An inner athlete's manifesto.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Heat Wave or Heat Slap: You Decide

I'm gonna go with Heat Slap. NYC has been in the high 90s and low 100s for the past five days or so, and I can't take it anymore. Nothing kills my workout like the heat + humidity combo; I'd rather run in 30 degree weather with eight layers on than try to workout in this stickyness.

But I do have the Queens Half-Marathon coming up at the end of July, and I am going to prepare to have to run in heat. Safely.

Since the heat can be deadly if you aren't smart about training in it, here are some tricks I use during sweltering summer months that get me through my workouts:

1. Pre-Workout Hydration: I can't emphasis enough how important this is, and by pre-hydrate, I mean drink up your h2o the night before your workout, especially if you're planning on being out during maximum sun exposure hours (10am-3pm). Obviously, chugging a half-gallon of water right before you workout at noon will only make you puke alongside your favorite running route. Remember, caffeine and alcohol will both dehydrate you.

2. Shoot for Sunrise: Early morning workouts are obviously the best during the summer because it is the coolest daylight time to workout in. Also, if you live in an urban area like I do, asphalt and pavement soak in heat as the day progresses. On a morning run, these surfaces have had a chance to cool overnight. Also, pollution levels are generally lower in the morning. And you have your whole day ahead of you to not worry about your workout because you already did it! Everyone wins!

3. Let's Get Real: Training your body and tricking your mind to get up that early can be a real pain. No one likes to adjust to a new workout time in the summer, especially when you spent the whole night tossing and turning in your sticky apartment because you decided to lower your Con-Ed bill and turn off the AC for the night, leaving you to fend for yourself with your bedroom fans. Start with a goal to get up early once this week, twice the next, and etc. until you feel more used to it. Use your early morning workout to your advantage and make it a long one (60 mins) so you can get your long runs in without risking heat stroke, heat exhaustion, or another sun/heat-related illness.

4. Set the Bar Low: For people like me who struggle with being the early bird, I am often the idiot running around in the park around 11am, wishing I had started four hours earlier. But take note: when I run in the heat, I listen to my body and I don't push  myself.  I always set a time limit, and on hot days, I choose a goal based on time rather than distance, and I keep that time ultra low, say 15-30 minutes. If I really need to put in more mileage, I wait until the sun goes down or take up the unfinished business with my local treadmill well after I've cooled down from the day's first workout.

5. Walking Breaks in the Heat are Definitely OKAY: More than okay--walking breaks actually prevent heart attacks. Remember, your body is working twice as hard to keep you cool--sometimes it needs your help in remembering that. Swallow your pride and take it down a notch if your body is struggling, and I highly suggest wearing a heart rate monitor. You can always pick up the pace again once your body has cooled down enough.

Hope I've helped other runners who have been jaded by July's sun so far. Thanks for joining!

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