5 Ways to Outrun the Texas Heat

Welcome to Austin Texas in the summertime!  As we are about to round out the month of July, we've notched our 10th 100+ degree day, with weathermen calling for another 10-20 this summer alone.  I remember the days when I lived in Illinois and I thought that 80 was hot.  That was nothing!  100+ degrees in an Austin afternoon feels like your face is pressing against the surface of the sun.  I can assure you that this is no fun for anyone!

But it is easy to get frustrated with the heat in the middle of Austin summer. Everything feels hot, sweaty, and hard.  Regardless if you are one of those runners who "love the heat," everyone's performance suffers as the temperatures rise.  It's natural, pure biological science. However, there are a few things that you can do to make your time in the sun a little more enjoyable. 

Stay hydrated!

I can't stress this one enough.  It seems so simple to say - if you sweat more, drink more!  But for most people - especially those who spend their days indoors in the air conditioning - it is easier said than done.  If you are in an ambient state inside, you might find yourself not picking up your water bottle and leaving yourself dangerously dehydrated for your afternoon run.

In the summertime, our bodies lose sweat at a much greater rate.  Knowing your sweat rate is a great way to keep track of how much fluid you're losing during a run (easy explanation here), and how you can prevent becoming dehydrated. Sweat rates are unique to each individual, but I like to use this easy formula to keep track of my fluid intake. 

Half your body weight in ounces + 1 ounce for every minute of activity

So for me, my daily fluid intake looks like this:

65 ounces + 120 ounces = 185 oz / day

How much water is that?

This is assuming that I had a long day of training, which would include at least an hour-long run and another hour of Crossfit.  A gallon of water has approximately 128 ounces, so this would be about 1.5 gallons of water per day (for me). But - keep in mind - this calculation is using intense or endurance exercise as a multiplier!  If you're working out in an air conditioned gym, you would not be sweating at as great of an intensity and therefore would not need as much water.  

The old adage that you should drink 8 eight-ounce glasses of water a day is a good recommendation for most individuals.  So, as a baseline, I would suggest drinking 64 ounces as a minimum! But, again, knowing your sweat rate is crucial to knowing exactly how much sweat you lose during activity!  It might surprise you!

Don't neglect your electrolytes!

Electrolytes are just as important if not more important than the water itself. It is entirely possible to be over hydrated.  If that is the case, you are taking in too much water and, in return, salt and electrolytes are leaving your body at a greater rate than being retained. Some of my favorite electrolytes are Nuun and Skratch or Tailwind.  

Nuun is the perfect compliment to your water bottle at work.  I like to use a single Nuun tab in about 16-24 ounces of water. Keeping a ratio of one tab of Nuun for every two bottles of water you drink will make sure that you are not over hydrating. There's also a variety of flavors (lemon-line is my favorite though!) that give a little bit of fizz to your water without adding extra calories. (Bonus - the attached link has a 20% off coupon for purchase!)

Skratch is a great recommendation for your water bottle during exercise. It has been engineered specifically to be safe on runner's bellies and works much in the same way Gatorade does.

Another great product is Tailwind - which is probably my most favorite electrolyte supplement for trail running. Tailwind suggests that it is the only nutrition you need for the entire day, so it does provide a Gu-like energy carbohydrate boost, alongside electrolytes.  I still like to supplement with other fuel sources while racing, but I have used Tailwind in my bottle for most of my trail races (including my Sky Island 50k) and I feel like it made a tremendous difference in my fueling.  

Another great way to make sure that you're getting enough electrolytes is to consider a salt tab.  I have two favorites - S Caps and Salt Stick.  I like pre-dosing the night before by taking one tab before bed (Salt Stick has a caffeinated version, so don't take those before bed!) and then another one before my Saturday long run.  If you were running after work, you could consider the same pre-dosing the night before, another in the morning or another one an hour before the run. Both salt tabs work great - but I have a special place in my heart for Salt Stick's caffeinated version for an extra added boost! 

Get naked!

Now before you strip all your clothes off (or are offended by doing so!), hear me out!  In the summer, it's more important than ever to make sure that you are wearing moisture-wicking fabrics!  Find lightweight technical fabrics that breathe!

We might all know this but - don't even think about pulling out that cotton t-shirt!  Nothing about that is breathable!  

And ladies, remember, it's hot out, so feel free to ditch that shirt entirely!  Taking away the excess fabric will allow the skin to breathe and prevent unnecessary chafing. There is a great movement in Austin from our Sports Bra Squad, and another group run coming up on August 6th if you're in need of a bit of motivation! 

Stay cool!

Before your run, try a bit of pre-cooling!  Drink some cold fluids or have a light lunch before your run so that you body is not creating excess heat from digestion! 

One of my favorite tricks for summer trail running is taking my Buff and soaking it in ice cold water before a run. Not only does it feel great wrapped around my neck, but I'm able to take some of the ice cubes and roll them into the folds of the fabric, creating a magical ice necklace that continues to keep me cool.

And, call me crazy, but throw your running clothes into the freezer before you head out!  An hour in the cold temps before your run will keep the clothes cool and your skin chilled before you head out. But make sure that you do this BEFORE your run, I can't guarantee that you'd want to use your freezer after your wet, sweaty run clothes spent an hour in there! 

Another great option for staying cool - using Cryotherapy for recovery! 

Change up your routine!

Put down your spears and pitchforks!  I know, I know - you're an evening runner and you aren't going to change! Ok!  I know.  BUT! Consider it for just a second. It only goes to say that if it is possible to get up early to get your run in, you should.  Considering the Austin temps, it's as much as 20 to 25 degrees cooler in the morning before the sun comes up!  Take advantage of the small change in temperature and get out early in the morning.  You might even find that you like mixing up your routine. Sometimes the switch up is exactly what you needed to break the funk of afternoon running. I find that it leaves me feeling energized for the rest of the day. 

If your schedule is inflexible, consider changing your route instead.  Asphalt and pavement retain the sun's rays and the dark surfaces reflect the heat, making the terrain much hotter.  Instead, find cool shaded spots (like the Greenbelt or Town Lake trail!) that allow you to stay out of the direct sun.  Plan routes that have frequent water fountains so that you can maintain your hydration.  If you're headed to the Greenbelt, carry a hydration vest with you and let others know where and when you're going.  Heatstroke can always strike suddenly, so it's best to always be prepared with a plan.  

Toss away your Garmin !

Work on perceived effort - NOT pace. I can't emphasize this last point enough.  I talk to my runners every week about making sure that they are listening to their bodies.  It takes, on average, two weeks of running in the heat to become acclimatized. But, just like sweat rate, every individual is unique.  

Effort level is a much better indicator of your body's ability to adapt to the heat.  Managing heart rate and breathing levels allows you to manage your pace.  In most cases you'll find that you need to slow down. THIS IS OK!  This does not mean that you have lost fitness. My easy runs in the heat have been as much as a 1:00 - 1:30 slower per mile than in the cooler temps. Don't let the heat negatively affect your mental game.  Instead, focus on keeping your effort in workouts where it needs to be.  Once the cooler weather returns, you'll see all the work you did in the heat return as faster miles. 

Have any other tips for running and working in the heat? I want to hear them!  Leave them in the comments below!

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