Fitness


*This post is part of the Runners Lounge Take it and Run Thursdays series.

I have a love/hate relationship with running in the heat. My other relationships are more straightforward: It’s all love/love with running in the cool, the crisp and the warm; same for running hills. And races? Monster crush.

On the other hand, it is hate/hate with running in the cold and the rainy.

But this post is about running in the heat for Runners Lounge TIART. So, what about the heat? For me, since I hate running in the cold, the heat is preferable. My muscles warm up easily so I can get into the groove of a run quicker than I can on cooler days. And once you get used to running in the heat, it isn’t as bad as you might think. But problems can arise if you are not prepared for the heat. I learned this the hard way back when I was a novice (read: pretty dumb) runner in the mid-1990s.

I was living in the Big Apple and had recently started running again after not doing much of anything physical since college. A co-worker talked me into running in the Corporate Challenge. As it happened, the race took place in the middle of the summer on the hottest evening ever. Being NYC and all, there were a million runners in the race and all the body heat raised the temperature on the race route a good, I don’t know, let’s say 30-40 degrees. So, not only was it the hottest evening ever, but the race route was on fire!

And, I was a novice. I ran and ran and tried to pass people I thought I should run faster than and I didn’t take water at the water stops — I just kept running until I started to get the chills right before the third mile. Feeling a little funky, I kept on running, figuring it was just that I was pushing hard. I was a speed demon! And then I looked at my arms and they were covered in goose-bumps. But I pushed on — I was flying! And then the chills got worse. Soon enough, I didn’t think I could really feel my legs.

I gave in and started to walk. I walked until I could see the finish line and then I ran again, so I wouldn’t feel like a complete jerk for not being able to run the 3.5 mile race. Once across the line, I booked it toward the refreshments and sucked down water and, if I remember correctly, some oranges.

While the worst of the bad feelings passed fairly quickly after re-hydrating, I felt awful for the rest of the night and still felt off the next morning. Looking back, I think I felt so bad because I realized just how stupid I had been for a) obviously not training enough for the race, b) running beyond my abilities and c) not respecting the heat.

OK, so what have I learned about running in the heat and humidity? A few things:

  1. Don’t run a race that you aren’t prepared for. That’s probably not a good idea in any conditions but it is definitely something not to do on hot days.
  2. Don’t let your loose muscles lure you into running too fast — whether you are on a training run, in a race or just out for some easy miles.
  3. Respect the heat! Sure, you can go out for a run in warm weather and feel great and start to motor. But, the heat will get you if you run too hard, too fast and without properly hydrating. That’s not to say you shouldn’t run fast in the heat; you should go for it if you’ve trained for it. Just don’t run outside your abilities. Take it from someone who has done just that and suffered the consequences.
  4. Wicking works! Invest in clothing that wicks moisture away from your body and steer clear of cottons.

If I hadn’t had the bad race experience, my relationship with running in the heat would probably be love/love. But, that memory remains. Hopefully, I never forget it or the lessons learned.

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I found Runners Lounge a few weeks ago and, after reading several of the Take it and Run Thursday posts, I have decided to take it and run (thus the TIART in the title).

So, this week’s topic is cross training. For runners, obviously. Let me just say that I’m a lousy cross trainer. For me, it’s all about the time. I don’t have enough time to run as often as I’d like, never mind try to fit in some cross training. Plus, I love to run so when I exercise that’s what I want to do.

When I was pregnant, however, it was a much different story. I didn’t run. I don’t know — I just didn’t feel right running. I know that it is perfectly fine to run while pregnant, provided everything is going well, and I look at pregnant runners and I’m impressed and happy that they are still out there. For me, taking the time off was the right thing to do. And, it was the perfect opportunity to cross train. I walked, practiced yoga, did low-impact aerobics, stretched and strengthened all those muscles I needed for giving birth. It was wonderful.

The yoga and stretching helped me to regain some of the flexibility I had lost over the years. The walking made me appreciate my neighborhood and provided me with plenty of alone time to think about what I was getting into with the whole pregnancy thing. It also prepared me for the many walks to come after Conal was born. Which makes me think that I am doing some cross training: I walk with Conal several times a week. Huh!

Anyway, the pregnancy cross training. I worked out with light weights to tone up my arms and did enough plies to prepare me for Swan Lake. I followed along with the ExerciseTV stars through sun salutations, leg lifts and more grapevine steps than I care to admit to. All of the exercise that I did helped keep my pregnancy weight gain in check and made my eventual return to running much easier. In fact, I started running again 3 weeks after giving birth and felt terrific. My first post-baby 5K time was the same as pre-baby. And since I’m not getting any younger, that was quite an accomplishment!

I guess that, for me, cross training isn’t a regular priority but I do see its benefits. When I can’t run, sure, other exercise options seem worthwhile. But, when I can run, I run. It works for now and until that changes, I’ll just keep running.

I am all signed up for the Freihofer’s Run for Women on May 31st. My second race since Conal was born.

I write this not because I am proud. Or because I am fishing for race route fans to cheer me on. No. I write this because on the day before the race, the organizers are collecting running shoes and t-shirts for the USATF to donate to runners in Third World countries. I’m planning to drop off some sneaks and tees. Leave me a comment if you would like to add your running shoes and t-shirts to my pile. I promise I will donate them. You need not worry that you will see me dashing around in your old Boyz 2 Men t-shirt. I just wouldn’t do that to you.

OK, I get it. I really need to stop talking about how big Conal is getting. How old, how grown up.

I mean, how boring. What, am I going to walk around for the next 25 years stating the obvious? Oh, he was just a baby yesterday. And today, why, he’s almost walking! Almost! But, not quite. Can you imagine what a big deal I’ll make of it when he actually walks?

And what about when he starts talking, heads off to kindergarten, loses his first tooth, goes to middle school, gets his driver’s license, leaves for college, starts living on his own? I imagine I’ll say something about how he was just a baby a minute/hour/day/week/year ago and now he’s a big boy! Old enough to vote! Can you believe how big he’s gotten?

Yeah, that’ll be my script for the next few decades.

But what about this fitness thing? How have I been doing, you ask. And I will tell you. The first week of Fit Fridays, I did great. I ran or walked every day. Second week, superb! Dranks lots more water than I usually do. Third week? Blown. Completely blown. I was away, yes, but I could have remembered to sign up, at the very least. I didn’t. I forgot. So, now I’m waiting for Friday to come around again so I can get back on track. Just hanging out, waiting. Friday will be here soon. And then I’ll have a goal. No sense working on the goal before Friday. I’ll just wait for Friday. Sit here and wait. And watch Conal get bigger. Can you believe how big he’s gotten?