Then Winter and Summer come along.
And it's brutal. Mother Nature brings the extremes: scorching or sub-freezing temperatures, drenching humidity or frostbite-inducing wind chills. We had a brutal Winter this past year in the Philly suburbs. The temperatures dipped to record-breaking lows, and some area schools closed due to wind-chills (and frozen pipes). We even had a crazy ice storm that put people without power for almost a week!
And yet I ran. I ran consistently 4-5 times per week, regardless of the weather forecast. I ran on icy sidewalks. I ran in 0 degree weather. I ran even though I couldn't feel my nose or my toes. Even though it can be brutal, I can dig running in the Winter. Why? Because it's much easier to make yourself warmer than it is to make yourself cooler.
Which brings us to Summer.
I struggle with Summer. Yes, I still run in the Summer. I may not run as fast or as far (but who knows - maybe I'll challenge myself this year!). But I run. Running in the Summer is difficult for the exact reason I mentioned in the previous paragraph: it's hard to cool yourself down. It can actually be dangerous, as your body is working extra hard and the excess of sweat dehydrates you so quickly. I almost fainted during a race last Junebecause it was 90+ degrees and I hadn't hydrated properly!
Not all hope is lost, though. Runners, it is possible to run consistently in the hot Summer months. Here are a few of my tips to have a successful running season in the heat:
Proper AttireWhen I first started running, I threw on whatever gym gear I had lying around. Most amounted to old cotton t-shirts and lacrosse shorts. While cotton may be a comfortable textile to wear, it does you no good while you are running. Cotton keeps moisture against the body. In the Summer, your body sweats as a reaction against the heat: it's the body's way of cooling itself down. When that same moisture is kept against the body, it works against the cooling down function. It also makes your clothes heavy and gross.
Find moisture-wicking clothing: shirt, shorts, sports bra. They even make moisture-wicking underwear. But the most important is the moisture-wicking shirt and sports bra , as that these articles of clothing are closest to some of your sweatiest areas. If you can't afford the bigger brands, I really like C9 by Champion at Target.
Time of DayThis is short, sweet and to the point: run at the coolest times of day. Afternoon (12pm-4pm) is the hottest point of the day. Humidity will feel worse and the sun is beating down on you. If you have to run during these hours, try to find a shaded route or trail.
Otherwise, aim to run first thing in the morning (even though it stinks, I like running at 5:30am or 6am). If I can't kick my butt into gear that early, I may run after I put the kids to bed (at 7:30pm or 8pm). Dawn and dusk are cooler and humidity is lower since the sun is not overhead. Daylight works in your favor during the Summer. Take advantage of it!
HydrateThat seems obvious, right? I've talked about hydration in previous posts, and I can't stress enough how important it is. I try to hydrate properly all year 'round: 64 ounces per day. In the Summer, though, we need to overcompensate. With heat and humidity working against you, it's so easy to become dehydrated. Often, we don't realize we are dehydrated until we're very dehydrated.
In the Summer, make sure to hit at least your minimum of 8 cups of water per day, and to hydrate before and after runs. I also hydrate with electrolytes after most runs in addition to extra water.
Protect Your Skin
Can I confess something? I'm really bad at taking care of my skin in the sun. I tend not to burn easily (I chalk this up to my Italian heritage), so I kind of forget to put on sunscreen.
I KNOW. BAD, Steph. BAD!
Running is a harsh reminder. Since we are moving when we run, it's easy to think the sun isn't hitting you directly. Until you find, post-run, that the 30-60 minutes you spent running resulted in some unexpected sunburn (and wicked farmer's tan)!
If you have long hair, pull it straight back in a ponytail. There is nothing worse than burning your part/scalp! It may seem geeky, but a running hat or visor is a great way to protect your face. And above all, slather on the sunblock!
Watch Your AnklesThere are two things that affect a runner in the Summer that are not present during Winter: shorts and plants. What do I mean? In the Winter, we wear long pants to run. When the weather gets warm, we turn to shorts, which leaves our legs and ankles exposed.
At the same time, plants that were dormant in the winter are now blossoming with life. This includes thorny plants as well as poison ivy. Some parts of my runs, on both trails and roads, are not tended to. Plants and bushes billow out into the path. If you are not alert and careful, you could be brushing against plants that leave you scratched or with a rash. Keep an eye on what your bare legs are running against!
Summer doesn't have to put an end to your running days. Persist! Face the challenges of Summer, and you may enter the Autumn a better runner!
Time for #CSHMRealTalk:
What are YOUR best tips for
running in the Summer?