Running the trails at Temple and The Woodlands, Texas during a summer family getaway is a lesson in respecting hot weather. Running and outdoor recreation need not take a vacation during the dog days of summer but precautions are advised.
Many athletes enjoy working up a sweat and it doesn’t take long in the South. Temperatures and humidity both in the 90’s get you dripping wet in a hurry. Much water is lost and needs to be replaced.
It is a pretty basic medical examination. Running increases body heat. The body tries to cool down by sweating but the high humidity doesn’t allow the sweat to evaporate.
Body temperatures can rise to dangerous levels. Your heart beats faster in high heat, pumping extra blood as part of the body’s evaporation/cooling mechanism. It’s trying to keep you alive.
One of the best ways to run on hot days is simply running early in the morning or evening hours when temperatures are lower. There is no better way to start a day than with a refreshing morning run that will invigorate you all day long. Plenty of sidewalks and trails are lit but running in the dark does point out the value someday of a fully lit trail system in Wahpeton.
Stretch before and after a run. Establish a routine that makes you feel good. I hold heel dips for 30 seconds, floor touch for 30 seconds, cross ankles and hold for 30 seconds in both positions, hand-massage each leg’s calves and hamstrings for 30 seconds and then walk for a block before and after the run.
Wear light, loose and light-colored clothing. White reflects, not absorbs heat. Much heat is lost through the head. I don’t wear caps or hats but if you do use breathable material.
Pick routes with shade. It is easy in Texas with Loblolly Pine overarching the trails almost continuously and admittedly more challenging in North Dakota. Natural trails are cooler than asphalt.
Carry a plastic water bottle with you. Mine is an “Amphipod” model that my right hand easily grasps. Pick a route where you can refill. It works well for me to fill up at the north-side Kidder Rec Area comfort station and south-side Airport Park hydrant by the entrance flag monument.
You will run slower. Every five degrees over 55 degrees will slow you 20-30 seconds every mile. Just accept it. I’ve learned this lesson the hard way too many times. Sometimes it is better to leave the watch at home and simply enjoy the run without self-induced time pressure. Let your body be the guide.
It is a good idea to mix in walk breaks. One of the best runners in the world – Jeff Galloway swears by it and writes books to convince runners of all ages, especially us elders. He believes it reduces injuries by giving stressed muscles, tendons and ligaments a chance to recuperate.
It works well to pick some litter along the route as it forces walk breaks. Trust your body and listen to it. If something hurts, give it a break.
Acclimate to the heat and increase distances slowly. Weekend long runs when training for your next race should never increase more than 10 percent each week. A weekly mile increase has worked well.
Use sunscreen and lip balm to avoid sunburn, also benefitting long-term health by combating skin cancer.
Signs of heat illness includes a headache, confusion, disorientation and dizziness. Don’t mess with a medical situation that could be a life-changer.
Sometimes it may be best to proclaim the weather the winner that day and run on a treadmill in an air-conditioned facility. That’s what I’ve read.
The Texas trails are remarkably busy with walkers, runners and bicyclists who are using smart ways to combat the heat. We will have like weather in North Dakota during July and August. There are ways to continue an active outdoor recreation lifestyle!