Running through the heat: tips for runners in the summer

People in the Midwest and along the East Coast are finally getting a reprieve from the heat wave that has blanketed the eastern half of the country for the last few days. Record-setting temperatures caused at least 46 deaths across the country and banished many people to air-conditioned homes and away from the outdoors.

For runners and athletes, a bout of heat like this can either easily derail any training plan or cause runners to think the heat won’t have any affect on them, which can be very dangerous. Whether you forced yourself to exercise in an air-conditioned gym over the last week or pushed your limits and foolishly ran during peak daytime hours of the historic heat wave, I have some tips for training in the heat.

First off, it’s important to know what exactly is happening to your body when you run in the heat. According to an article on the Greatist, “Exercising in high heat and humidity intensifies how hard the body needs to work to maintain normal function.” The article explains that during workouts the body’s temperature rises naturally, but on a hot day, this happens much more quickly. In an effort to cool the body down, the body sweats and pumps blood to the surface of the skin.

Despite this, there are many ways to avoid over-extending yourself and staying on track with training. Here are some tips and tricks!

  • Hydrate– When it’s hot out, the number one most important thing everyone should do, not just runners, is hydrate. I can’t emphasize this enough! Hydration is so important during runs on hot days, no matter how long the run is. Plus, if you hydrate before your workout you’ll be able to go longer and harder, so do it! I went on a 10 mile run on Saturday and made sure at the half-way point I could get water.
  • Run early or late (but really just run early)– I prefer running early in the morning, before the sun has had a chance to turn the road into it’s own personal stove top. I feel that the temperature is coolest early in the morning. Also, early morning runs are great because they allow you to get out, get your run done early and then enjoy the rest of the day at the beach or outdoors. Plus, running in the morning teaches your body how to effectively burn fat and jump start your metabolism for the day and there’s nothing wrong with that!
  • Stretch– It’s always important to stretch but especially important when it’s hot out. To avoid injury in the heat, stretch before and after your runs. If you stop for water mid-run, I’d also suggest stretching quickly before heading out again.
  • Provide your body with plenty of electrolytes– When your body sweats you lose a lot of the electrolytes (salts and minerals) in your bloodstream. If your body runs out of electrolytes you may start to feel dizzy and disoriented because your body cannot bind liquids well anymore and your blood thickens. If you’re going to run early it’s important to get some electrolytes into your body before your run. Electrolytes can be found in many sports drinks, fruit juices, mile (I like chocolate milk because there’s some sugar there too) and other fruits and veggies. All of these are also low enough in calories to avoid any cramping.
  • Fuel your body, don’t starve yourself– After a run on a hot day, sometimes my stomach feels weird. Instead of not feeding yourself, replenish your body with nutrients you used during your run. You may have to wait a little after your run to do this but it is so important to re-fuel so you’ll be ready for your next run.
  • If you can, adjust your location– Near my house, our streets are lined with trees, providing some shade from the blazing sun. If you can, map out your running route in an area that provides some shade. Also, be sure to wear sunscreen because no one likes sunburns.
  • Take it easy– As I always say, listen to your body. If you start out on a run and feel fatigued, take a breather. Don’t push yourself to the point of exhaustion because if the heat doesn’t derail your training plan, an injury sure will.

Change of scenery to rejuvenate your fitness routine

Yesterday was one of my “rest” days from my 5k program so I decided to jump in my car and take a drive up the coast to York, Maine for the day with my sister. We have been going to York since we were children and wanted to get near the ocean for a change of scenery. Although technically I was supposed to rest, my sister and I decided to go on a brisk walk on the “Fisherman’s Walk,” which runs along York Harbor. The trail isn’t very long but crosses Rt. 103 and connects to a small island by what we’ve always called “the Wiggly Bridge.” The small island in the harbor also has trails consisting of some wooded terrain.

It was nice to get outside and exercise on such a beautiful day because getting fresh air and exposure to the sun is always a nice change for any fitness routine. Maine recently made an appearance on Women’s Health magazine’s top 10 list for healthiest cities for women. Portland, Maine came in at number eight, boasting a low obesity rate of 26.8 percent and life expectancy of 76.35 for women. Portland also 73 percent more gyms than the average city. But in general, Maine has a lot to offer in terms of living an active lifestyle. What’s important is that you get outside and get fit!

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It’s warm, do some trail running!

Map of the Robert Frost Trail (Courtesy Amherst Conservation Department)

I have always joked that spring time in New England is comparable to Fantasia – everyone comes out of the woodwork and is rejuvenated, happy and ready to be outdoors. At least that’s how I feel! I am lucky to live in western Massachusetts, rich with hiking trails and home of the Berkshires. Today was a beautiful weather, a ripe 72 degrees, which is rare for the beginning of March in New England, so I decided to take advantage. I grabbed a friend, filled my water bottle and hit a trail located less than a mile from my apartment.

I discovered the trail a few days ago on my ride home from the gym. I had noticed cars parked near a clearing at the side of the rode before but never stopped to check it out. Turns out the entrance near my apartment is part of the Robert Frost Trail, a 47 mile long trek that spans from the Holyoke Grange in South Hadley, Mass. to Wendell State Forest. The trail has a ton of scenic spots including the Holyoke Range, Mount Orient, Puffer’s Pond and Mount Toby. Overall the trail’s terrain is relatively easy with some steep inclines and rugged areas.

This trail is great for running because although there are inclines at some of the more mountainous spots, there are opportunities for loop-hikes and it has offshoots of shorter trails. Also, the terrain is pretty clear and flat, making for an easier run. The trail is considered a “literary trail” and named after the famed poet, Robert Frost, who lived and taught in the Amherst area from 1916 to 1938. The Robert Frost Trail is among several other literary trails in the Amherst area and they are aimed to connect the area’s literary tradition with it’s rich landscape. The Amherst Conservation Department has a full listing and map on their website of other literary trails.

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