Depending on where you live, chances are you may already be dealing with some high temperatures. In my current location of Northwest Florida, like many places across the Southeast U.S., it felt like we went from winter to summer in a flash, virtually skipping all but a hint of spring. And now that summer is officially upon us, it’s time to face it. The heat isn’t going anywhere for awhile.
Last week I finally came to my own breaking (and subsequent breakthrough) point with the heat. I decided since there’s no beating it, I may as well stop complaining about it, and instead, strive to wake up each day and actively blaze through it.
It’s grueling now and in order to enjoy whatever it is you choose to do outside, you have to actively make it enjoyable for yourself. The good news is, regardless of where you live, there are things that you can do to make the heat more manageable. Along with proper fueling and staying hydrated, I’ve arrived at five ways to survive the summer heat. The following five considerations have helped me get out of my heat-induced funk and make the best of it.
1. Slow Down
Hey hot shot! Yeah, you! Why the hurry? What are you trying to prove? I must admit, the first few times I set out on shorter runs following my 10 day post-marathon haitus, I had it in my mind that I would be able to speed back up immediately, and I was pretty stubborn about it. Did marathon training help me build up my endurance so that a shorter run seemed like a piece of cake? In theory, sure. Did I feel like I was going to die the first time I attempted to bust out sub-9 minute miles in the heat? Yes. And it was quite a humbling experience. If you want to be able to not burn out (or pass out) in the heat of the summer, consider swallowing your pride, and slowing things down. Allow yourself time to build up strength in the heat instead. If you are like me and remain hellbent on doing some speed work, plain and simply put, go shorter. Don’t be stubborn and hard headed when it’s 90 degrees outside.
Slow down isn’t only applicable to your physical activity, but to life in general. As things heat up, its easy to get huffy, or in a rush and end up catching yourself running through the motions, or so I’ve found. Giving yourself ample reflection time that includes a refreshing body of water to fully submerge your body in is highly recommended for the wellbeing of both body and spirit. I must admit, I feel pretty spoiled living minutes away from the Gulf of Mexico. Nothing makes me feel more weightless and at ease than floating on my back in saltwater.
“The cure for anything is saltwater: sweat, tears or the sea.” – Isak Dinesen
2. Shift Focus
While at the heart of marathon training was increasing my mileage, the summer months are quite the opposite. Once I got the whole stubborn bit out of the way and slowed things down, I shifted to running shorter distances five days a week (2-5 miles at a time), and have been taking time for lengthy cool down walks afterwards.
I’ve been especially inspired to step up my shorter distance training, thanks to Oiselle pro runner Lauren Fleshman, and her feature in the June edition of Runner’s World titled “10 Reasons the 5K is Freaking Awesome.”
“If people ran more 5-Ks, I’m positive the average life satisfaction of humans would increase dramatically.” – Lauren Fleshman
With this shorter distance training comes a bit of speed work. At least one of my runs each week includes some interval training, and timed .25 and .50 mile sprints. Allowing myself to do this for the past few weeks before building back up mileage has made a world of difference and made me more ready to gradually reintroduce longer runs without crashing and burning.
I also purchased a pair of legitimate trail shoes, and have been taking a number of my runs off road and into the woods. Trail running not only helps shift the psyche, it necessitates an increased amount of focus. When running through the trails, each step becomes a bit more purposeful. Now I just need to remember to watch my feet before I’m on the ground.
3. Team Up
I am pretty sure it’s proven that it’s much easier to bounce out of bed and gear up to pound the pavement in the mornings when there is a cool breeze blowing. In summertime, when you wake up feeling groggy and hungover simply from the heat, knowing that someone else is waking up feeling the exact same way you are (but is still willing to endure the struggle alongside you), tends to offer extra mental fuel. My marathon training was a solo effort. However, recently I’ve started getting back into the swing of running with my mom, my dad, and friends, all of which have done a number on my attitude when I’m out there. Running with another being is an entirely different form of therapy than doing it on your own.
4. Challenge Yourself
On top of running, I decided to give myself some extra cross training challenges this summer. The first thing I’ve been consistently working on is standing on my hands. I went through a multi-year competitive gymnastics period during my youth, and being able to kick back up into a handstand has been a worthwhile and nostalgic balancing act. The second challenge I’ve given myself is elbow planking. Setting a five minute elbow plank goal (currently at two minutes and slowly adding on seconds) and a five second handstand hold by the end of summer has given me two measurable goals to work toward. And if I reach them before the end of summer, then hey, I’ll just make new, lengthier goals.
Realizing I was having increased trouble staying energized doing my work at my computer and avoiding it at all costs, I decided to kick my butt in gear by swiftly building my desk up and turning it into a standing desk oasis since I’ve been talking about if for awhile. Now, I’ve officially joined the standing desk revolution. More on that to come as I adjust, but so far, I’m a believer!
5. Mix Things Up
There is something to be said for mixing up your routine to keep yourself motivated, especially in the heat. Unlike many, I am not taking the summer to train for a triathlon (although the seed has been planted). Still, that doesn’t mean I can’t air up my bike tires and go for a ride, or jump in the river or ocean and go for a swim. In fact, this is exactly what I should be doing as much as possible, considering I enjoy both of these activities. Diversifying your routine keeps your body moving and grooving, as does mixing up the times you typically get outdoors. For example, during marathon training I would typically begin runs just after lunch hours. When it’s 90 degrees by midmorning in the summer, one must reassess. I’ve been slowly making my runs happen earlier or later. Needless to say it’s made a world of difference on how readily I survive them and how long I can keep going. Although one of my mantra’s is “Life’s too short to stay inside,” as a supplement to being outdoors, summer is an ideal time to step up whatever activity you are currently doing inside. Personally, it’s encouraged me to increase the number of times I am doing yoga in the comfort of the air conditioning.
Just Do Something…
Above all else, if there are three words of wisdom I can offer myself or anyone who longs to be active during the summer months but is struggling with the wear and tear of the heat, it’s “Just Do Something.” Don’t worry about how fast and furious you are doing whatever activity it is that you love to do. Just get out there, move your body, and go.
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