Running When It Is Humid

hotrunnerThis is the time of year now when I have to be smart when I am running.  I have made mistakes that were costly and ended up requiring physical therapy because I got cramped up in the heat.  I also learned about dehydration when I was a beginner and was pushing too hard in the heat to the point where I was seeing tunnel vision and stars in my eyes during my run (usually uphill).  I saw a doctor for it and they told me I was dehydrated when I ran and pushing too hard for the conditions. I need to invest time at home for 30 minutes a day to do the simple exercises to prevent injuries and strengthen my core muscles and my glutes and hips. This is especially important during this time of year because it doesn’t matter how much I drink, I still lose a lot of water during the hot runs.  However I prefer to spend 30 minutes getting on a good sweat instead, therefore I get injured.

Running in the heat is one thing.  Running when it is very humid is another.  The humidity is more taxing on the body because of the higher moisture content in the air, making it feel hotter.  When you are running on a very humid day, the moisture that your body produces to help cool your body off doesn’t evaporate so the heat never leaves body.  This is dangerous.

I noticed that after running the Heartbreak Hill Half Marathon two weeks ago that I felt flush all throughout the afternoon and evening after the race.  That is because body was heated up and couldn’t cool off with the hot and humid weather.  I also had a headache that afternoon and I think that was because despite having water and Nuun with me and taking water on the race course, I was dehydrated.

heatwaveSo what do you do when you need to get in a run and you don’t want to use the treadmill? Find a shady course to run on.  Try to run early in the morning.  Run along the water where there is typically a breeze, and take walk breaks.  You also shouldn’t try to get your best race pace during these conditions.  Train to run in these conditions, but don’t expect to be at your peak performance.  When the temps heat up, your heart beat also increases by 10 to 20 beats per minute.  That’s going to cause you to work even harder.

Jeff Galloway says when it gets hot out to slow your pace down by 30 seconds/mile for every 5 degrees above 60F.  That’s a lot to slow down.  But he is totally right.  If you don’t slow down in the beginning you are certain to be slower at the end because your body just won’t be able to cool off and you won’t be running at your best.  He says:

 For every second you run too fast during the first half of a race on a hot day, expect to run 10 seconds slower at the end.

How do you know if you are getting heat exhaustion?  These are the signs to look out for:

  • Fatigue
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Headache
  • Tingly Skin
  • Confusion

If you feel any of these symptoms, end your run and/or walk home.  It’s not worth the risk.  If you do feel these symptoms coming on, get into the shade, pour cold water onto your head, and if possible put ice on your neck.  Lay down and elevate your feet.

You can work towards the ability to run in this heat by taking it slow and in small increments. Being from the East Coast, I really only have these conditions to run in for about 4 months out of the year.  I usually don’t do races in the summer and the last time I did it was my first injury that required PT.  So I have learned what to look out for.


One thought on “Running When It Is Humid

  1. Good to know!! We don’t get much humidity in LA, but living right by the ocean, it surprisingly gets up to about 60% humidity sometimes. Regardless though, it’s very different than when I will be running in Ohio next month while I am visiting for 3 weeks. So I’ll definitely have to be more careful. Thanks for the post, it’s all great info!! And good luck!! 🙂

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