Not only a problem for those of us that are on the heavy side, but everyone. I may put this at the top of the list for the sole fact that chaffing, be it anywhere on the body, can ruin a run, and ruin it very quickly. What is it? Well it’s basically a protective coating in the form of a deodorant stick that you apply GENEROUSLY to any areas prone to chafing. This way, 8-10 miles into an extremely sweaty summer run, you aren’t bleeding from the nipples or crying out for your mother as you hobble down the path like a bowlegged cowboy after a cattle drive. Don’t even go for the smaller tube, show no shame and take the big one. That’s right, you’ll need it.
I cannot stress this enough. If you are willing to run shirtless, and can do with only running shorts, this makes life quite a bit easier. But, for some of us, we can’t all look like elite athletes as we struggle to achieve fitness and our own personal running goals. That being said, invest in some proper running gear. I’m talking dri-fit, moisture wicking, cool inducing shirts, shorts, shoes, socks, and a hat. You would be amazed at how well a moisture wicking shirt holds up in even the most humid weather. Don’t you dare buy anything cotton.
Ever wonder why that skinny fit guy in the office is so tan? How did he get that way? Lift that shirtsleeve up and prepare to be blinded by the most amazing farmers tan you’ve ever seen. Well, he’s a runner. Out of the office he gets his vitamin D running under that hot sun. No tanning bed for us, we work for our bronzed skin. I cannot stress enough though the importance of sun screen. SPF 50 or higher should do the trick. Not only does this keep you from getting burnt as you log those summer miles, it protects you from the harmful effects of the sun. I have also noticed that when I use sunscreen generously before long runs, I feel much less like a boiled lobster after finishing, and I can come back strong the next day.
Hand Held Water Bottle
Now while I am completely against running with anything in my hands or on my waist when I take off on a run, I can’t help but add this one in. Living in the Southeastern US, it is not uncommon to have weeks of 95+ degree (F) weather with 100% humidity. On some runs in this weather I lose more than 10 pounds of fluid. Without proper hydration, you will suffer terribly while running, and forget about trying to run multiple days of the week feeling depleted. So head down to your local Running shop, walk straight past the Fuel belts (those are for triathletes) and pick up a water bottle with a handle. Not only are these ergonomically shaped and comfortable to hold on runs, but it will make that water fountain that is 6 miles the other way obsolete.
I had a study on the website the other day about the effects of cool water immersion after runs, and one thing that stood out was that in both of the studies I looked at, there seemed to be a marked physiological effect of your endurance in heat when taking ice baths. Not only do they help cool your core temperature down, thus reducing stress to your body, but the cumulative effects over time help make you feel much less run down on the extremely hot days of the summer. 12 minutes of leg numbing cold does the job. Let yourself warm up naturally before you hop in the hot shower.
Now sunglasses are not quite as important here, but they definitely help. I would suggest investing in a sturdy pair that can last you years to come. They help shield your eyes from the sun, can help keep sweat out of your eyes, and overall increase your coolness with the other runners who don’t have them. Remember, the overall point of this list is comfort through the worst part of the year. Any little bit helps. Plus looking good never hurt anyone.
NOT a fuel belt
I have always refused to wear a fuel belt over the years, even on the most miserable of summer days for one reason. I hydrate properly. Sometimes I see people rocking the eight-bottle belt for relatively short runs, (less than 5 miles) and I wonder how in the world they can manage to drink that much fluid on one run. Or really I just wonder what makes them think that they need that quantity of fluid for really any length of run. Now you may make the argument that you sweat more than normal, or sweat more salt, and therefore need to intake fluid during your whole run. Let me tell you a little secret. Your body cannot process that liquid during a run. Although you may be sweating more than a greasy pig, your body is only capable of taking in extremely small amounts of fluid during a period of physical exertion. Not 6 eight ounce bottles of whatever electrolyte mix you have created. Ok, rant aside, just constantly hydrate before and after your run, and you should be fine, no matter how much you sweat.
GU Energy Gel
GU has turned many of my runs around, even when they have seemed never ending. If you’re a collegiate or high school athlete, you are spending much of the summer building base mileage for the fall cross country season, and that means long runs. Taking a couple packs of GU on those runs not only helps you get through to the end comfortably, but it also helps keep your body from depleting itself, and therefore decreasing recovery time needed between runs. I do not suggest just going out and trying this as soon as possible, but rather a slow buildup of use over time. I have heard from others, and even experienced my own type of gastric distress with GU in the past. You must learn how your body reacts before you start eating during runs.
Again, another accessory that can be replaced with proper nutrition after a run, a carbohydrate replenishment/protein supplement drink can effectively give you everything you lost on your run in one fell swoop. After extremely taxing days I usually always have one of these on hand, especially in the summer when I drive long distances for runs, and I am hours away from a proper food source.
Motivation (Intrinsic and Extrinsic)
Probably the most important factor of all for any type of summer training is the proper motivation. It is extremely difficult for me to wake up during the summer, sometimes at 5 in the morning to avoid the sun, and still have it be 90 degrees out. There is just no escape from the soul sucking heat and oppression of the summer. Run with friends, teammates, family, etc. Stay away from people who tell you you’re crazy. If you like running by yourself, set daily, weekly and monthly goals and reward yourself for the work you do. By nature, we are a lazy bunch of slobs, but with any type of running you must upset that homeostasis and do what everyone else isn’t willing to pursue. Runners are crazy right? So be crazy. Train like a madman, or woman, and when fall comes around emerge from the summer a running machine ready to tackle your next race, or just be proud of the fact that you accomplished more than anyone else in those unthinkable conditions.