It’s summer 2022 and life events are back in full swing – weddings, graduations, college reunions, birthday parties, the list goes on and on. I find that the pause we experienced the last two years has made me all the more grateful that I’m able to celebrate these occasions. Still, the one thing that I’m struggling to find an appreciation for….summer running.
Here on the east coast, it’s felt like we’ve been in a heat wave for months. I know it’s August, but cooler weather seems to be ages away. Quite frankly, I’m sick of ending every easy run drenched in sweat. Living in a place with seasons, I have to learn to embrace the suck of summer running. So here are my tips and take-aways from my past few months of running in the heat:
Be humble. It’s no secret that it’s harder to hit faster paces in the heat. I’m usually pretty good about adjusting my workout paces for the heat, but when it comes to easy running, it’s hard for me to be humble. I was doing my winter easy runs at 9:10 pace or faster, with a HR under 155 BPM. Now, my heart rate spikes if I try to push under 10 minute pace. So I’m learning to slow down and respect the heat. I’ve found that if I run slower on my easy runs, I don’t have to scale back the pace as much on my harder workouts. It’s the same principle my coach totes year-round, “Run slow to run fast.” But I didn’t realize what a big difference that could make, especially in the brutal summer temperatures.
Get out early. I’ve almost always been a morning runner. I like getting up, having a cup of coffee and a slice of toast, and hitting the road before the rest of the world is up and moving. I’ve found this to be an incredibly important habit to keep during the warmer months of the year when it often hits 80 degrees by 8 am. Unless you want to melt, or bring buckets of water, you have to get out the door early. Yet, during the summer is when I want to stay up later – I love summer and I want to make the most of it. And that leads me into my next tip…
Be consistent, but be flexible. We all know consistency is key when it comes to running, and we need to get our summer runs in to prep for fall races. But if you’re like me and you want to make the most of the summer, you have to be flexible. I want to go out for ice cream at night, have a beer on the deck, or stay out late at a baseball game. But it’s hard to do all of those things when you have to be up at the crack of dawn for a long run. So I’m learning to compromise. Sometimes that means saying no to plans, but more and more it means saying yes to plans, getting a little less sleep, getting up early, getting my run in, and then taking an afternoon nap if needed. I’ve been doing a lot of traveling, so I’ve moved some of my morning runs to the evenings to accommodate an early drive. Sometimes I’ll even cut a run short if I’m too tired or just not feeling it. I try not to do this very often, because I do think there’s value in finishing runs that feel hard. But I think sometimes a run feeling crappy is a sign that you need some extra rest. So if I was out late, and spent the day by the pool, and I felt a little too drained to finish my 5 mile run, I might just do 4. And that’s perfectly okay.
Lounge. Yes, I absolutely want to make the most of my summer, but sometimes I’m just tired and need to rest. One of the things I’ve struggled with throughout my running journey is knowing when to take a break. It’s hard for me, especially during the summer when I want to be outside and soaking up the sunshine, but the sun can be draining. So if I’m tired after a sweaty, sunny long run, I’ve started giving myself permission to lounge on the couch and enjoy the AC for the rest of the day. Or, if I feel like getting out of the house, I’ll go to the movies. Taking time to rest is all the more important during the summer when the heat and humidity are taking their toll.
Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. This is probably an obvious one, but it’s one I’m constantly working on. If it’s hot and I’m running for more than 30-40 minutes, I’ll bring my hand-held water bottle along. Some long runs I’ll plan a route where I loop back by my car or apartment in the middle so I can refill my water if needed. After the run I always always always have a nuun tablet. The lemon lime flavor has been my favorite for years. A nuun tablet dissolved in ice water at the end of a hot run is just *chef’s kiss.* I’ve also started buying watermelon to snack on when I’m feeling dehydrated throughout the day. Tasty and refreshing!
Ultimately, I think the key with summer running, as with most things, is balance. There’s no perfect formula for successful summer running, all you can do is get out the door as much as possible, and have fun doing it.