I had said in my last post that I would write a bit about my nutrition, which I’ll do soon, but I felt that the heat was a more pressing issue at the moment. I love the warm weather that the summer brings because I live in the Chicago suburbs and am cold for about 8 months of the year, but it can be challenging to run in. My intention with this post isn’t to complain about the heat because I’d rather be hot than cold any day. Instead, I’ll point out some of the challenges that often coincide with summer running and provide tips that might help you during these dog days.
For me, this summer has been a re-introduction into what it’s like to run and train in the heat. Not always fun. I do love how easy it is to just throw on a pair of running shorts and a t-shirt and head out the door. And the fact that it’s typically light out at 5:30 am is definitely a bonus. Running any other time of the year requires much more planning and running in the dark is one of my least favorite things to do. Although there are many perks to summertime running, the heat can be rough. I’ve run throughout the summer every year since I was 14 years old, but I haven’t always run hard. It’s been about 6 years since I’ve really done this, so there have been many mornings when I’ve asked why I’m doing this to myself. For example, Scott and I decided to do a 10-miler a few Saturday mornings ago and it happened to fall on one of the hottest, most humid days we’ve had thus far. Although we started early (about 6:30), it was one of the toughest runs I can remember and, unfortunately, I knew it wasn’t going to be pretty about 3 miles in. We have a rule that we don’t stop to rest during a long run since there are many benefits to your fitness when you don’t, but this time we took a breather after 8 miles and felt much better the last 2 due to this. Afterward, I didn’t stop sweating for a half hour.
It’s these types of runs in 80+ percent humidity when I really have to remind myself why I’m doing this. Everyone will have their own reasons, so it’s important to keep these front-of-mind on days like these. For me, I think about how good I feel after a great workout, how I enjoy being able to compete in road races, and the camaraderie that comes with being a runner. I also feel at my best (mentally, emotionally, and physically) when I’m in good shape. And I like the process of setting challenging goals, working towards them, and then accomplishing them. I recently read an interesting article by a sports psychologist who discussed the importance of having certain thought patterns while running so that you remain mentally strong. For example, focusing on how far you’ve gone or the number of miles you have left in a run, periodically checking in with how you’re feeling (and adjusting as necessary), and positive self-talk.
As Scott reminds me, it’s also extremely important to be hydrated. I drink water constantly throughout the day, especially the day before a hard or long run. I’ve found that these runs are significantly more difficult on days when I didn’t pre-hydrate. Some people have asked if I carry water with me on runs. I don’t do this, but everybody is different so I think it’s a matter of preference. I’m also not running more than 10 miles right now and, again, I find that if I hydrate really well, I don’t feel like I need water during a run. Even on that Saturday morning I mentioned earlier, I wasn’t necessarily thirsty during the run. It was just really difficult to take in oxygen.
Another thing that I’ve learned is that I have to intentionally slow down on hot days. Trying to hit race-pace times during interval training probably isn’t going to happen, so it’s best to have a set amount of time where you’re running faster, and base the workout on effort rather than a specific pace. I’d like to take credit for coming to this realization, but this was a tip from Scott. Earlier in the summer, I found myself getting really frustrated when I would fall off pace, and he made the suggestion for me to just run for a certain amount of time at an honest effort rather than a specific distance/pace. This change has made some of my workouts much more enjoyable. I still get a great workout in because it’s based on effort, but I don’t have the added pressure of trying to run a certain time. I’ll focus on the pace work again in the fall.
Hopefully some of these tips are helpful to you and will help you get through your summer training. Although I love the summer, I think I’ll have a new appreciation for fall weather!