The days are long, the neighborhood dogs are panting, and AC units are popping up in windows across the city. As you can probably tell, summer is here! Long gone are the 8ft snow banks and back-breaking shoveling workouts. Its time for lazy, long beach days and longer lines at JPLicks. As anyone who has run through the season can tell you, summer is a time that changes the game when it comes hydration, nutrition, and effort. While summer running can be amazing and spontaneous (who doesn’t love running through the neighbor’s sprinkler?) it can also be dehydrating and even dangerous. High temps and humidity can really deplete a runner’s energy, and if you push too hard you may feel yourself getting light headed, nauseous, and weak.
In New England in particular, we get those humid evenings that make it almost impossible for sweat to evaporate. So while you are sweating and losing water and electrolytes, your body is also not receiving the benefit of sweating, which is the evaporation of the sweat to cool you down. Your heart works harder and your muscles fatigue quicker. This all sounds like so much fun, right?
Summer running can be a ton of fun, and it is crucial for people with big fall races and goals. What becomes critical is finding the right level of effort, before overexertion, and making sure that you listen to your body.
Some tips include:
Stay hydrated. This may seem like a no-brainer, but it can be tricky to remember to do at times. In an air-conditioned office building you might not feel the need to drink so much throughout the day. Then try to run outside after work and you might find yourself lacking hydration. Remember to drink water throughout the day, and find ways to jazz up water if you feel it needs a little help. Add frozen fruit for ice cubes or drop in a Nuun All Day for a little flavor.
Be prepared. You might not normally run with water outside, but in the summer that can mean the difference between a great run, and a terrible run that leaves you feeling sick for the rest of the day. One thing to consider is routing your run through areas that you know have ample public water fountains. You can also bring a bottle with you. There are a lot of gear options to help you run with water, including hydration belts and hand held water bottles. It can also be helpful to run with a credit card. This way you can pop into a convenience store to purchase water or an electrolyte drink along the way.
Be flexible. One of the best parts of the summer months is how long the days are. Use these extra hours to your advantage, and plan your running around the heat. Avoid running in the middle of the day when the temps are at their height. Rather, opt for a run early in the morning or later in the evening when the heat has gone down a bit.
Wear the right stuff. Light weight and sleeveless tanks are your best friends. Make sure fabric is breathable and avoid cotton which can become heavy with sweat. Opt for light colors as well, as black clothing can absorb heat from the sun.
Lather up. Along these same lines, make sure to apply ample amounts of sunblock. More exposed skin means more chance for unwanted sunburns. Choose varieties that are at least SPF 30, or even higher SPF 50 for the most protection. Sport varieties will help stay put through sweat. Remember to apply and let dry fully before heading out.
Listen to your body. The best advice is to listen to your body and slow down your effort for a run if it is particularly brutal out. The benefits from pushing in one workout will not outweigh the consequences of pushing too hard when it is too hot. Stop and walk or seek help if you need it.
Finally, being prepared at home with some post-run comforts can be great. Having a cold wet washcloth waiting for you in the fridge with a nice chilled coconut water to come back to can be the best motivation to keep going. I’ve even heard of people putting underpants in the freezer for after their post-run shower…whatever works!
You can also chill out with these post-run rewards:
- 1/2 c chopped kale
- 1 cup coconut water
- 1/2 c frozen mango
- 1 tbsp fresh mint
- Blend all the ingredients in a high power blender and drink immediately.
Watermelon Feta Salad (serves 2 or one hungry runner)
- 4 cups arugula
- 1 c cubed watermelon
- 1/4 c feta cheese crumbles
- 2 tsp olive oil and 1 tbsp lemon juice, emulsified with salt and pepper
- Wash and dry the arugula and toss with watermelon, feta, and dressing. Enjoy!
Frozen Banana Treat
Peel and slice 2-3 ripe bananas and put in a bag in the freezer. When frozen, add slices to high powered blender with 1-2 tbsp almond or soy milk, and any of the following:
- Chocolate Chips
- Peanut butter
- Almonds or walnut pieces
The possibilities are endless!