You can agree to the fact that as a runner, you need to train yourself regularly no matter how warm or cold the weather is. As a runner, you must have this habit of checking the weather each day so as to know the coolest time of the day so you can schedule your run then. But, if you have ever completed a five-mile race on a hot day, you would know that it isn't the temperature but the humidity that can cause trouble. Running in humidity is a completely different experience than running in pleasant or cold conditions. Humidity can actually have an impact on your running performance especially if you are unprepared for it.
But, why is it that humid conditions make running so challenging for us? Isn’t there something that we can do about it to make the experience less daunting? Let us find out the answers to all those questions and understand how you can train smartly to defend your body against overheating and dehydrating.
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What Happens When You Run in Humidity?
The core body temperature tends to rise quite naturally when you are running. In such situations, the sweat glands also produce droplets which carry an excess amount of heat to the skin's surface where it evaporates easily. However, when you are running in humidity, this humidity prevents the evaporation of the sweat and thereby the heat remains put.
Running can be quite dangerous when your body isn’t able to get rid of the building body heat. When your body gets overheated, it gets dehydrated too and then tends to go into survival mode where just enough blood flow is there to keep you alive (literally!). A lesser amount of blood would flow as a result to your GI tract and you may feel nauseous. Also, the chances of you having side stitches are high when your body is overheated due to which you may breathe unevenly.
Why is the Risk of Overheating Higher in Humid Situations?
The risk of overheating is way higher during hot and humid situations because your body is working way harder than it usually does so as to cool off. When the level of relative humidity (amount of water present in air) is higher, the body usually struggles to cool itself down. This means that in excessive hot and humid situations, there is more amount of water present in the air and hence the sweat cannot evaporate easily.
When you are running in high humidity and the sweat remains on your skin for a long time, it is a clear sign of lack of evaporation. When this temperature is somewhere between 90-105 degrees, the runners might face heat cramps or heat exhaustion which of course isn’t a good thing. The best thing to do in such situations would be to check the humidity level in summer season before you head out for a workout. This way you would be able to judge as to how the apparent temperature is getting affected.
How Does the Performance Get Affected With Humidity?
Most people often wonder as to how does humidity works and why runners should be concerned about it. Well, humidity can, in fact, have an impact on the runner's performance. As the temperature continues to rise, your running pace would definitely get affected. If you choose to continue in humid conditions, the temperature of your brain would eventually rise and this can, in fact, make the matters worse. The air is usually saturated with water when the heat is compounded with humidity. This is why the sweat remains on your skin.
The dew point is also a great humidity running calculator which is related to humidity. It is the temperature at which air becomes saturated with water. A dew point higher than 65° F would be pretty much uncomfortable for the runners. Anything higher than 70° F would make it difficult for the runners to accomplish an easy task. This means that the core temperature of your body isn't being lowered effectively. This, in turn, would mean that you would be running at a slower pace than usual.
How to Prepare for Running in Humidity?
Acclimatization or adjusting to the humid conditions would take about two weeks of regular training. By doing so, your body would be able to adjust to a more humid and warmer environment than usual. Also, one of the best tips for running in the humidity is that you need to remain hydrated. Keep your body cool and energy levels up with proper hydration. You could choose water or sports drinks, whatever suits you the best.
If you choose sports drink, drink about 4 to 7 ounces of it or if you choose to drink water, drink in every 15 to 20 minutes of training to keep your body hydrated. Some people also choose to weigh themselves before and after each run. For each pound that they lose during a workout, they drink about 16 ounces of fluid.
Gradually, you would be able to improve your efficiency as the body would learn to disperse this heat in a better way. Thereby the core temperature of the body would also remain regulated. You would notice that after two weeks of adjusting, your body has the capability to cool down in a better way than before. You would lose lesser electrolytes as your sweat now contains much less salt. Therefore, you would be able to train better.
