Guest Post: Lisa Landrum of Forward Motion
We know it’s coming. We can feel it in the air. Ahhh, good ol’ summer in Charlotte.
As runners, we go through the whole love/hate of the sport right at about the end of May. We love the sunshine, love the colors, love the trees, love the ease of stepping out the door in less clothing, love the good sweat we work up in a matter of seconds….annnnd that’s also the point we start to kind of hate it: how can it be so.dang.hot?
We know the obvious tips. Drink more water, not just during the day, but start to incorporate it for runs that last longer than about 30 minutes. Run earlier when the sun isn’t at its peak. Run later when the sun isn’t at its peak. Wear moisture wicking clothing (remember that whole cotton is rotten thing).
In addition to the basics, here are a couple more:
Find some trails and the cover of trees to at least shade your route.
Places like the Whitewater Center, Colonel Beatty Park and The BackYard Trails can challenge you while providing a little break from the hot asphalt and blazing sun, which make it sometimes feel like you’re running on the actual surface of the sun. It’s always ten degrees cooler on the trails, whether it’s winter or summer (no science there).
Consider running by perceived effort and not the pace on your watch.
Better yet, just toss that watch aside and go by feel for a few weeks until you become acclimated. Our bodies will adjust to running in the heat, it just takes about 2 weeks for most people to feel a difference. We’re going to be riding that struggle bus for a while. It’s OK.
Consider running by time instead of miles.
It may take you a little longer to run 5 miles in the dead of summer. If instead you head out with a goal of running for 50 minutes and complete that, it will feel a lot better mentally than focusing on the fact that your pace may be a little slower.
Cut yourself some slack.
It’s more difficult to run when it’s hot and humid. Simple. Don’t hold yourself to the same expectations as when the weather is prime.
But it’s not just the heat…
Of course we don’t need a chart to know that it’s more difficult to run in hotter, more humid weather, but the one below is helpful to manage expectations.
The chart shows dew point, not humidity, so let’s talk about that for a minute. A WBTV meteorologist can explain the real science, but here’s a commonfolk’s breakdown: the dew point is the real villain in this summer script. No matter what the temperature or humidity is, the dew point represents the actual amount of moisture in the air, so it’s a better way for runners to think about the effect of humidity on their running performance.
There have been articles that suggest running in the humidity (and high dew point) is comparable to altitude training. While not exactly accurate, the general idea is. Altitude training increases your red blood cell count to get more oxygen to your muscles; humidity training increases blood flow — hello, red face!– but it’s to cool the body, not necessarily to get the muscles more oxygen. As a matter of fact, that’s why we feel like we’re working so much harder. Blood is going to cool us off instead of being recruited to work those muscles. Add in the fact that the air is already pretty saturated with water (high dew point, remember?), so the sweat doesn’t evaporate as well and we can’t cool off. Combine all of that and, well, the simple way to put it is we’re working a lot harder to run and getting hotter doing it.
Now the good news: all of the suckiness will eventually end, as most sucky things do, and the effect on our running will be beneficial to us come Fall. We just have to take it one run at time, pay more attention to the way we feel than the numbers on our watch, and to look around and enjoy the cool city in which we’re running. Remember those 60 degree days in January? The South, and especially Charlotte, is still a pretty cool corner of the world.