that this happens every year, around the same time of the year, but I do go on to continue my usual running at some point and will do the same thing over again next year.  Hey, what can I say, even we running coaches lose our minds sometimes.

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Running in Aruba? Hot, but I wasn’t complaining!

If you have been feeling like this lately, fear not.  It is just the darn humidity.  It is a runner’s nightmare.  It makes you sweat like crazy, run much slower, and feel just plain awful.  Sadly, humidity can impact your running more than any other weather condition.  It can also cause some dangerous things to happen, so it is important to understand just how humidity affects your running.

When we exercise our core body temperature rises, and as this happens our bodies sweat to help cool off.  The humidity also causes our core body temperatures to rise even more and it also keeps that sweat from evaporating from your skin, hindering your body’s own cooling mechanism from doing its job properly.

As your core temperature rises from both your running and the humidity, blood is also released throughout your body to areas near your skin to further help cool you down.  While this is great in some ways, it directs blood away from your lungs and other organs such as your GI tract.  Therefore your body has a much harder time refueling as well as removing waste and delivering oxygen.  Moving blood away from the GI tract can also be the cause of stomach distress when you take gels or other supplements on hot days.  All of this is a terrible combo for a runner.  Even worse, the faster you run, the more heat your body produces.  So good luck with your speed work!

This all sounds pretty terrible, and honestly it really is.  But there is some good news.  Your body is an incredibly adaptable machine.  As you continue to run and train in hot and humid conditions it will learn to handle everything much more efficiently.  However, it is important that you understand how you can help your body out with these conditions as well as how to look for signs of much more dangerous problems.

First of all you need to learn patience.  When heat and humidity are factors during your training there is just no way you can run at the same pace as you normally do under ideal conditions.  Running at 75-80º can slow you down by almost a minute per mile and at 80-85º you might even see that go up to two minutes slower per mile.  Add in humidity over 60% and you might expect your running to slow down yet another minute per mile.  There really are no other ways around it.  So when you are stuck running in this weather, just be patient and slow yourself down.  It won’t ruin your training.  These conditions will likely abate in the near future and your body will somewhat acclimate to running in these conditions within 7-14 days.

This girl who complains about hot weather runs did 10 miles on a beach. Last winter helped put that in perspective.

Plan ahead.  Wear light, sweat wicking clothing.  If you’ve been thinking about trying a pair of skimpy new running shorts, or you gents have been admiring those bicep flattering tank tops, now is your excuse to wear as little as possible.   Steer clear of bright and dark colors that absorb the sun and look for lighter colors that reflect instead.

Hydrate, hydrate, and then hydrate some more.  Like yesterday or better yet the day before yesterday!  When summer rolls around plan on drinking a lot around the clock.  Don’t hydrate the day before a run, but instead plan on hydrating the whole week.  This will help your body out before, during and after.  Just make sure you know where the closest bathroom is at all times.  Seriously, I speak from experience!

Story of my life.  "Where's Sarah?"  She had to go to....

Story of my life. “Where’s Sarah?” She had to go to….

Know the signs of heat stroke and other heat related issues.  Remember when I said that the heat pulls blood from your major organs?  That includes your brain, heart and lungs, and that is scary.

Early signs of heat illness: profuse sweating, exhaustion or fatigue, muscle cramping and extreme thirst.

Signs of heat exhaustion:  dizziness, nausea, headaches, vomiting, dark urine

Signs of heat stroke: extreme rise in temperature, hot skin, shortness of breath, fast pulse, confusion, seizures or unconsciousness

It is very important to understand these symptoms well and assess yourself during hot and humid runs.  A lot of these symptoms sound a lot like how we often feel as we push through hot runs.  You need to be responsible and assess yourself wisely.  Know when it is time to pull off to the side of the road or flag down help.  It isn’t always easy to do and we runners pride ourselves on how “strong” we are, but many a runner has been rushed from a marathon or other endurance race because they tried to tough it out and push through these symptoms.  We have all heard the scary stories of runners collapsing at races due to heat stroke.  Don’t allow that to happen to you!

Always carry your phone with you and some form of ID.  Don’t forget your hydration.  Bring water with you and know where you can find more.

Happy safe running friends!