Tips for Running in Humidity
Now that you know all about how does humidity work, risks involved and how to prepare for running in humidity, it is time to arm yourself with top tips that will make running an easy feat even in the hot, humid weather. There are a few ways that you can adapt to make this whole experience less formidable. Listed below are some tips for running in the humidity that you can follow to have a more comfortable run.
Hydration and Nutrition
No matter what training it is, proper hydration and nutrition are an essential component of it. During the humid season, this becomes even more important and can definitely cost you if you make a mistake. What most runners tend do is ignore their thirst which is a really bad thing. The other thing that you must always notice is the colour of your urine. Dark yellowish urine is an indication poor hydration while a pale yellowish colour is perfect.
You need a regular intake of water or sports drink if you are running longer distances. Foods or drinks that suit you well when the environment is cool might not be the best option in hot and humid conditions. Therefore, you would need to change your diet accordingly. Drinks that contain electrolytes would aid you in maintaining an ideal balance of potassium and sodium relative to the water that you consume.
Put Effort In Your Running
A lot of runners feel that they need to follow a proper pace that is suited to conditions that are cooler. We completely agree that proper pacing is essential But when it is hot and humid, it is better to just let go and run. When you are running in humidity, a heart rate monitor might be a useful tool to help you keep a check when you are training easily and intensely. Also if you notice running in humidity breathing pattern changes and becomes even more challenging in comparison to the cooler temperatures.
If your run is an easy one, it should obviously feel like one even in hot and humid conditions. To achieve so, you might have to decrease your pace but that is absolutely fine because at this point you are trying to make your body adjust. Just concentrate on how you are feeling and how your breathing is. You would actually be pleased with the benefits when you are training in cooler weather.
Stay Cool When Running
Listed below are effective tips that will help you stay cool while running in humid weather:
- The very first thing that you can help you with remaining cool when you are running in humidity is appropriate clothing.
- Choose light colours and fabrics that have the capability to wick away the sweat more effectively.
- Also, make sure that you have access to some kind of fluid like water or sports drink throughout the run.
- Use sunglasses, visor or hat in order to protect your face and eyes from the harsh rays of the sun.
- If you are planning a long run, choose a route wherein your home would fall on the way or maybe a store that has ice.
- Keep a wet towel in the freezer the night before the run and take them with you as they can cool you down efficiently.
- Dumping water on the head is also a technique adopted by runners to cool them down as it helps in enhancing the evaporation from the skin.
- A few elite runners use gears like cooling vests to keep themselves cool. But, you could try something as simple as consuming a slushy before your race. This will lower your body temperature and delay the rise for quite some time.
Benefits of Running in Humidity
Above, we spoke about the disadvantages of running in humidity but there are in fact a few running in humidity benefits. The advantages of running in humid temperature are that your body dissipates heats and learns to control the core temperature. Let’s see it this way, at a high altitude; the level of oxygen supplied to the organ and muscles by the blood is way less because of the fact that oxygen levels remain low at an elevation.
So, what does the body do in such situations?
The body increases the supply of blood. With an increase in the supply of blood, there would be more oxygen for the organs to use up. Things are pretty much similar in hot and humid situations. If a portion of the blood is being directed to the skin, there would be a lesser amount of blood going to the organ and muscles. The body would respond to this by increasing the total blood supply. It has not been confirmed but there has been evidence that proves that training in warm weather enhances the efficiency of the body to cool itself. This has carried over advantages when we are working out or running in temperatures that are cooler. The lesser the body has to exert itself to cool down; the more blood would be available to transport oxygen to the organs and muscles. Also, your body will learn to sweat even at lower temperatures and your sweat will be indeed less salty.
You cannot just stop training because of the humid condition. All you need to do is train your body to adjust and respond more effectively to the humid condition. In the beginning, it might seem like a tough job. But, with patience and hard work, you would gradually be able to see the positive results and reap its benefits. Just make sure that you are hydrated enough or it can lead to complications. With proper training, your sweat would get much less salty so as to maintain an appropriate balance of electrolytes.
What do you do as a runner to adjust to the humid conditions? Do you have any additional tips that you would like to share with us? Feel free to do so in the comment section below.