Heat, Humidity and How to Deal

1341339466645_3598161Virginia is hot.  Virginia is humid.  I wait all year for summer only to remember how brutal workouts can be in this climate.  So many of us struggle through our our workouts during summer months, but do you know what exactly makes heat such a stress on the body? Let me shed some light.

  • As a cooling mechanism, your body sends more blood to circulate through the body.  The blood moves away from your hot core to cool down your system.  That flush you quickly experience during hot workouts is the appearance of blood being pumped to the surface of the body.  This leaves less blood available to your muscles.
  • The excess blood being pumped throughout your body increases your heart rate.
  • Since the blood is being circulated to cool the body, the heart and lungs are forced to work harder in hot conditions to deliver oxygen to the muscles.
  • Sweat evaporates at a slower rate in humid weather.  The extra coat of moisture on your skin raises your body temperature even higher.

When your body is not adapted to hot conditions, the weather can cause enough stress to make your average run a brutal one.  We have all experienced this.  I remember the torture of summer lacrosse camp like it was yesterday. Ninety plus degree weather on turf fields  would leave me feeling like a slug. Luckily, the human body can and will adapt well if you are physically fit.  In less than two weeks of dealing with hot humid weather you will begin to exercise with a bit more ease:

  • Your body’s cooling system will kick in faster, meaning you will begin to sweat earlier in your workout
  • Your body will begin to make more blood, which will put less stress on your heart and lungs
  • Your overall heart rate will slow down when exercising in heat due to the extra blood being produced
  • The body will begin to work more efficiently, needing less energy to do the same amount of work

This doesn’t mean you can go run 6 miles at the height of the day on a sunny street. That would be plain stupid. Don’t be stupid.  Work around the heat!

  • Try two a days: do 30 minutes  in the morning and 30 minutes in the late afternoon or evening–the down side is two showers.
  • Get up with the sun: it’s the coolest part of the day in the summer
  • Seek shade: make an extra effort to find a shaded trail or street while running.
  • Replace what you lose in sweat: weigh yourself before your outdoor workout and again after.  For every pound you lose, drink 16 ounces of water.  Be sure to drink that amount before your next outdoor workout as a preventative measure.
  • Wear sunscreen: sunburn is an added stress on your body that will affect your performance
  • Dress for the heat: wear lightweight and light colored clothing. In reality, wear minimal clothing. You will never see me running with a shirt on in weather above 75 degrees.
  • Don’t go overboard: especially when first adapting to heat.  Take breaks when you are feeling over heated. There is nothing worse or more scary than heat exhaustion!

Now go get acclimated!

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Failing at the “Easy Run”, A Post on Recovery

I came up with the idea for today’s blog post when trudging up a steep hill on yesterday’s run.

Yesterday it was about 90 degrees and muggy. Miserably muggy.  It was overcast and I was due for a run so I decided to attempt a LISS workout.

LISS stands for Low Intensity Steady State, and it is basically any exercise that it performed at a low[er] intensity for an extended period.  We often hear how endurance work is  disadvantageous to weightless, this is where cult fitness has been lying to you.   After performing high intensity work consistently, our body needs to recover. LISS helps flush out the metabolic by-products from your previous intense workout.  When you get your blood pumping for an extended period you are able to deliver oxygen to  fatigued muscles. Taking part in a LISS and working your aerobic system after a high intensity session will help prep you for your next session by replacing ATP.  The takeaway here is that LISS workouts aid in recovery. 

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Snap Shots of My 6 Mile Loop

Back to my LISS workout.  I was going to do my usual 6 mile loop SLOWLY. It was hot and I was sore, so I thought it would be no problem. I started off channeling my inner chi runner and taking smaller strides, breathing deeply and easing into my run.  I was doing well with the LISS principal for about 1.5 miles when a hot shot (and shirtless) sweaty runner ran past me.  I grunted and made myself hold back, keeping my slow pace.  Then I approached my stairs (above).  I have to run down them to continue on the path, so I usually spend 1-2 minutes running stairs then continue on with my run.  I stayed strong and ran right down the stairs to continue around the lake.  As I came around a corner I approached another runner. She was decked out in expensive running gear and a fancy watch–that is where I snapped.  I had to race her and win and I knew my LISS workout ended at mile 2.  I caught up with her, said hello, and zoomed around the rest of the lake, heading for my first long hill and 4 more hilly miles under 07:30.  In my defense, it is really hard to do a low intensity run with the amount of hills I encounter. My heart is in my throat the whole run.

You don’t have to dedicate a whole workout to LISS if you don’t have the time or patience.  After you finish your HIIT workout, boot camp, or heart pumping run–go for a 20 minute slow run, walk or cycle.  It will allow you to cool down, circulate blood through your capillaries,  begin to deliver nutrient rich oxygen to fatigued muscles and replenish your supply of ATP.  After I workout I take my dog on a 15-30 minute walk to cool down.  It kills two birds with one stone and allows my neighbors to witness me at my sweatiest, which is terrifying.

Recovery is one of my weak spots, although I am much better than I used to be in regards to “listening to my body”. It is a weekly struggle. Every time I opt for a yoga class over a long run there is an angel on one shoulder and a devil on the other. In this case the angel is yoga or another form of low intensity exercise.   I recover to avoid injury and prepare myself for my next workout.  I plead with my clients to do the same.  When your body is exhausted, chose recovery or rest.  If it is a choice between sleeping in and getting those 7-8 hours or getting 5-6 hours and squeezing in a workout, chose sleep.  Working past exhaustion and foregoing sleep are two counterproductive approaches to health and fitness.

If you have had a crazy week of heart pumping workouts, go for an hour long cycle or run.  Maybe even a fast pace walk with a friend at dusk. Depending on the degree of intensity you are working at, you may want to alternate HIIT with LISS workouts.  I will take another stab at a LISS run next week, probably on the day I return from Las Vegas…recovery will be a necessity.

