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Ultimate Guide To Running In The Heat

As Arizona-based marathon runners, it’s safe to say we know a thing or two about running in the heat. The Run Lab CBD team regularly races fall marathons which means we have to put in a lot of hot summer miles to be race ready by fall. Summer temps in Arizona regularly reach highs of over 110° F with lows in the 90s. Over the years, we have found several techniques that have allowed us to run high mileage training weeks at these extreme temperatures. We do whatever it takes to get the miles in, even if it means running 88 laps around a 1/4 mile track in 110° weather (read on to see why we would do such a thing!)

Stay Hydrated

Most people lose an average of one liter of fluids per hour of exercise. Extreme heat can cause this number to increase to as much as three liters per hour. That’s 6lbs of fluids lost per hour! The big problem with losing fluids at this rate is that you can’t replenish the fluids as fast as you are losing them. While your body is capable of losing three liters per hour, it can only absorb up to one liter per hour. This means it’s very easy to become dehydrated while running in the heat.

Hydrate Before, During, and After Your Run

Increase your fluid and electrolyte intake the day prior to running to ensure you start your run properly hydrated. It’s also important to hydrate during your run. There are several options for runners wanting to carry fluids with them including handheld bottles, running belts, and running vests. If you prefer to run without the added weight of carrying everything with you, we suggest setting up your own aid station to run short loops past (more on this later.) Hydration should remain a priority until you are feeling fully recovered, this could be hours or even days after your run.

It’s important to start small and increase your training volume slowly until you learn how your body reacts to training in the heat. Mild dehydration causes a decrease in performance but isn’t dangerous,  while severe dehydration can cause death. It is very important to listen to your body and not push it too far. You can determine what stage you’re in by paying close attention to the symptoms of dehydration and by weighing yourself before and after running.

Symptoms by Percent Body Weight Water Loss

PERCENT WATER LOST — SYMPTOMS

0% — none, optimal performance, normal heat regulation

1% — thirst stimulated, heat regulation during exercise altered, performance declines

2% — further decrease in heat regulation, hinders performance, increased thirst

3% — more of the same (worsening performance)

4% — exercise performance cut by 20 – 30%

5% — headache, irritability, “spaced-out” feeling, fatigue

6% — weakness, severe loss of thermoregulation

7% — collapse likely unless exercise stops

10% — comatose

11% — death likely

[Nutrition for Cyclists, Grandjean & Ruud, Clinics in Sports Med. Vol 13(1);235-246. Jan 1994]

Dress Appropriately for the Weather

Don’t wear a cotton t-shirt! We are lucky to be living in a time where sportswear companies are releasing lighter and cooler materials every year. These high-performance fabrics are lightweight, breathable, and moisture-wicking, unlike traditional cotton fabrics. A hat and sunglasses can also help keep you cool by shading your face from the sun. Invest in some proper summer running gear, it makes all the difference!

Beat the Heat by Starting Early

If you are an evening runner, changing your schedule to mornings could dramatically improve your summer training. Running at 5 am when the weather is slightly cooler has helped us achieve much better training cycles. We don’t love waking up at 4 am either, but we always thank ourselves later when we check our weather app and see triple-digit temps!

Run Loops at the Track

We’ve gone as far as running 22 miles around a 1/4 mile track. This might sound crazy to some, but this is the best way we’ve found to survive a summer long-run in Phoenix (110°+.) We set up an aid station on the track with gels, water, electrolytes, and a cooler full of ice water. Running at the track ensures we’re never far from water or anything else we might need, allows us to run long distances without having to carry anything, and allows us to stop at any time if things go wrong (you do not want to be 10 miles from the car when heat exhaustion kicks in.) We have also found that dipping a cooling towel in ice water and throwing it over our shoulders every mile or so helps keep us cool and keep our heart rate lower. Depending on how extreme the temperatures are and how far your run is, you can scale this strategy up from 1/4 mile loops at the track to several mile loops past your house. Come up with an option that works for you and go run some loops!

Run at a Slower Pace

Exercising in the heat causes blood to be redirected from working muscles to your skin to help keep you cool. This extra work inside your body causes increased heart rate and lactate production. Dehydration will also set in much faster as your body uses perspiration as another method of cooling itself down. With all of this happening, we cannot expect our body to perform as it does in cooler temperatures. We recommend forgetting about pace when it heats up and instead using perceived effort or heart rate to measure your training intensity. For more on this, check out our Heat Pace Calculator and our Heart Rate Training Calculator.

Conclusion

Training in the summer often requires more preparation and more caution than training during the cooler months, however, we shouldn’t use that as an excuse to stay inside. The tips we listed above can significantly improve your summer training and lead to a surprise speed boost come fall race season. In fact, some coaches and researchers even believe training in the heat is more effective for increasing VO2 Max than training at altitude. Just remember to stay hydrated and know your limits!

Chas Metz

Chas Metz

Marathoner and Co-Founder of Run Lab CBD

Injured But Not Defeated

Injured Runner

Maintaining Motivation When You Can't Run

Being stuck on the sidelines is tough. Over the past seven months, I’ve been on a challenging journey of recovering from a recurring bone stress injury in my tibia. Enduring this injury, along with the many others that came before it, has provided me with invaluable lessons in resilience and mental toughness. The constant struggle to maintain motivation, as the hard-earned fitness fades away, has at times been an emotional and psychological rollercoaster.

For any dedicated runner, the act of putting heart, soul, and miles into achieving personal milestones becomes an intrinsic part of our identity. It’s a dedication that extends beyond physical exertion. It’s a mindset where every step is a testament to our commitment to self-improvement. The harsh reality of taking time off due to injury forces us to confront the disheartening truth that progress often requires a few steps backward before the exhilarating leap forward can resume.

