Thursday, July 18, 2019

Running Walking Biking in the HEAT

Baby it's hot outside...

Trust me, I am NOT complaining (remember, I waited 10 months for summer to return to Iowa). The heat does make it a bit more of a challenge to enjoy the great outdoors, though.

I'm still taking most of my cardio workouts outdoors. Even when the mercury is off the charts, and it's hotter than Hades, I usually shun the inside option. I figure if I'm gonna be sweating anyways, I might as well enjoy the scenery.

That said, the extreme heat of summer is nothing to take for granted. It commands all of your respect and every last ounce of common sense.

It's no secret that when it comes to fitness, I'm a runner. First and foremost. I don't run every day, nor do I run especially far on the given days I do lace up my Brooks Adrenalines. I simply enjoy the mere act of running...the sound of my feet striking the pavement, the feel of sweat running down my back (and often in my eyes), and I love the sensation of endorphins washing over me after I've finished.

The weather, as with any season, is always variable and tricky. Granted, more summer runs are going to be in hot temps than cold, but there are sporadic cold fronts that come through and knock out the humidity for a few brief periods. No doubt the toughest thing for most runners to deal with in the summer isn't the heat, but the humidity. A heavy dew point will make it more difficult to breathe, especially the faster one tries to run. Even if you're wearing tech fabric running gear, if it's super humid, it will take longer than  normal for the dampness to evaporate from the fabric.

A few constants with summer running:
*Everyone has their own barometer when it comes to heat tolerance. What feels warm and comfortable to me may feel extremely unbearable to someone else.
*Hydrate, hydrate, and hydrate some more. Many people don't realize their bodies are dehydrated until it's too late (runners are stubborn that way LOL).
*It's in your best interest to run slower than what you may be used to doing. The odds are good your body will want do that naturally, so let it. Save your tempo runs or speedwork for less extreme temps.
*Even if you're not a natural early-riser, the heat will usually be coolest before the sun emerges. If you're hoping to run a long distance, starting your run as early as possible may be something to consider.

What about walking? Did you know walking offers very similar benefits as running does? Depending on your pace, the cardio burn can be comparable to running (though running obviously has more "bang for the buck" due to the extra effort required).

For me, the biggest benefit to walking is that it's much friendlier to one's joints. The impact of your feet striking the pavement isn't as severe as with running. It will take you longer to go a specific distance, but with it requiring (somewhat) less effort, it usually won't be as tiring.

A few things to consider with summer walking:
*Since it's a lower impact activity, the need for warm-up/cool-down isn't as crucial. It's still a good idea to do some pre/post stretching, though.
*You can get a good sweat going, but you probably won't be as "warm" as you would be if you were running the same distance. Often times, I need arm sleeves or a light jacket (that I can take off and tie around my waist) if it's a cool morning.
*If it's an especially hot day, and you still want to get outside, a walk may be a better option than running since it's not as strenuous.

Recently, I've been biking more. I'm still very much a novice, but it's been a fun new fitness option to explore.  I have a mountain bike, so it's not as sleek or road-friendly as a road bike would be, but that adds an element of challenge to my rides. The bike weighs more, and the tires are rugged. Climbing hills can be tough...but that's all good. I'm working different muscles (well, hello there, Quads!) and giving my usual running muscles some down time.

Also, there's ZERO impact on my knees and ankles, so most rides feel pretty smooth (unless I hit a pothole or cross railroad tracks). Since a lot of my riding is just in town, I'm not cycling especially fast or with a lot of effort, making it a great option if I want to get out of the house but don't have a lot of energy on tap. None the less, cardio is still happening and my legs are getting some action.

Some things about biking in the summer:
*The hot temps are MUCH more bearable on a bike than on foot! Again, I think it's that "less effort required" thing.
*Even if it's a warm day, I usually feel colder on the bike. That's all well and good on a really hot day, but on the moderate mornings, I usually feel most comfortable with arm sleeves.
*No matter which direction the wind is coming from, it always feels like it's in my face. That's not all bad, though, because it does feel refreshing (most of the time).
*A strong headwind is much tougher to fight on a bike than on foot...just saying.
*Gravity will work both with you AND against you on a hill LOL

Anyways, those are some comparisons and contrasts to three outdoor cardio options for the summer that I have been utilizing in the recent extreme heat.

