Running in hot weather may not be a problem where you are, but here in Texas the spring has been “a mite warmish.” Highs have hovered in the 100-105 range (38-40 Celsius) for the past few weeks, with no let up in sight. This hot weather can make running uncomfortable, or even downright dangerous.
I had planned on training for a fall half marathon – with summer still another week away I’m glad that other plans caused me to change my mind. But for those half training now, how do you handle the hot weather?
You know all the standard recommendations: stay well-hydrated, don’t push so hard when it’s really hot, take your long runs at the coolest times and so on. Putting these into practice can be more difficult, though. Here are some recommendations I have found worked for me in the past.
Yes, hydration is important, but beware of hyponatration. As far as we can tell from the records, no runner has actually died from dehydration, but there have been several deaths from hyponatration. So how do you avoid it?
It turns out that the runners who have suffered from hyponatration in hot weather have collapsed after consuming really large quantities of liquid to avoid dehydration. Frequently, the problem has been due to taking large quantities of sports drinks. Sports drinks are easier than water to consume in large quantities.
The level of electrolytes in the sports drinks is too low to replace that lost through sweat, the theory goes. Hence, to maintain electrolyte balance it is necessary to run slightly dehydrated rather than over hydrated. This goes against conventional wisdom, but the statistics don’t lie: let thirst be your guide in hot weather, not some arbitrary number of ounces per mile.
Don’t get me wrong here – I’m not advocating against sports drinks. Personally, especially in hot weather, I like to take a glass of one of the sports drinks before and after my run: my warning is against over-consuming liquid. For my long run, I carry water, because I am not likely to consume too much of that.
Even in a race it’s a good idea to ease off if you find yourself getting dizzy or faint. Better to finish running a little slower than being driven in an ambulance. In training, the temptation is always to push a little harder: the trick to running in hot weather is to know your limits and stay within them. At other times we like to know our limits and push beyond them!
Choose your times
When you have a choice, schedule your long runs and your hard runs for cooler times. If that is not possible, respect the conditions and accept that your running times will be slower for the same level of effort in hot weather. On those really hot, still days, try cross training: I found cycling and swimming both worked well.
Running in hot weather has its own set of challenges. Before I retired, I tried various times of the day to find out what worked best for me. Running early in the morning, when the temperature was still around 80 (27 Celsius) worked well, but the higher humidity was still punishing. I also found myself frequently running in the dark, but after two sprained ankles due to unseen hazards gave up that practice.
Evening running after a day’s work was not very successful for me, so that left me with either treadmill running (which I hate) or running at noon. (I’m not a mad dog, but I was born an Englishman, so going out in the midday sun may have been natural for me.) I found that, provided I started early enough in the year, I could keep running at noon during the week all summer long. I still made sure to drink water before and after the run, and I kept my run to 30-45 minutes in length, saving my long runs for the weekend.
In the end, it’s up to you. Our bodies and running styles are all different, and what works for one runner may not work for another. Feel free to experiment and find what works best for you, but do it early in your training cycle so that you won’t mess up your schedule too badly.
Knee Pain affects every runner at some time. We tend to believe it is running that causes it, but the truth is that any activity can cause knee pain – skiers, soccer players and windsurfers all suffer from knee pain. As runners, we tend to notice it more, because we practice our sport pretty much on a daily basis.
I have been fortunate enough to avoid knee pain almost entirely, except for occasions when I have suffered from a knee injury. Towards the end of this post, I’ll reveal what I believe to be my secret, but meanwhile I would like to give you the benefit of a newsletter I received from my physical therapist, Dallas Williams. Here it is in its entirety:
“Dallas, sometimes when I am running sprints or even long distance I feel this overwhelming pain around my knee cap. What is this pain, and do you have any solutions to remedy my pain?”
“Common causes of runner’s knee are pain, overuse, muscle imbalance, and tight hamstrings, but there are several other factors. Initially, rest is a good treatment choice for runner’s knee. Following rest; the RICE principle (rest, ice, compression and elevation), gentle stretching to all the tight muscles around the knee, and a treatment program that incorporates strengthening of the muscles that stabilize the knee joint. Make sure you pay attention to what your body is saying and don’t get back to the track before your body is ready!”
Assuming that you are experiencing the pain as described, Dallas’ recommendations are perfect, but of course, if you have a serious knee injury, such as a meniscus or anterior cruciform ligament tear, more work may be required. Ruling out serious injuries, then, following these recommendations will rehabilitate the knee. The question remains how to avoid the problem in future.
The strengthening exercises help, especially if you continue them for the rest of your running life. The strength training program I use includes knee exercises, but many runners quit doing additional exercises soon after the pain has gone. Strength training and stretching are both essential to running health.
I also believe supplementation can help. Supplements can never compensate for weak muscles or tight hamstrings, but they can help our cartilages remain young and pliant. I attribute my own freedom from knee pain to taking a glucosamine supplement daily. Very occasionally, I will start to feel pain in my knees or other joints, and when that happens I switch to a different formula. You see, the problem with glucosamine is that it takes months to be really effective.
So, if you already have knee pain, here is the protocol I recommend, based on my own experience:
1. Take a fast acting supplement until the pain disappears. This will normally occur within a week or two. If it’s not gone after a month, you might want to seek a medical opinion: more drastic measures may be necessary. The product I use is Fast Acting Joint Formula.
2. Now take a good glucosamine-based supplement daily. Do not quit taking it because your knees aren’t hurting: this is a supplement that will benefit your joints for the rest of your life if you continue to take it. If you can’t tolerate it, or don’t like taking supplements all the time, go back to the previous step every time you have knee problems, but recognize that your running life (and your active life) may be limited due to your joints aging.
1. I have absolutely no medical training and nothing I say should ever be taken as medical advice: only your doctor can provide that. I take no responsibility at all for what might happen to you from following my advice, and you should assume I don’t know what I’m talking about. What works for me and thousands of other runners may not work for you.
2. There is a distinct possibility that I might one day get a small commission if you ever buy enough of the Joint Formula. I have never received one so far, but when I found out that the company I use has an affiliate program, I joined it in case one day someone bought some of their products on my recommendation.
3. There – now you know!