Don’t Let The Humidity Beat You Down This Summer
Sum, Sum, summertime is here and we are loving it. But with the summer heat also comes the humidity. Those of us that have embraced a healthy lifestyle and take every chance we get to get our runs or even a fast jog in can sometimes get into a little trouble with the dense air (Humidity) that sometimes ushers in with the jet-stream. Exercising in hot weather puts extra stress on your body. If you don't pay attention to your body, when exercising in the heat, you risk the chance of becoming seriously ill. Both the exercise itself and the air temperature and humidity can increase your core body temperature. To help cool itself, your body sends more blood to circulate through your skin.
Most of us, who like to run, make it a point to hit the open air trails instead of the fluorescent interior of a gym, the downside to this is there is NO air-conditioning. But we feel the need to move horizontally when we exercise… and if you’re like me, I exercise a lot. I need to run on the trails to get into that meditative state so many runners crave. But in the early summer months, my training schedules change to adapt to the heat and humidity of the Northeast. Yours should too!
You need to remember, that running or cycling in 90-degree weather is not the same as running in 50 or 60-degree weather. Your blood volume is lower than it needs to be and other systems within your body are simply not ready to take on the heat, much less the dense moisture laden air on a humid day. For many runners and cyclists, properly adapting to exercising in the heat can improve their performance in more temperate conditions. But you need to be aware of your body's strengths and weaknesses. One way to stay on top of your body's signals is with a good Heart Rate Monitor watch, especially one that tracks your V02 Max data. VO2 Max is the measurement of the maximum amount of oxygen that an individual can utilize during intense, or maximal exercise. It is measured as milliliters of oxygen used in one minute per kilogram of body weight. It's one factor that may help determine an athlete's capacity to perform sustained exercise.
Since most of us that like to get out and run on trails off the beaten path. An activity watch with a good accurate GPS function is a must. And as long as you’re going to maintain your fitness routines by getting out and enjoying the fresh air and scenery, having a Multi-Function monitor that doubles as both a heart rate monitor and one that does monitor your VO2 max data is a win-win. The one that I have found fits all my needs is the Garmin Fenix3 MultiSport Strapless Heart Rate Monitor (https://www.heartratemonitorsusa.com/products/garmin-fenix3-strapless?variant=15691645254). It keeps track of your heart rate, counts steps while walking and monitors sleep. The watch monitors your heart rate and provides precise information of the calories burned during your intensive sweat sessions. By keeping a record of these factors, you can check the quality of your workouts and improve it to get better results. Based on your VO2 levels and max number, it monitors your running speed and heart beats per minute. This is used to calculate the estimated volume of oxygen you can consume per minute.
Running in the heat and humidity takes a lot more effort than running in cool crisp weather. Your VO2 max or your ability to use oxygen to create energy diminishes. You will dehydrate much quicker which not only will further diminish your VO2 max, it can create electrolyte imbalances too. Heat Exhaustion, which can lead to Heat Stroke, where your body temperature rises to dangerous temperatures is an ever-present danger and can be fatal if untreated promptly. That is why knowing your VO2 max is an important tool once those dew-point levels climb up into the higher 60's too that oppressive 70 %!
Running in the summer, or even a good jogging pace can bring on the summer sweats. Sweating is the bodies’ way of trying to control your temperature. Under most circumstances, it works very well. In high heat/humid settings, it can sometimes work to your disadvantage if you are not prepared. In very dry, or very humid conditions sweating can lead to severe dehydration. Any experienced runner knows that they need to hydrate, and hydrate a lot! During an extended period of time can have you losing a few liters of fluid. In high heat, but low humidity conditions, the sweat is evaporated rapidly. You may feel like you’re not losing a lot of fluid, but you are! In high humidity environments the sweat does not evaporate nearly as rapidly, therefore your body’s response is to sweat more as it attempts to cool you down. The volume of fluid in your blood vessels might only be 3-5 liters. If you sweat or exhale 3 liters of fluid during exercise and do not replenish it your body will draw fluid away from your muscles, and other organs to maintain the fluid level in your blood vessels. That is why dehydration can affect all your systems in your body. The key rule to remember is to drink often if you wait till your mouth is dry, you’re waiting too long!
Water is a great restorative, especially when it's that hot and humid. But sometimes it’s best to get those lost electrolytes replenished as well. One product line that we like is the Nuun Active Electrolyte Supplement Nuun active, is a sports drink, packed with electrolytes and low-calorie clean ingredients to help you stay energetic during your intense sweat sessions. It will help you get rid of cramps and improve muscle function. It also aids efficient distribution of energy.
But in order to tote that energy/electrolyte packed drink on your run, you need a good, insulated bottle. One great item that is always at my side, (literally) is the Camelbak Delaney 21oz Podium Insulated Chill Bottle This insulated bottle is just about hands-free, and since it comes with its own waist hugging adjustable pack it does not get in the way and is easy to use. The pack itself provides enough storage (without being bulky) for energy bars or gels, keys and even my phone. So don’t start off on the wrong foot by NOT carrying the right water container and remember to take any opportunity while you’re out on the trail to refill it. You never know what may happen as you get farther out on a trail that you’re not familiar with!
If you’re running consistently, your body is already working on getting used to the summer heat and humidity. It usually takes about 2-3 weeks before your body adapts, so listen to your body as the temp. begins to rise. Your body will increase the volume or amount of fluid in your vessels to ready itself for exercise. This is likely due to sodium and protein retention. Many other adaptations take place. Our sweat glands become more efficient too. You will sweat more often and more efficiently. You will begin to notice that your body is getting used to exercising in the heat when your heart rate decreases despite running at the same pace. You will also notice an increase in your endurance and your VO2 max.
After your body adapts to the stress of exercising in the heat and humidity you should be able to return to your normal training schedule. Remember, all this above assumes you are a healthy well trained athlete to begin with! If you are just starting out or you have chronic heart, lung or other illnesses you should definitely talk to your physician first, before doing ANY stressful exercise!
Not doing so is beyond being foolish, so make sure if you’re a rookie that you have your physician sign off on your being able to not only run, but being able to run when the heat index starts to climb.