For more about LISS, check out this article from my favorite blog!

“Prehab”-How to Avoid Running Injuries

Being an injured runner this spring has not been easy on my spirit but it is probably doing wonders for my body.  On the first nice (warm) day of 2014 I decided to go out on my 8 mile loop.  It was a great run followed by a not so great stretch, dinner and bed.  The next day was beautiful so I decided to repeat the same 8  mile run.  Right around mile 6 I felt a twinge in my right knee (that was new), at about mile 7 it was a shooting pain.  As someone who has never had a knee injury, I panicked.  I shunned running for the next two weeks.  I was doing mostly HIIT, plyometrics, kettlebells and some yoga here and there.  My knee pain was almost gone until my friend called me on a gorgeous Monday and asked me to join her on a run.  I had just walked my dog three miles with zero pain so I accepted her offer and headed home to meet her.  About 3 miles in the pain was back. UGH.   Frustrated and desperate I made an appointment with my physical therapist that Wednesday.

Long story short, I have damaged the surface of my meniscus.  Apparently it is not bad, but It was 100% preventable.  I was NOT practicing what I preach to all my clients: RECOVER RECOVER RECOVER.

I have made myself a human experiment and I am using every means I can to rehab my knee.  So I am icing after use and applying heat during the day.  I am not running.  I am doing plyometrics sparingly.  I am having orthotic inserts made.  I am stretching thoroughly and I am participating in PREHAB exercises.

Pre-habilitation is the proactive way to prevent running injuries.  I know how a runner’s brain works.  We want to log miles and improve; not stretch, roll and do leg lifts with the time we allocate to our workouts.  It took me a long time to learn that in order to be a better runner, I have to take care of my body. When I am injured, I feel almost depressed.  Every race posting I see on Facebook has me disgruntled.  I am beyond jealous.

So here is how you can PREHAB your body as a runner

  1. Stretch well after every run:  When your IT band, hamstrings, glutes, hips, calves and quads are tight they are more prone to injury.  Don’t limit yourself, stretch whenever you have a free chance.  You may look like a weirdo in the grocery store line but at least your hamstrings will feel good.
  2. Buy a foam roller and actually use it:  A foam roller is like a massage at home.  Myofascial release is so key in recovery.  I try and dedicate time after almost every workout.  If I don’t have time I bring a lacrosse ball to work and roll it over tight muscles. Roll while you watch TV or during your evening downtime.  If you have time to get on Facebook and Pinterest, you have time to roll.
  3. Strengthen your glutes: Your Gluteus Maximus and Gluteus Medius are often weak in runners which can lead to injuries in other lower extremities (commonly the hamstring).  There are a number of exercises that can be performed to strengthen your Glutes.  This article from Runner’s World has some great exercises to try.
  4. Strengthen your hips: Your hips don’t lie.  They need to be strong and flexible when you are logging miles. See the video below for a 6 minute workout that activates your hips and glutes.  It requires no equipment.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lW6uFHrHbDU
  5. See a specialist:   If you have unusually high arches or flat feet you may benefit from seeing a podiatrist.  They will mold or scan your feet for orthotic inserts to place in your running shoes.  Over time high arches get higher and flat feet get flatter, so this is a great way to prevent any future muscle imbalances that could occur as compensation for your less than ideal foot physique.
  6. Attend a Clinic:  Running clinics are held all over the country to help runners fix their form and prevent injury.  I am yet to attend one myself, but It is my goal to complete one by the end of the summer! Find one near you here!
  7. Recover: Allow time for your body to heal weekly.  Plan to rest on a day that is already busy with errands.  This will give you less free time to think about your lack of exercise on that particular day.  I do gentle yoga on my off day.  Below is a short yoga recovery to try

 

Same Distance, Very Different Run

What is your “go to” run? If you are a runner I know you have a few of them.  I have my “go to” 5 miles that usually run at a comfortable pace and finish right around 40 minutes.  I know every stop light sequence, hill and where to watch out for a raccoon or fox.  Then of course you have your long runs, I have an 8 and a 10 I alternate with as well.  Sadly, the area where I live has few hills, so when I want the challenge I drive to my parent’s house where the hills are never ending.

This Friday I was JONESING to run.  Unfortunately, it was already pitch black when I got off work so I had to opt for the hamster wheel.  I don’t know about you, but for me the treadmill is only used in moments of desperation.  So I hoped on and ran my 5 miles and jumped right off to check it off my to do list.

Treadmill vs. 20 Degree Road Run

Treadmill vs. 20 Degree Road Run

On Saturday morning I trained a client in my parent’s town and decided to go home for a run.  If only it had been warmer. It was 20 degrees with atleast 15 mph winds.  My lungs where burning and I have never felt so slow.  Nonetheless, I was sore on Sunday.  It was the first time in a while that I felt completely exerted after a run.  I just felt wiped out from the cold weather and hills.  A lot of people worry that running in very cold weather is harmful, but honestly I will take 20 degrees over 90 degrees any day.  It is important to take precautions when you run in below freezing temperatures.  You want to be sure to warm up, since your muscles will be cold.  In addition, wear layers. I always need to strip about 10 minutes in.  Just because you are not spewing sweat like you do on the treadmill doesn’t mean you are not losing moisture.  Intense respiration in the cold will cause you to lose more moisture than you realize.  So make sure you are hydrated!

Sunday My sore butt and hamstrings took me on my “go to” 5 miler around Reston/Herndon.  It was about 20 degrees warmer and it made a huge difference. It always amazes me how much your environment can change your run.  I ran 5 miles three days in a row and each experience was completely different.  Did you have a good run this weekend?