Happy Friday! I’ve been a little absent the past few weeks because, life. I actually had to take the day off work today to get caught up with the thousand errands and tasks I haven’t had a chance to do. I’m behind on blog reading but planning to get caught up soon.
Yesterday and today were miserable here. Super hot and super humid. The kind of weather where you feel like you’re swimming through the air, where it’s hard to breathe, and where I’m reminded how much I’m a cold-weather-loving girl. And yet, my runs went surprisingly well. This is the worst summer I can remember in terms of heat and humidity, and yet my marathon training is going very well. I feel great physically and am still enthusiastic and excited about running. When I hear about other runners having a much more difficult time in the hot weather, I wonder what I’m doing differently. The answer to me is very clear: my coach. I’ll be posting next week on my experience so far working with Melissa, a Hanson’s coach, but it can’t be a coincidence that I’m having such a great training cycle in awful summer conditions while working with a coach for the first time. Until then, I thought I’d share some of her advice on how to handle running in brutal summer conditions. She has told me that while we can’t change the weather, we can set ourselves up to be as successful as we can.
Lower Your Expectations
During the heat-dome days a few weeks ago, Melissa sent me and the other runners she coaches this message.
Know that it’s impossible to feel as good or run as fast when conditions are this extreme. Don’t get discouraged and don’t get down on yourself. It’s about surviving these tough days so that you are stronger on the good days. Be smart in these conditions, take water, slow the pace, and cut the run short if you need to.
In other words, there will be other days to kick butt on those repeats. There will be other days to nail your long run. Days that are brutally hot and humid are just about getting it done. Get through them and save your best effort for better weather.
Also, I’m going to repeat this because I think it’s so important: Don’t get down on yourself! Just getting out there in tough conditions is an accomplishment! Here’s another quote from Melissa:
Since each runner is different it’s difficult to pinpoint an exact number that it slows each runner down, but unless you’re a freak of nature the hot conditions will slow us down or at least make the effort harder.
Control What You Can
We know all these things, but Melissa reminds me regularly about them because they’re so important:
Run early or late when the sun isn’t blazing. I run early mornings before the sun comes up or on trails if I go later on weekends. I’m planning on starting long runs very early to minimize my time in the sun.
Hydrate before and during your run. I drink a big glass of ice water as soon as I wake up. I take a salt stick cap before every run in the hot weather, no matter how short or easy, and always carry ice water (sometimes with Nuun) with me.
Wear comfortable and lightweight clothes. If there’s ever a time to spend money on expensive workout clothes, now’s the time. Activewear companies are continuously innovating on new fabrics and styles designed to keep you as cool as possible. I choose pieces with maximum airflow and comfort. See my activewear highlights from last month for my current favorites.
Put ice cubes everywhere. This isn’t from Melissa but is a tip I read many times that really works. I put ice cubes everywhere–in my bra, in my headband, under my hat, and even just in my hands so I can rub my arms and neck with them. When my runs start getting longer I will likely bring ice cubes in a cooler with me so I can frequently refresh myself with them.
Alter Your Workout
Yesterday I had my first planned run at goal marathon pace–when it was 78 with 93% humidity at 5:30 a.m. I asked Melissa in advance what to do. Should I ignore the weather and just start running at goal pace? Should I go slower? Or should I do repeats instead of a continuous run so that I can take a break between each mile at goal pace? This is what she said.
It’s never going to hurt to back the pace up by 10-15 seconds to start, and then if you feel good pick it up to the regular pace. You set yourself up for a better workout this way. If the regular pace is too fast for the heat you’ll end up fading the whole run, which is also mentally frustrating. For the 4 mile tempo I would stick to doing the run all at once like a normal tempo but back the pace up for the first mile. After the first mile judge if you should stay at the slower pace or if you think you can start cutting it back down to marathon pace. I would almost run it more cut-down style, allowing yourself to ease into the pace.
Heat is insidious. You can feel fine at first, but it can creep up on you silently, then hit you suddenly and make you feel like crap. Melissa’s approach prevents that. I did exactly what she suggested. I ran the first three miles about 15 seconds slower than goal pace then was able to cut back and run the last mile at just 5 seconds slower than goal pace. I didn’t feel awful and was overall pretty happy with the run.
Notice that in pretty much everything Melissa says, she focuses on how you’re mentally feeling. I’m sure that’s because she knows what an enormous impact your thoughts have on your training. We all know how frustrating it is to have a crappy run, where we feel awful physically and dwell on how much we had to walk or slow down. It can be hard to pull yourself out of that thinking, and soon enough you may be wondering if you should even continue training for that fall race given the 10-day weather forecast. On the Hanson’s online community group, one person posted that exact thought. Head Coach Luke Humphrey immediately chimed in with, “Take it one day at a time, people!” I’ve just started the difficult part of my training, and I refuse to think about how much more time I have. Just like staying in the mile you’re running, it’s also important to take training one day at a time. This weather won’t last forever.
I think one reason why I’m doing so well in the heat is that Melissa basically sets me up to be successful every single workout. She reviews every one of my runs and checks in with me after. She then creates my plan based on how I’m feeling. So, in essence, my plan is being designed to ensure my success, and because I’m successful, I feel great. One example is Thursday’s tempo run at race pace that I mentioned above. I followed all her suggestions–I lowered my expectations and altered my pace–and that was the difference between me feeling like I failed at a workout and me being happy with it. I’m learning that a good workout isn’t just about how well you stuck to the plan or the pace. It’s more about how you good you thought it was. Add another good workout and another, and soon you have a good training cycle. I’m believing that good training cycle will then evolve into a good race!
I hope you too can benefit from some of thEse tips from Coach Melissa! I’ll be back Sunday with my weekly training recap and will be talking more about working with a coach next week. Until then, have a great weekend!