Welcome to another North Texas summer.
Gotta love a place where summer temperatures normally push the 100-degree mark on a daily basis, and I hope we do not repeat the record-breaking summer we all experienced last year.
It’s hard to be an efficient runner when faced with the conditions you encounter in the summer. But you can be an efficient runner even in these hot and humid conditions with the proper preparations.
It’s important to know that preparation for your runs in these conditions are just as important — if not more so — as the actual run itself. Without proper preparation, you cannot expect to have the type of running performance you desire.
So … how do you prepare for running in these extreme summer conditions?
In a phrase: Proper hydration is a must. To become and to stay properly hydrated, I recommend three important steps:
- Pre-run hydration
- Proper in-run hydration
- Beverage avoidance
Proper and adequate hydration is not simply a ‘day of your run’ thing. Rather, such hydration steps should be days in the making — especially if the run you are gearing up for is likely to be especially stressful, i.e., heavy on miles, with temperatures and humidity on the high end. (Obviously, a run in 60-degree temperatures is less demanding than one in the 80s.)
To properly hydrate, a runner must continuously consume the right type of fluids. You do not want to start drinking half your body weight in water, and you don't to consume every sports drink available at the nearby grocery story. Rather, the goal is to moderately increase your fluid intake via a good combination of water and sport drinks. In order to gauge your own personal hydration level, you must drink a sufficient amount of fluids until the color of your urine turns a pale yellow color. (I know — TMI — but it’s the best way to determine your hydration level.)
Like most things in life, too much of a good thing is not a good thing. For example, if you strive to drink to a level that eventually makes your urine clear, you now run the risk of being over hydrated. This is not where you want to be either.
While water is a ‘good thing,’ too much water — or only water — can actually deplete your level of electrolytes. During the summer, you sweat significantly more. As a result of this additional sweat, you are losing a tremendous amount of electrolytes. As a rather simplistic description, your body uses and needs these electrolytes to help your muscles perform more efficiently. If you run low on electrolytes, you (and your body) risk hitting the proverbial running ‘wall' and you simply stop.
Advice: If you’re a runner, avoid the wall!
In order to efficiently replace these sweated-out electrolytes, sport drinks, i.e., Powerade, Gatorade, etc., make great choices. In this runner’s opinion, a good combination of water and sports drinks is an excellent way for runners to stay properly hydrated.
Advice: Alternate your drinking — water then sport drinks, then water, etc.
Proper in-run hydration
It is critical that you remain properly hydrated throughout your run.
Many runners will maintain their hydration levels via the use of a handheld bottle or hydration belt. On especially hot and long run days, I will place bottles of sport drinks along my course ahead of time. That way, with just a little preplanning, I can get the benefit of these additional fluids without the need to carry them with me everywhere.
Advice: Do not wait until you are thirsty to start drinking fluids
In other words, you must stay ahead of your thirst! To do this, drink about eight ounces of fluids for every 15-20 minutes of exercise. Again, I suggest alternating between water and sport drinks. Hydration belts work very well for this because they can carry multiple bottles.
Re-hydration is very important following your exercise, as well. Start drinking water and sport drinks as soon as you can following your run. Depending upon the intensity and length of your run, your hydration level may be severely depleted. If so, your urine may reach a darker color again, signalling a lower hydration level. To counteract this, immediately start on the above hydration steps.
Some runners may think that if they are putting all of this work into their exercise, one of their benefits is being able to eat or drink whatever they want.
Sorry to burst your bubble; it doesn't work that way.
During hot summer months, there are two major categories of drinks you must avoid. These are drinks that include:
Both of these types of beverages act as diuretics, i.e., they tend to ‘dry you out.' Obviously if you are working hard to get hydrated, you certainly don’t want to consume fluids that are causing the opposite effect.
Like virtually everything in this world, things always work out best when done in ‘moderation.' That means you may enjoy a cup of coffee. You've worked hard and you want that beer. No problem. Again, moderation in all things.
Advice: A night of heavy drinking followed by an early morning run in warm and humid weather conditions does not lay the groundwork for a successful run.
Regarding caffeine: Some runners like the uplifting effects that caffeine gives them when they take it before a run. I've tried it twice — with an upset stomach resulting each time.
Final repeated advice: Proper running in these warm and humid weather conditions requires proper preparation.
Properly prepare for your run and enjoy a summer full of running FUN!
(You may contact Ken Lettre directly at: TXMidPack@gmail.com)