How do you feel about being outside in the heat? Do you opt to stay inside, or do you find a way to get outside, no matter how hot it gets? Or, do you have no preference to be in or out?

I'm linking this with Meranda and Lacey for the Friday with Fairytales and Fitness link-up. 


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  1. If it's really hot & humid -- as it has been -- and I need to get a run in midday, I do it on the treadmill. The vast majority of my runs are still outdoors. I am urging my group to start earlier tomorrow (meeting a little resistance there), but the truth is tomorrow will be dangerously hot & humid. So it will most definitely be by feel.

    I walk the dogs almost every day, but I don't work up a sweat doing that. 2 dogs take a lot of patience! And stopping. Not to mention at Lola's age, she's not as tolerant to the heat -- even this morning's walk, which was cloudy & warm, but not terribly hot (yet), but also extremely humid . . . I have to keep an eye on her & make sure she's ok. Sometimes that means stopping in some shade to do a little training to let them cool off.

    So my walking isn't so much cardio, but at least it's movement!

    1. My cardio, when I walk with Max, is sprinkled with all kinds of starts/stops. He keeps a great pace until he suddenly catches a whiff of something. When it's crazy hot, like this week, I usually just take him out to the back yard so he has grass underfoot. My "long run" may not be too long tomorrow. I'm going to leave super early (5:00) and see what happens.

  2. biking is so much more tolerable to me in the summer time. Where as I may only be able to withstand 45 min out there running, I can bike for nearly 2 hours and not feel like I am going to die. I feel that this still enables me to keep my cardio fitness until I can get back to longer runs. I also think it's good to give my body some down time from running long and this heat forces me to.

    1. Since I haven't done much biking (until just recently), I didn't realize how "breezy" it feels.Even this morning, it was in the 80's already at 5:30, but it really felt comfortable on the bike.

  3. I really LOVE to be outside in the summer heat, although this week it has been crazy. I even have a pool but the sun is just too hot beating down there, (we have very little shade). Today might be a good day to stay in and clean out

    Thanks for linking up with us. -M

    1. No doubt I like it hot, too...but the 90's, with heavy humidity, is a bit much for my liking.

  4. I run in the mornings with one of my dogs but the last couple days have been too hot for them. This morning when I left the house, the real feel was 87. Ugh. I took it slow and didn't worry about pace. But it was still like breathing through a straw. Looking forward to the cold front moving through Saturday/Sunday...

    1. We don't have any cold fronts in the forecast for awhile LOL and it's supposed to be in the upper 90's all weekend (over 100F with the "feels like." Most of my runs are in the early hours, as well, when the temps are psycho like this.

  5. Biking feels good when it is hot because you at least get the benefit of it feeling windy. Hydration is key for all three activities for sure!

    1. Yes, hydration is paramount! My ride felt great this morning, even in the low 80's at 5:30, but I was a sweaty mess when I stepped inside the house LOL

  6. It's hot here most of the year so I just learn to embrace it. Although now, I am sweating SO MUCH MORE. I think there may be a change in my metabolism or something because it's quite terrible how much I sweat. Water is good but I have noticed that I need electrolytes as well because I've been getting muscle cramps and they are not fun. Early mornings and afternoons are the times for me!

    1. Thanks for the reminder on electrolytes! I haven't had any muscle cramping, but I may have just been lucky. I'm drinking tons of water (before, during,after), but the salt still probably needs attention.

  7. When we are talking about hydration in these conditions, it is absolutely imperative that runners rehydrate with an electrolyte solution. If all you do is drink water, you can become hyponatremic (low sodium), a condition that runners can and have died from. Very important!

  8. Interesting post. I run every other day and every other day I make long walks with one day of rest per week. It works to stay fit. Better times will come to improve speed and mileage.
    rehydrate, of course, is the most important thing. Listen to your body? mmmm this is more difficult.

    1. Listening to one's body is something all athletes struggle with (in my ever-so-humble opinion) ;-)