Summer Running Tips
Ok y'all it's been a minute since I had any regularity with posting on this blog - but I'm about to change that! I enjoyed it, I missed it, so I'm making time for it again. No better time than the present, right?!
So...Summer is HERE. In Florida, "summer" has been here for a while temp/humidity wise, but it's really showing up and showing out now. On my run this morning, I was drenched by mile 2. When you have 10 on the schedule, that's not a great feeling. But, there's a lot of great things that come when we run in the summer, so it's absolutely NOT the time to sit on the sidelines and wait for cooler temps. While there's not much we can control about the temps, the dew point, or the humidity, we can control several factors that can make summer running not only more safe and enjoyable, but set us up to have some incredible PRs when the cooler months roll around. (For us in the south, that's going to be a while, but hey, we can plan ahead!)
Heading out for 10 early miles
First and foremost, you know your body. While there are all sorts of suggestions, charts and heat adjustment conversions, some of us do fine in heat and some of us tap out real fast. LISTEN TO YOUR BODY. Your body is always a better gauge than a chart. Do not push it when you feel your body telling you "enough" - your body will always win, and it's not a pretty situation, trust me. If you struggle with overheating, or find you struggle to know when to 'call it', run with a buddy or group so you have some accountability and a safety net should a medical emergency arise. Safety first! These tips are some of the simplest to incorporate, but they are not an exhaustive list. Keep in mind to consult with your personal medical professional or your running coach about any of these to make sure they are right/safe for you!
Paces: Oh we runners love to obsess about paces (or is that just me?) In the summer we might find that paces we were hitting in the cooler months are just WAY too difficult to hit in the summer. That's OK! I advise my athletes to aim for prescribed paces, but do not worry about being 'off'. We always strive to be within 10-15 seconds of the target paces (e.g., if an interval has a target pace of 8:00 then the range is 8:00-8:15). In summer, depending on the outdoor conditions, we may need to add another 10-20 seconds to that range, making it now 8:25-8:35. This means that if you program your workouts to your watch manually you can increase your range if you know you are going to do the workout outside in warmer conditions. A lot of runners like to keep this pacing info either in their programmed workouts or at least in their head when doing harder, sustained efforts. This allows us to shoot for the moon, and some days we may make it. Others, we will land in the stars - and that's just as good. Why, you ask? Well, because...
Effort: This can be your most beneficial tool during summer outdoor runs. Your body knows effort, not necessarily pace. If you have a workout for marathon pace vs a workout for 5k pace, you know the difference in how those miles feel (or you will soon!). Even if your watch beeps that you're slower than the target range, if you know your effort is consistent with that specific pace, hold it despite the watch telling you to go faster. You have to be honest with yourself about gauging effort - which can be much harder to do than to say you'll do.
Treadmills: Use them! It is not 'cheating or taking an easy way out to move your run to the tread or take your workouts on the tread. If you live in a very hot/humid place and even dark, early runs are still super warm, take the run to the tread and do not think twice about it. Treadmills are a wonderful tool that can get a bad wrap, but we can absolutely use them to aid our training. (My northern runners know this well as you all use treadmills in the winter quite often!) If you use the tread then do not adjust your paces as hopefully you're running inside in the cool AC. If your tread is in a hot garage and you don't have a lot of circulation or fans, then you may want to go by effort.
Recoveries: Oh do I LIVE for recoveries in the summer! I tell my athletes that if I give them a jogging timed recovery or a short distance recovery, but their conditions are just terrible that day and they feel you need to take part (or maybe even all) of the recovery as a walk, please do. The goal of a recovery is to bring the heart rate down so you can go after that harder effort or interval next. Examples of this might be a workout with 800s at a fast pace followed by 2:00 jog recovery. If it's a blistering day, take the 2:00 as a walk. If it's warm but not terrible, take the first :45-:60 as a walk and then jog the last minute. The point of recoveries is to recover, bring the HR down, so you can slay the next interval. If you're jogging recoveries but not actually recovering then your HR will not come down enough to allow you to kick it for the next interval. Walking is not a bad thing!
Cross training: We may need more of it in the summer, and this can build our bodies in a very beneficial way. If you normally run 5 or 6 days a week and find that your body is struggling in the summer, consider scaling back to 4 or 5 days of running and move some workouts or recovery efforts to other means. Spinning, swimming, pool running, and even walking are great ways to continue training w/o the constant impact and weather draining our body. If you still have a weekly milage goal, cut back a day and add on 1-2 easy miles to your warm-ups or cool-downs on other days. There is definitely truth to the concept of "under recovery". We don't want to find ourselves in that territory, so it's best to err on the side of caution and take a cross-training day.
Fuel: This is another area that is very individual and you have to work on finding what works best for your body in the warmer months. You may need more fuel during summer runs. While we tend to take in fuel every 30-45 min on longer runs or harder efforts, or not take in fuel for runs less than an hour, in the summer you may find these 'rules' go out the window. Your body will burn fuel faster in warmer temps so please listen to your body and make sure you're taking in enough. Fuel is not a bad 4-letter word. Our bodies NEED fuel (aka carbs) to run and train properly and strongly - feed your body! I always suggest carrying an extra gel or pack of gummy bears, or at the very least, leaving it in your car so you can go grab it if you feel you need the energy boost.
Hydration: Just like fueling, you will likely need more, and not just on the runs. Make sure you're getting at LEAST half your body weight in ounces of water each day (and that is the absolute bare minimum). Drink electrolytes and make sure you are hydrating on the run as well as right after. Carry hydration or make sure your route allows for hydration stops. In the warmer months, the hood of my car and my mailbox serve as "aid stations" and I leave bottles of hydration and extra fuel. Some days I need it all and others I don't, but boy am I glad I have it on the days I do need it! Consider adding in a hydration support item like Liquid IV. I admit, I was one who never believed the 'need' for such supplements until I tried it. And, let's say, after seeing how I didn't suffer with headaches and I felt much more recovered after long runs, it's been a staple ever since. If you want to try, my code ISAMARATHONER will save you at least 25% on every purchase (thanks Liquid IV!)
Salts: Oh boy, these are critical during summer! Every runner needs to see what works best for him/her and this is by trial and error. Some runners can do salt tabs/sticks and others need pickle juice. Some can do loose salts (me!) and some prefer to combine their salt/fuel by eating salted pretzels on their runs. To each their own, but in summer you need more sodium as you are losing it rapidly with all the extra sweat. Please make sure you don't skip this - it's that important. I found that the loose BASE salts work best for me. I carry a small tube of them on my runs (even short runs because I sweat so much) and take a lick every 1-2 miles. While I don't need salts in the cooler months, if I don't have them in the warmer months I always end up needing to cut my run short. Make sure you're getting enough whether that's in your fuel, hydration, or a salt supplement.
While thinking about doing all of this can seem daunting to a new runner, please don't hesitate to reach out if you have questions! We all learn what works best for us by trial and error, and if you have a summer running tip please leave it in the comments! The beautiful thing about showing up over these next few months and sweating our buns off, is that when the weather changes and it's even a few degrees cooler, we will feel like we are flying! Fall PRs are made in the summer!
Oh, and if you run in the sun, don't forget sunscreen and a visor or hat - protect that skin!
My mailbox aid station
Drenched - salty sweat stinging my eyes
Getting it done before the sun gets too strong. I love starting the day like this!