In the face of such setbacks, the journey to recovery becomes not only a physical challenge but a profound test of mental endurance. The prospect of seeing hard-earned fitness slip away can cast a dark shadow on our enthusiasm, making it crucial to explore avenues that keep the flame of motivation burning.

For runners, mental strength is as critical as physical endurance, especially during injury. This blog delves into the emotional challenges of being sidelined by injury, the link between mindset and recovery, and offers guidance through injury-induced setbacks. Join me as we navigate the intricate path of maintaining motivation when the familiar rhythm of miles is silenced.

Understanding the Injury

In the relentless pursuit of our running goals, it’s easy to fall into the trap of pushing through discomfort, ignoring warning signs, and embracing the “no pain, no gain” mantra that echoes across social media feeds. This relentless perseverance and disregard for recovery looks good on social media, but the fundamental truth is: understanding the nature and severity of an injury is paramount to long-term health and performance.

Many fitness influencers make it seem admirable to push through the pain, train hard, and take no days off, but it’s important to stay in tune with your body and be able to differentiate between minor aches and the onset of a serious injury. We must learn what our bodies can and cannot handle. While some incredibly gifted runners can handle 130 miles per week, others can experience injuries with as little as 10.

For both seasoned veterans and novice runners alike, seeking professional medical advice is not a sign of weakness but an act of prudence. As you gain experience, you become proficient at self-diagnosing and catching injuries early. However, as a beginner, it is essential to consult with experts – whether that be your doctor, a physical therapist, a coach, or a highly experienced running buddy.

Emphasizing the significance of patience and acceptance during the recovery process is essential. In a Wilderness First Aid class, I learned a valuable lesson: rushing to aid may exacerbate the situation rather than alleviate it. Just as EMTs prioritize caution and meticulousness over haste, runners must adopt a similar mindset toward their injuries.

“The only thing worse than being injured is getting reinjured and starting all over because of a simple lack of patience.” This mantra, ingrained in my mind through personal experience, underscores the importance of resilience tempered with restraint. The allure of reclaiming lost fitness may tempt us to rush the recovery process, but the true test of strength lies in the ability to exercise patience and restraint, knowing that premature return can spiral us into a cycle of reinjury.

Understanding the intricacies of injury, seeking expert guidance, and exercising self-restraint are crucial in the path to recovery.

Cross-training

Cross-Training and Rehabilitation

Cross-training is a critical component for maintaining fitness levels and mitigating detraining effects during the recovery phase. The key lies not only in exploring various cross-training activities but also in finding ones that you enjoy. Enjoyment and consistency are paramount; the most effective form of cross-training is the one that individuals can adhere to regularly.

The range of cross-training options available is extensive. While some activities like the elliptical, ARC trainer, and pool running mimic the running motion closely, the primary goal of cross-training is simply to engage in activities that promote cardiovascular health and overall fitness. Whether it’s swimming, cycling, incline walking, rowing, yoga, or strength training, the emphasis is on finding activities that you enjoy and that will preserve some of your fitness while you recover.

In addition to cross-training, rehabilitation exercises play a pivotal role in facilitating recovery and warding off future injuries. Strength training, in particular, stands out as a cornerstone in injury prevention, helping to address muscular imbalances and enhance overall resilience. Even after achieving a full recovery, integrating strength training into your running plan is key to preventing future injuries.

By embracing a comprehensive approach to cross-training and rehabilitation, runners can not only maintain a base level of fitness during periods of injury but also lay the groundwork for a stronger more durable body for their return to running.

Setting Goals and Mental Well-Being

During recovery from an injury, adjusting our goals becomes essential. Instead of solely focusing on distant achievements, we should prioritize short-term goals that center on healing and progress. These smaller targets act as tangible signs of improvement, injecting energy and purpose into our recovery journey. Flexibility in goal-setting is key, helping us adapt to unexpected hurdles with determination rather than becoming discouraged. By embracing a mindset of gradual progress and remaining open to adjustments, we empower ourselves to navigate setbacks and emerge stronger.

Recognizing the impact of halted running goals on mental health is crucial. Many of us find happiness and fulfillment in chasing ambitious running goals, such as completing a marathon or qualifying for Boston. However, when injury strikes, it can lead to feelings of disappointment and low motivation. Drawing from personal experience, I’ve discovered the importance of diversifying goals beyond running. Whether it’s focusing on relationships, career aspirations, or other hobbies, having alternative goals keeps us motivated and engaged in life. By broadening our focus, we cultivate resilience and preserve mental well-being throughout the recovery process.

Furthermore, seeking support from friends, family, and fellow runners is invaluable during this time. Remaining connected to the running community, even during our time off, can help keep us focused on and excited about our long-term goals. Staying involved could include attending races as a spectator or volunteer, socializing with a local running club, or joining an online running community. Cheering on others, sharing experiences, seeking advice, and finding inspiration from others who have been through similar setbacks can provide a sense of camaraderie and encouragement. Together, we can draw strength from our community as we navigate the challenges of recovery and strive toward our running aspirations.

Embracing the Journey

As runners, we often find ourselves defined by the miles we cover and the goals we chase. Yet, it is inevitable that we will have to take a step back from time to time to let our bodies recover. In this time of injury and setback, there is an opportunity to come back both mentally and physically stronger. Stay patient and persistent, and remember, we may be injured but we are not defeated.

Share this article with a running buddy who could use the advice. It might be just what they need to navigate their setbacks and keep their motivation alive!

Chas Metz

Chas Metz

Marathoner and Co-Founder of Run Lab CBD

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