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Respecting the Heat on the Run–I Never Seem to Learn

Heat RunI feel like I write this post every spring. In fact, I probably do. I figure that maybe if I keep writing it, one year I’ll learn to do things differently. This was not that year.

Yesterday I went for a seven mile run. Nothing too special about that, but it was the first really hot day we’ve had this year in New Hampshire. The temperature was 89 degrees Fahrenheit when I checked after the run, and it was fairly humid. After a frigidly cold winter, my northern blood was definitely unprepared for a run in these conditions.

To top things off, I didn’t bring any water. “It’s only seven miles”, I told myself. I ran eight just a few days before and had no issues.

The splits in the table at the top of the post tell the tale of this one. I went out easy for mile one, then settled into my comfortable pace by mile three. That’s about when things started to fall apart. My legs were dead, and the heat radiating up from the asphalt was getting to me. I started feeling lightheaded. It was time to walk for a bit.

The second half of the run was a walk-run slog. At times I could barely manage two minutes of running before I needed a walk break. I briefly thought about calling my wife to come pick me up. It was truly ugly.

When I got home I had goosebumps all over my skin, and my mouth way sticky and dry. My kids were in the yard splashing around in the kiddie pool – they’re much smarter than me (and I wound up in there with them after some water and a bit of recovery)!

In checking the my activity feed on Strava, I saw a few others who had similar issues to me. I saw one run posted with splits that were almost identical to mine – a dramatic slowdown in the second half of a run. Yet others seemed to handle the heat ok. I’ve always wondered if I’m particularly sensitive to heat for some reason. It seems to take me a long time to acclimate, and I always seem to have a run like this in the Spring where I feel like dying.

Some year maybe I’ll ease into Spring/Summer heat with short runs where I carry cold water. That would be the wise approach. Maybe next year I’ll get it right? Or maybe I’ll just be writing this post again next Spring. If nothing else, I hope this helps you to be smarter than me – respect the heat!

About Peter Larson

This post was authored by Peter Larson. Pete is a recovering academic who currently works as an exercise physiologist, running coach, and writer. He's also a father of three and a fanatical runner with a bit of a shoe obsession. In addition to writing and editing this site, he is co-author of the book Tread Lightly, and writes a personal blog called The Blogologist. Follow Pete on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and via email.

Comments

  1. I live down in North Carolina, and have been fearing the spring and summer ramp up in humidity since back in January. I have already had a few runs where, even though the temperature was only in the high 60s or low 70s, the humidity was so high I just wanted to die by the end of the run. I am definitely feeling your pain.

    My strategy is to acclimate and train through it all summer, and then do all my competitive runs in the fall when the weather breaks–hoping I’ll be faster for all the effort put in, and will be breaking PRs left and right in October and November!

  2. Caitlin says:

    Fortunately, I’ve learned (and I also cannot acclimate well anyway). If it’s above 75, time to get out the bike (unless it’s cloudy, then I can manage).

    The one time I didn’t learn was an 85 degree 10k race in March (March!) in Wisconsin. I was ready to quit at mile 1.5 (and they had one water stop at the turnaround.). Even the tiniest of hills, I had to walk. It was brutal (and I have never done that race again). The following year, race day temperature was 15 F.

  3. I went through this also couple of weeks ago, when summer came early here, too. My HR was sky high, compared to previous runs. What worked for me: try to hydrate well BEFORE the run, during the day (I usually run around noon). Water, tea, some coffee. Made all the difference for me.

  4. This is an appropriately timed piece for all runners. I live north of Atlanta, and it seems like spring temperatures are being bypassed in favor of summer like conditions. I’ve run once or twice so far, and the humidity already feels stifling at times.

    If there is one takeaway from this article, Pete has nailed it – respect the heat. To not do so is dangerous.

    I’ll add some advice that I fail to heed during sunny runs: pull out the sunscreen and put it on any area that can be exposed from the sun’s rays. Stay safe, hydrate, and have fun.


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