Wednesday, July 6, 2011
Hot, Hot, Hot!!!
Hey, hey, hey, yes I like it when that lightning comes. Okay, not really. Just a little tip of the hat to The Cure, back from my junior high love for all those European New Wave groups.
Summer sure is here in the high desert. After a particularly scary incident running over the weekend with the running partner and friend who taught me most of what I know about POSE running, I'd like to do a little bit of community service about running safely in the heat. So much of it seems self-explanatory and obvious, but even those of us who are most meticulous about proper hydration, attire, and other elements of hot weather running can forget a step or two when rushing through the day and trying to squeeze in a run somewhere.
First item of business. I am, in case it isn't obvious in race photos and videos, rather Caucasian. I'll be the first to admit that I'm guilty of running out the door without slapping on sunscreen sometimes. It's probably one of the most important, and easiest things to take care of before heading out the door. Don't forget all those less obvious places..you know, the ears, back of the neck, hairline or partlines if you're me, and have very fine hair, or anywhere else that you tend to miss in slapping the sunscreen on the arms and legs. If you're wearing that new tech shirt that exposes flesh that was previously covered in your old gear, don't miss coating that newly exposed skin. Yeah, sounds stupid, but you always see That Guy or That Girl walking around with the funny burn marks on the foot or back. So, apply a good coat of sunscreen and KEEP RE-APPLYING during those longer runs. I am partial to REI brand sunscreen, as it doesn't seem to irritate my eyes if I sweat off a little, but everyone's got a favorite that works best. Be generous with the stuff, and remember a visor, hat, and/or sunglasses to protect the eyes and shield the face a bit. If you're in a remotely mosquito-ey area, too, don't forget to protect against bites. Those suckers can spread disease like nobody's business.
There's also that matter of dressing appropriately for the run. I know some folks still like to run in cotton, but I still say there's nothing better than moisture-wicking tech fabrics to get the sweat away from the skin on a hot summer day. Target's C9 line is a good, inexpensive workhorse brand, and I'm always pleasantly surprised with what can be found in my local thrift stores, Goodwill, and Salvation Army stores. If you want to spend big, yeah, that's not too hard to do...but good gear for summer can be found on the cheap. If you're trail running, depending on terrain, it can be useful to run in longer shorts with better coverage in case you take a spill (I scraped the heck out of my butt last summer because of the way I fell and dragged in some shorter running shorts), and invest in some trail-specific socks, and gaiters to keep rocks and other stuff out of the shoes. One of my favorite websites for trail and general running randomness is Zombie Runner. Lots of great running gear and accessories, particularly for the trail runner. Additionally, I've had good luck with Running Warehouse, and find their prices, frequently available online discount codes and free shipping particularly attractive when I need to gear up.
For the nighttime or early morning runners, don't forget to head out without a reflective vest or reflective gear, and a head lamp to both light your way and let others know you are coming. If you're in an area known for certain types of critters or wildlife, it's a good idea to carry items made to protect one's self in the event of an attack (such as bear spray), and while I don't run with a phone, it's something many runners opt to do in the event of an emergency. And one oft-ignored matter...the ol' chafing in places you've never heard of (thanks Flo) can be resolved by slapping vaseline, Body Glide, or some other product to areas where one might chafe in the heat while out on a run.
When it comes to hydration and fueling, it's more important than ever at this time of year to have a plan. It's not good enough to just drink a little water during the run. Dehydration causes your blood volume to drop, which in turn lowers your body's ability to transfer heat and forces your heart to beat faster, making it difficult for your body to meet aerobic demands. Whenever possible, drink 8-16 oz of water or sport drink in the hour or two before running. If you forget to do this, try to get in a little something in the hour leading up to your run. Temperature is important as well. According to a 2008 study published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, cyclists drinking cold beverages before and during their workout exercised nearly 12 minutes longer than those who drank warm beverages. Yet another study published in 2010 showed that runners who had an ice slushy ran 10 minutes longer than when they had a cold drink. In both cases, colder drink lowered body temperature and perceived effort, thus resulting in a longer workout. If you carry a handheld or other water bottle on the run, try filling it up halfway, freezing, and then topping off with your beverage of choice. I also like to load ice cubes into the flask of my Nathan Hydration vest to keep my water cold.
Not sure how much to drink? Here are some good guidelines:
ONE HOUR OR LESS
Three to six ounces every 15 to 20 minutes. Water is usually fine. For a tough run over 30 minutes, consider a sports drink to give you a kick of energy at the end.
ONE TO FOUR HOURS
Three to six ounces every 15 to 20 minutes. A sports drink with carbs and electrolytes will replenish sodium. Prefer gels? Chase them with water to avoid sugar overload.
OVER FOUR HOURS
Drink three to six ounces of sports drink every 15 minutes, after which use thirst as your main guide (drinking more if you're thirsty and less if you're not).
Replace fluids, drinking enough so you have to use the bathroom within 60 to 90 minutes postrun. Usually eight to 24 ounces is fine, but it varies based on running conditions.
Finally, there is the concern of hyponatremia, the very dangerous condition of overhydration, which just doesn't garner the same level of awareness as dehydration. It depletes essential minerals from the body, causing disorientation, illness, and in rare cases, death. If you are consuming too much water and not enough electrolytes, your body can't use the water you've given it, and you'll actually be dehydrated while virtually drowning your body. With the standard disclaimer that I am NOT a doctor or medical personnel of any kind, I think this may have been the culprit when I ran Saturday with a friend who was experiencing dizziness, unusual fatigue, nausea, and was generally out of sorts in a way I'd never seen him before, even in the hottest conditions. His eating in the day or two prior had been a little on the light side, and didn't seem to include much sodium from what he mentioned. We luckily opted to turn around as soon as it was obvious that something was wrong, and he went home to rest and drink up Gatorade all day without any permanent issues. (This was another reason I thought it could be hyponatremia...craving electrolytes and needing to drink up all day long when not passed out in bed). It was a scary enough incident, though, that I thought it to be a worthy topic to blog about. (And, yes, said friend is putting a call into his doctor despite a full recovery to ask about the incident.)
Though none of this is rocket science, it's all good stuff to remember when out there running. Run long, but above all, stay safe, listen to your body, and know when to call it quits if something doesn't feel right.