Running in the Heat

Being chubby and overweight (obese according to my new nemesis, the Body Mass Index) already makes running difficult. In full disclosure I actually tried starting to run last summer and after two-whole times I stopped due to hip pain and the fact that my breathing was too laborious from running just 1 minute in the hot summer weather.

photo courtesy of pixabay
photo courtesy of pixabay

Prior to trying running again in April of this year my husband and I started walking in winter. We lost a couple of kilograms here and there, but all that walking resulted in strong legs and more endurance. I used to be the type to do anything to avoid walking up a mild-gradient hill or a few stairs. Now, I don’t even think about it. Back in winter, if I walked quickly my hubby could barely keep up. These days, my short legs can barely keep up with him. Walking really helped both of us in preparation for running (even though we didn’t know we would eventually do it). We stopped taking the bus or subway and walked. It took extra time, but we consistently walked a couple of hours every day and got much fitter over a period of several months. No more heavy breathing.

Tuesday evening we did our 8 minute run / 2 minute walk interval 4 times. It was our second day with this program. The first day was fine, but on this day it was awful. I felt like I couldn’t breathe comfortably, and when we finished the first running interval and walked I turned to my husband to confirm that I wasn’t the only one struggling to breathe in the humidity. I was suffocating for the first 2 or 3 minutes of running. The air was so thick I’m sure we could have cut it with a knife.

We had switched to night running to escape the summer heat, but it turns out the humidity is also a matter not to be ignored. Since the park we run in is next to the water there is often a nice breeze, but on Tuesday the air was still and we ended the run more sweaty than I thought possible.

Beyond the sage advice of wearing lighter clothes to run in, I read an article over at that warned against the dangers of overheating in summer, which is more common when there is high humidity. This is because our bodies have to work harder to cool off. With higher humidity levels sweat doesn’t evaporate since the air is full of moisture. Apparently it is completely normal to have a decrease in speed due to high humidity as well (I never knew).

To get used to the higher humidity levels of mid-Summer, which is fast approaching, the article says it takes about 2 weeks to adapt to the new weather conditions and that staying hydrated is key, recommending that runners drink water every 15-20 minutes during a run. While I think that this is probably good advice, I’m not so keen on carrying a bottle of water with me while running. I already feel like I want to rip my clothes off halfway through the run and throw my mp3 player into the water, because everything makes me feel heavy under this heat and now humidity. I’ll try to stay hydrated before I run by making sure I drink more water… Despite the humidity on Tuesday, after the first interval and getting used to the weather, we actually ran pretty well.

What do you do? Drink before / after a run? Or drink during a run?


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