The weather in Greater Cleveland (and elsewhere) is heating up! A few weeks ago, Sheila mentioned that the weather went from being 50 degrees to being 80 degrees in the span of a few weeks. Generally, temperatures in June tend to hang around in the 70s, but evidently Mother Nature had different plans for 2014.
Many of us are starting up fall marathon training plans. Barring injury or another government shutdown, I’ll be running the 2014 Towpath Marathon, and I know many others have started training for Chicago, Akron, Marine Corps Marathon (which will hopefully be my 2015 marathon) and many more.
For those of us who are running the Towpath Ten-Ten this Sunday, we could easily be facing 80 degree temperatures at the start.
What’s a runner to do in the heat? Here are five very, very basic tips for successful running during the dog days of summer:
1) Pass The Salt, Please!
This may be a bit counterintuitive, but bear with me here. Although salt does indeed make you thirsty and too much salt is bad for one’s blood pressure, salt can be a runner’s best friend on a hot day because it ensures that your body will retain water and it prevents you from immediately sweating away all of the beverages that you consumed pre-run.
When you know that you’re going to be running on a hot day, make sure to scarf down some pretzels or something similarly salty before your run. I’ve never used salt tablets, but I know that many runners do. If you’re running long, you may even want to consume some pretzels during your run. My stepmom gave me some pretzels during the second half of the Northern Ohio Marathon and they helped me retain water towards the end when the sun came out.
Still skeptical about the benefits of salt? Do a Google search for “LeBron James” + salt. All sorts of media outlets ran many articles over the past week stating that LeBron’s cramping issues in Game 1 of the 2014 NBA Finals may have been due to a lack of salt and that he wouldn’t have sweated so profusely if he had taken in salt before the game. I had to laugh at the fact that these articles treated this like some sort of groundbreaking revelation; I learned about the importance of salt from my fellow Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon Official Bloggers over a year ago!
2) Start Out Well-Hydrated
This may be a no-brainer, but if you start out less than fully hydrated on a hot day, you’ll get dehydrated pretty quickly. If you’re running after work, make sure to steadily take in water all day long. Scarfing down a glass or two right before you run won’t do it. There are many, many other reasons to drink water every day even if you’re not running, so head on over to your faucet, water cooler, or water fountain and do your body a favor!
3) Carry Water With You
When we started running, my stepmom gave us a Nathan hydration belt. At the time, I never thought that I’d ever run far enough to use it, and I also thought that the extra weight would slow me down too much.
Once I started using it during my training for the 2013 Rite Aid Cleveland Half Marathon, though, I never have gone back. On a hot day, the knowledge that I can have water whenever I need it provides me with a great deal of peace of mind. When I’m racing, I don’t lose precious seconds walking through water stops because I can drink from my bottles as I’m running.
I’ve seen many different types of products used for carrying water over the past few years. The Camelbak backpack and the hand-held bottles that strap to your hand seem to be especially popular. I would encourage you to check them all out in person and find the one that works for you.
4) Include Water Stops On Your Route
For those of you who are doing longer runs this summer, include water stops on your run. If you carry water with you, water stops will allow you to fill up your bottles as well as your body!
If you’re running in your neighborhood, create your route so that you pass your house at strategic times when you’ll think you need water. When I do this, I line up my bottles outside in the shade so that I don’t waste valuable time going inside.
If you’re running on a trail like the Towpath or those in the Cleveland Metroparks, I highly recommend using Google’s Map Pedometer to plan your route. You’ll be able to locate gas stations near your route. The Shell at the intersection of Granger and Canal is a lifesaver for those of us training on the Towpath. Be sure to bring money for a cold bottle of water! I actually like to get the Sacagawea dollar coins ahead of time and put those in my SPIbelt because then I don’t have to worry about dealing with sweat-covered dollar bills. Stopping at a bathroom or water fountain on the trail is another option.
For those of you who drive to your running site, stocking your car with hydration products and treating your car like a water stop is another way to ensure that you have a supply of hydration during your run. I’ve headed out for runs with 4 full water bottles in my car—1 for the way there, 1 for water during my run, and 2 for afterwards.
Whatever you do, just be sure to plan strategically based on the temperature of the day and your normal water consumption.
5) Be Flexible
We hit triple digits in Greater Cleveland on more than one occasion last summer. Running outdoors just isn’t safe on those days.
When that happens, you have two options: 1.) hit the treadmill or 2.) reschedule your run.
For those of us with access to a treadmill, you can go ahead and get your run in on your treadmill. Winter isn’t the only time when you can use a treadmill! Personally, I don’t mind running on a treadmill as long as there’s something good on TV. The World Cup is a great thing to watch while running because there are few commercial breaks. I never realized how many commercials there are on TV until I started running on the treadmill.
If you don’t have access to a treadmill, do some rearranging of your training plan so that you can get your miles in. Of course, following all of the tried and true running rules such as not increasing distance more than 10% on any given week are great to follow. Another tried and true training tip is that skipping your long run is a bad idea, so be sure not to skip your long run permanently when it’s hot out.
If you can’t run outside and you don’t have access to a gym, I urge you to do some cross-training inside your house. 30 minutes of yoga can stretch out your muscles and get them nice and limber for your next run.
I know that some of these are extremely basic, but I hope that you find them helpful. As you push through tough runs in the heat and humidity, remember that you will be running your fall races in 50 and 60 degree temperatures. Pushing through difficulties during the summer will make your fall runs seem like a cakewalk!
Do you have any tips for successful running in hot weather? If so, please leave them in the comments!