Summer training may feel difficult, but training through hot and humid conditions will make fall racing a breeze.
What do all these things have in common? Why, summer training of course!
Endurance runners run through all sorts of weather. Snow, sleet, polar vortices… Right now, most notably, we’re running in heat and humidity.
It can seem incredibly hard to run when it’s hot and humid, and it can be discouraging at times, too. And sometimes, it can even become dangerous. Let’s dig into those weather terms, what they mean, and how to successfully train in the summer.
Running 101: Summer Training — Why Does It Feel So Difficult?
The dew point is the temperature to which air must be cooled to become saturated with water vapor. When there’s a higher dew point, there’s more water in the air. When there’s more water in the air, it can become difficult to breathe and sweat during exertion.
You know that “soup” feeling where the air feels thick and heavy… and wet? That’s the dew point. The higher the dew point, the more uncomfortable you may feel.
Dew point and humidity are closely related, but they are different. Relative humidity is the ratio between the amount of water vapor in the air to the maximum amount of water vapor possible at the same temperature. The relative humidity can be low but if the dew point is high, it will feel uncomfortable.
So when it feels humid, you’re most likely feeling the dew point.
When the temperature is taken for weather reporting purposes, it’s taken in the shade with good airflow, over grass or dirt, and 5-feet above the ground. While this allows for standard temperature-taking practices, it’s not so practical when you look at the temperature on your phone and then head out for a run.
Keep this in mind the next time the weather app says it’s 75˚ and sunny. If you’re running on pavement or at the track, it could be much warmer.
Which brings us to the heat index… What is the heat index? The heat index is what the temperature “feels like” when relative humidity is combined with the air temperature.
The higher the temperature and the higher the relative humidity, the higher the heat index. And again, the heat index is based on shady, light wind conditions. So when you’re in full sun with little wind, it can feel significantly different.
Check out these tips for running in the summer!
What does all of this *actually* mean?
What all of this actually means is just because the weather app says it’s 75˚ and sunny doesn’t mean that’s what’s really happening in the real world. The track is always much warmer than even the pavement, and the pavement is likely hotter than wherever the temperature was taken at any given time. Trails may be less intense but depending on how thick the tree cover is, you might actually feel more enclosed if the dew point is high and there isn’t much wind.
To get the full picture during summer training, it’s important to take the dew point and relative humidity into consideration because 75˚ and sunny with 15% humidity is a lot different than the same conditions with 55% humidity.
How will summer weather affect my running?
When it’s hot and humid, your pace will likely slow significantly and your heart rate will be elevated for what is ordinarily an easy run. You may feel sluggish or unmotivated.
At this point, I recommend ditching the technology and running the good ol’ fashioned way — by feel. If you’re checking your pace (or heart rate) constantly through your run, you risk one of two things:
1. becoming discouraged, which is mentally draining, or
2. running too fast/hard, which gets you into the gray zone where no real gains will be made.
In both instances, your effort will be much more difficult than it needs to be. Unless you’re being coached on a specific workout, runs should be an easy effort all the way through.
How can I run in the heat?
First and foremost, run without your watch or cover it with a piece of tape so you aren’t tempted to look at your pace. You should also run without your heart rate monitor on. Try to run purely by feel and effort. This is a really great time to tune into your body and ask yourself how you’re feeling from head to toe.
SLOW DOWN. When conditions improve, you can go back to checking your pace and heart rate.
Make sure you’re well hydrated. And when the dew point is high, make sure you’re hydrating with a cold beverage to keep that body temperature down.
If it’s so humid you’re unable to adequately sweat, skip the run. One day of missed summer miles is no big deal. It won’t make or break your training.
Fear not — running in the summer can be quite enjoyable! This is the time to let go of preconceived notions of pace or time and find the joy in running for the sake of running. Run a slower pace, listen to a podcast, or chat with friends. Splash through the water crossings. Get muddy! You might have some challenging runs when the weather isn’t ideal but you’ll have some great ones, too.
Read these 7 reasons summer running is the best!
Above all else, remember that fall PRs are made during summer training. Summer training may feel difficult now, but training through these conditions will make fall racing a breeze.
What are your thoughts on summer training? Do you run by feel or by pace?
What’s your favorite part of summer running?