You’ve worked hard all winter and spring to be ready for the summer. Or maybe you are getting ready to ramp up your training this summer for some fall fun. Either way, figuring out how to navigate the onset of suddenly higher temperatures is the key to getting the most out of your summer workouts and races. Believe when I say that trial and error are a big part of this process and like most things that involve running you need to practice to figure out exactly how things work for you personally. However, by understanding a few basic principles you can make sure that you rock your runs this summer.
- Know your sweat rate. We all sweat to cool ourselves down when we get hot. What’s important is to understand that we all sweat different amounts, and understanding how much you sweat personally can go a long way to making sure that you are properly hydrated during your run. Fortunately it is relatively easy to figure out your basic sweat rate so you can adjust your hydration needs. Hop on that scale before you head out for your next run (preferably a minimum of 60 minutes) and sans clothes. Go get your run on, keeping track of your fluid intake while you’re running . When you finish hop right on that scale again. Then you have all the information you need. Take your start weight and subtract your finishing weight, convert the difference to ounces (16 ounces per pound of body weight lost) and then add the number of ounces of fluid you drank while running and divide by the number of hours you ran. This will give you a pretty good estimate of how much you sweat per hour. The more often you do this, and the more conditions you do it in will allow you to tailor your intake for you personally under a variety of temperatures. For example if on my last run I started at 175 lbs, ran for 3.5 hours, finished at 173 lbs and during my run I drank 160 ounces the calculation would look like this: (((175-173)*16)+160)/3 = 54.86 ounces per hour that I should intake under similar conditions
- Know the dew point. Yes, the humidity level is important, but the dew point maybe more so. We often refer a “feels like” when referring to temperature. For hotter days this is figured using temperature and dew point . Dew point is the temperature at which sweat will evaporate into the air and cool your body effectively. The higher the dew point the harder it is for your body to cool itself. You can frequently look this up on many weather sites. While tolerance is somewhat personal, generally speaking you can follow these guidelines and adjust your effort accordingly knowing your body will have to work harder to cool down.
- less than 60 degrees - comfortable
- between 60-65 degrees - getting uncomfortable
- 65-70 degrees -uncomfortable
- 70 degrees and up is considered oppressive
- Acclimate appropriately. This requires you to be truly honest with yourself about effort level at any given pace and temperature. Typically speaking it takes approximately 2, and up to 4 weeks to adjust your body to higher temperatures. During that time if you are headed somewhere warm you can layer to simulate the increased temperature during your activities. Start slow, and the first couple days keep the activities shorter and at a very easy effort level (throw pace concerns out the window and focus on listening to your body). As time progresses you can increase the duration of your activity, and or add additional activities. One my son loves in particular is when I ride around with the heat on in the car instead of the AC while being layered. Be honest with yourself about discomfort, but if at any point you feel something is not right then immediately reduce the stress levels you are placing on your body doing this.
- Plan for success. The amount of hydration and fuel you intake in the days leading up to exercise are extremely important. It is fairly common for people to be consistently dehydrated and not even realize it. Make sure you are drinking plenty of fluids every day, not just when you exercise. The more hydrated you are ahead of time the easier it is for your body to maintain a steady state of hydration during exercise with proper fluid intake.
- Don’t be afraid of sodium. What is important is maintaining a proper level of sodium intake along with your hydration. Some people just sweat more sodium, also the more you sweat the more sodium you lose generally speaking. Often, in extreme temperatures, sports drinks alone don’t provide enough replacement sodium on their own. Maintaining a proper sodium level will allow your cells to absorb water and effectively continue the cooling process. There are many “salt” replacement products available with different sodium amounts. Start off at the lower end and experiment until you find the appropriate amount of additional sodium you need, as taking too much is also detrimental.
Done with some care and a little practice you don’t have to just survive, but you can also thrive in those high temperatures and sun that summer has to offer. See you out on the trails!