Making Friends with the Heat

In case you missed it, today is the first day of August.

I live and run in Houston, the self-proclaimed “air conditioning capital of the world” and for good reason. It’s hot outside, really hot.

A sane person would spend the next 31 days on a treadmill but I hate treadmills. Either I make peace with the treadmill or I make friends with the heat. Since I’d rather run a marathon, barefoot, over shards of broken glass than get on a treadmill, the heat wins.

As a result, I take extreme precautions when running, especially in the evening. I’ve developed a set of rules to follow and I never deviate from them.

Rule #1 – Wear as little clothing as possible, generally just shorts and a bra. I stick to technical fabrics only. Cotton, be gone!

Rule #2 – Keep gear off quick-cooling spots (wrists, ankles, forehead/temples) which means wearing ankle socks, my watch higher up on my forearm and no hat.

Rule #3 – Make sure I’m properly hydrated before I leave. Dark pee = no run.

Rule #4 – Always, always, always carry ice water either in Bob or my Amphipod handheld water bottle.

Rule #5 – Never, ever run in the direct sun. EVER. Shade only. This means either running before 7 a.m. or after 7 p.m. when the sun is safely nestled behind the trees.

Rule #6 – Never do speed work in the evening when the heat is the worst. I keep my Garmin on the heart rate screen, my heart rate parked at 150 and focus on enjoying the run.

I’ve become aquainted with the National Weather Service Heat Index Chart, a very handy guide designed to remind you how crazy you are for going outside.

It’s important to note that during the summer months our outside temperature and humidity never leave this chart, keeping us in a perpetual state of “caution” and “extreme caution.” Both of which are reasonable exercising conditions with the proper precautions and heat training (see above).

Which leads me to Rules #7-8…

Rule #7 – If the heat index creeps into the orange “danger” area I cancel all outdoor activity entirely.

Rule #8 – Listen to my body. If my body says, “STOP,” I do. Even if I’ve done everything else according to the rules and even if it worked fine yesterday, I stop. Nothing, even running, is worth risking heat illness.

What about you? Have you retreated to a treadmill or have you made friends with the heat?

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