I signed up for a sprint triathlon last Sunday knowing it would be a scorcher. Southern Europe is in the middle of heat wave with temperatures reaching 95°F/35°C, and it looks like it will stay that way until the end of the month.
I got through the 5km run section of the triathlon by carrying a bottle of water and dousing my head every time I felt like I was overheating. I stopped at each water station and asked the volunteers to put the water hose on my neck and head to keep cool. I didn’t care about my performance, just about making it to the end in one piece, which I did. First place in my age group, woo hoo!
Beating the heat is a huge challenge for runners, wherever you live in the world. While I was running my triathlon I kept my mind busy by thinking about my strategies for getting through the summer while I train for my fall race goals. Here you go!
1. Give your body time to acclimatise to temperature changes
I had running clients call me in a panic last week because they suddenly could-not-get-off-the-couch for their regular run. They felt listless and weak and were not putting two and two together. The heat even slows down your brain! Give your body time to get used to the temperature difference – it usually takes four or five days.
2. If temps go above 95°F/35C° feel free to substitute your running sessions with swimming or biking.
If you happen to live near the sea or a cool water lake, swimming is a great substitute for your run. If you want to do laps to keep up your aerobic conditioning opt for an indoor pool which has cooler water temperatures than the outdoor pools that sit all day in the blazing sun.
3. Run before 7AM or after 7PM
Unless you’re training for the Badwater Ultramarathon in Death Valley you’re going to have to get your training session in while the morning air is still chilly. That would be before 7AM. If you’re the type of person that needs two cups of coffee before being able to put a few sentences together you may be more of an evening runner – wait until after 7PM. In both cases make sure you rehydrate after your run.
4.Less is more (clothing, that is…)
You don’t have run in a tankini but you cannot wear long pants when it’s 90°F out because you’re afraid that someone might see the cellulite on your legs! Go clothes shopping and find a pair of summer running shorts that you feel comfortable in. By the way, I found my big, baggy, nondescript mid-thigh running shorts in the men’s department. Just sayin’…
5. Carry water with you, but not for hydration
Hydrating needs to be done throughout the day, beginning with a large glass of water as soon as you get out of bed and continue with fresh veggies and fruit during meals… and more water. By doing this you won’t need to drink on your run. Do carry water so you can take sips when your mouth gets too dry or douse a few drops on your head, neck and shoulders for instant heat relief. Rehydrate again throughly once you’re back home!
6. Cut yourself some slack: slowing down in the heat is normal
Runners get panicky when they suddenly see the numbers tank and feel as though they can’t run at the same speed they did a few months or even weeks ago. The summer temperatures will slow you down. If you have that information it’s easier to accept it and move forward with your training. Enjoy the summer. Before you know it the thermometer will drop and you’ll gain your speed back instantly!