Heat and Humidity Training

August 12, 2021

Andrew Cantor is currently a resident in the Chaski Coaching program. He cannot be more excited to  soon be coaching some amazing athletes in our community. Andrew started running his freshman year of high school when he joined the cross country team.

I immediately fell in love with the team aspect of running as well as the purity and freedom I felt chasing times and pushing limits.  After high school, I competed for two years on Salisbury University’s cross country and track and field teams. These two years were absolutely incredible but ultimately college running was not for me. I suffered from burnout as well as a plethora of injuries which led to me quitting running altogether for a few years.

After a few years of recreationally running here and there, I started to get my competitive juices flowing and signed up for the Baltimore Marathon in 2015. In my buildup, I competed in some shorter races and started to rediscover my love for running. I began to feel that freedom I felt as a 14 year old. Since then, running has taken me to some amazing places such as the Boston and New York City Marathons. The sport has also allowed me to meet some amazing people, foster amazing relationships and build community. For that, I am forever grateful to consider myself a runner.

My reason for wanting to join Chaski is simple; I want to help others. I can relate to many athletes as I work full-time and understand the idea of work-life balance. I have  competed in a wide variety of races ranging from local downhill miles to world major marathons. I have overcome injuries, burnout and fatigue. As I am a lifelong resident of the mid-atlantic area (if you live in DMV hit me up for a run!), I deal with the heat and humidity on a regular basis. I wanted to offer some tips on how to get the most of your summer training!

Summer training can look and feel a lot different than other parts of the year. Generally, runners tend to feel slower, more fatigued and experience higher heart rates during the dog days of summer as compared to other seasons. Heat and/or humidity just makes running more difficult. Both elements add another degree of taxation to the body. However, summer running is important and plays a pivotal role in achieving fall running goals. A coach once said to me, ‘summer miles bring fall smiles.’ Here are some tips to get the most out of your training program:

Start Slower

By easing into runs, you can minimize a rapid spike in body temperature and heart rate early in your run which will allow you to feel better and run longer. Your body experiences fatigue when your heart rate and body temperature increase. If you start out too quickly, the onset of fatigue will arrive much sooner than anticipated.

Expect to Run Slower

It is natural to run slower during the summer. As mentioned above, the elements are especially taxing on the body. Your body has to work harder in the summer to reach and/maintain a ‘normal pace’. Rather than fixate on achieving certain paces, focus on effort. Make the goal of your run or workout to achieve a certain effort. By focusing on paces, you may over-exert yourself which can lead to overtraining.

When you focus on effort and de-emphasize pace, you will stay within your body’s limits and get the benefit of the training run. This is especially important for harder workouts. For example, when training for a Fall marathon, a typical workout for a 2:45:00 marathon runner could be 60 minutes of running at 6:10 to 6:25 per mile (marathon pace).

While this would be a great workout to indicate marathon fitness, achieving those times in the summer months is less realistic than a few weeks prior to the race when conditions are ideal. During the summer, this workout should be assigned as 60 minutes at a pace that feels comparable to marathon effort. The athlete should focus on maintaining a steady effort for the full hour, even if the pace is 30-60 seconds slower than a true marathon pace. If this workout is run at the appropriate assigned effort, the runner should not feel overworked, and will still get the fitness gains and benefits that are intended. Additionally, these efforts will make fall workouts feel even easier.

Be Adaptable

So you started your run out slow and and you are running slower but your heart rate is just too high and your legs are too fatigued for the assigned effort. It is perfectly reasonable to change plans mid-course. Perhaps, you were assigned 45 minutes of easy running but you are 20 minutes into your run and there is just no way to trudge forward. In this scenario, it is best to shut it down for the day. Sometimes, your body does not respond how you want it to and you need to be able to accept that.

It is better to stop a little early rather than push forward and start over-training. This also applies to more intense workouts. Let’s say the 2:45:00 marathon runner is assigned the same workout as above (60 minutes of running at marathon effort) but lasting that long is just not in the cards. It is ok to modify the workout to 10 repetitions of six minutes at marathon effort with walking or jogging recovery between intervals. This will allow you to still get in the effort but may be less strenuous on your body than pushing the limits on a 60 minute run. If you try a modified workout and you just know your body isn’t there, it is best to just stop and save it for another day for two reasons.

The first reason is to avoid causing bodily harm such as heat exhaustion or other similar illnesses. The second reason is to avoid overtraining and burning out. If you overexert yourself in  the summer, you run a high risk of burning yourself out physically and mentally for your fall races.

ALWAYS REMEMBER: Your body is the ultimate training guide and it will not steer you wrong so listen to it!

Extra Recovery

Given the extra fatigue associated with summer training, it is wise to add an extra day of recovery between hard efforts and/or long runs. By giving yourself an extra day of recovery (whether that is an off day, cross training or just easy running), you will allow your body to recover appropriately for the next session. This will allow you to maintain consistency throughout the training block.

Stay Positive

By recognizing this is a different period of training and embracing that some runs are just going to be harder, you can mentally prepare for the challenges ahead. Remind yourself, that a slow easy run is better than an unplanned day off. Remind yourself of your fall racing goals and remember that you are still gaining fitness. Give yourself credit for any accomplishment, even if it is just getting out the door for a few minutes and do not be hard on yourself when things do not go according to plan!

Stay Hydrated

Runners naturally sweat more during the summer. One early sign of dehydration is when you stop sweating, which is problematic since sweating is a cooling mechanism. If you are not sweating, then you run the risk of overheating which can cause illness. To avoid dehydration, it is important to always carry water with you and consistently be drinking throughout the day. The color of your urine is one method of seeing your hydration levels (the darker your urine is, the more dehydrated you are). It is wise to also carry water with you while you run.

Electrolyte Intake

It is also important to remember that you lose electrolytes through sweating and they need to be replenished. Electrolytes are essential minerals that balance your pH levels and control functionality of your nervous system. They regulate muscle contractions and keep you hydrated. If your electrolytes levels are low, you may experience fatigue, headaches, nausea and cramps. You can make sure you are replacing electrolytes through consuming whole foods such as spinach, broccoli, potatoes, beans, almonds, bananas and berries or other products such as Nuun or gatorade.

What To Wear

During the summer, it is best to wear clothes that are sweat wicking as well as light and breathable. Avoid fabrics such as cotton as they tend to trap heat escaping the body which increases your body temperature. Hat, visors and sunglasses are also good options to keep the sun off of your face.

When To Run

Generally, trying to run early in the morning or later in the evening is best as you will have cooler temperatures. Although it still may be humid, the sun will be less intense and that should be beneficial.

Listen To Your Body

BE SMART. LISTEN TO WHAT YOUR BODY IS TELLING YOU. Your life does not depend on a certain run or pace. If you fail to listen to your body, you may experience heat exhaustion, strokes, hyponatremia or other dangerous illnesses. Know when to stop and remember that it is not worth risking your own health.

By following these tips, you will be able to get the most out of your summer training and position yourself to achieve your fall running goals.

Remember, be smart, be flexible, listen to your body, stay true to yourself but most importantly, have fun!

— Andrew Cantor

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