by Kelsey Fields
Yesterday afternoon I had to complete a quick paced 4.5 mile run as part of my half-marathon training. I’ve done this run a million times at the same pace and the same distance. No sweat, right? WRONG. First of all sweat. All the sweat. Second, my normal routine run turned into a huge challenge thanks to the 80 degree temps.
Sure I could’ve gone to the gym, hopped on the dreadmill…I mean treadmill, and avoided the heat all together, but the half-marathon is going to take place in the summer months. I wanted to acclimate my body to the running conditions I may face on race day. I did some research on the benefits of working out in the heat and here is the low-down:
- Even though I was running slower than normal, the heat placed stress on my cardiovascular system causing my heart rate to be higher than normal. Training with a higher heart rate and intensity is beneficial, much like doing speed work.
- When you sweat profusely (like I do, thanks genetics and dad) your blood volume is reduced. This signals your body to produce more blood. The extra blood volume comes in handy when the temps drop in the fall, you sweat less, and you have extra blood available for working muscles. Sign up for a fall race after some heat training and you’re sure to get a PR!
So now that I’ve convinced (brainwashed?) myself that my miserable training run had at least some benefit, I wanted to make sure that my next run in the heat was easier. Once I got home I tried to figure out why the run was so hard for me.
- Mistake 1: I was wearing all black. I don’t care if exercise is supposed to be a funeral for your fat. Do not mourn your fat loss in 80 degree heat. 7th grade science taught me that dark colors absorb heat and 28 year-old me didn’t care because I was dying to try out my cute new workout gear.
Solution: Keep it light and loose. Loose fitting tops allow air to circulate and light colored clothes reflect the sun. Save the chic new athleisure for the gym.
- Mistake 2: I was dehydrated. I always aim to drink half of my body weight in ounces each day. Unless I weigh 100 pounds I was nowhere near my target. I also lost a lot of water from sweating so much (again, thanks dad) that needed to be replaced.
Solution: Did you know that most people are somewhat dehydrated at all times? To combat this, keep hydrated before and after a run, not just during exercise. Set an alarm on your phone to remind you to drink 16 oz every 1-2 hours. On a particularly hot day it is advised to drink water after every 20 minutes of exercise. Head to one of your local sporting goods stores and invest in a handy water bottle that can be worn around your hand while exercising.
- Mistake 3: I tried to run my normal quick pace that I am used to running in temps that are 10-15 degrees cooler.
Solution: Gear down there big shifter! Ease up, and slow down! Let your body adapt to the heat gradually. Running in the heat causes higher exertion than normal. Listen to your body and stop looking at pace. Heat training is no time to go for a PR. You want to condition your body to get accustomed to performing in higher temps, the benefits will come later.
- Mistake 4: I went out during the absolute hottest time of day in the late afternoon heat. To be fair, I only had a one hour window of opportunity so I ran with it. Literally. 😀
Solution: Wake up early and hit the road as the sunrises, or go out late and catch the sunset. If you must go out in the afternoon hours, choose a trail that is covered with shade trees. After running under the large shade trees at my favorite trail, my favorite post run ritual is to take off my shoes and socks and dip my feet in the creek. Best cool down ever.
When it’s all said and done, you can prepare your body for the upcoming summer heat, but you need to know when to call it a day. If you ever feel weakness, lightheadedness, dizziness, paling of the skin, muscle cramps, nausea, or rapid heartbeat, stop and find some AC stat.
Kelsey is a stay-at-home mom and just recently completed her degree in elementary education. She is a Beachbody certified Insanity instructor, avid runner and yoga enthusiast.
When she is not working out, you will find her cheering on the Denver Broncos, substitute teaching and spending time with her family. She is wife to Blake and mom to busy 2 year-old son Max and soon to be one-year-old, Mick.