I’m sitting in my very cold house in San Antonio cursing the frailties of the Texas power grid. I have no idea whether or not our power will stay on today. It’s been cathartic reading all the comments on Twitter directed at the power company, but, as a runner, I have other tools to deal with the stress of the unknown. I can visualize.
We’re told to visualize our races before we run them. Often, what we practice again and again in our minds can become reality. I am very good at imagining mile 20 in a marathon — feeling the heaviness of my legs and the sting of sweat in my eyes. I can hear my breath and my despairing thoughts. I can also imagine experiencing a second wind, surging forward and running lightly. And while that particular kind of visualization is useless to me with my race calendar wiped clean by COVID and freezing rain coming down outside, I can use the skill to take me somewhere warm right now.
I can visualize running in the heat and humidity of June. Because June is coming, and it won’t be too long before stepping out of the house will feel like being wrapped in a wet wool blanket. My running clothes will be soaked with sweat after the first 15 minutes of any run, and sweat will fly off my ponytail. The humidity will feel thick enough that I’ll make breast-stroking motions to make my running partner laugh. We’re swimming, not running. I can hear the cicadas and can’t wait for some ice cold watermelon when I’m done. And I’m smiling and feeling peaceful.
If you’re somewhere cold this winter day, try visualizing running in June yourself. And if you’re training for a summer race or running adventure, here are some tips.
Three tips for running in the heat and humidity.
Prepare a couple of water bottles full of iced water and put them in a cooler. Choose a route that allows you to circle back the cooler every 20-30 minutes. Dump the water on your arms, chest, back and head. Lean forward to avoid getting the water in your socks. You can put the ice under your hat, in your sports bra or carry it in your hands until it melts.
Your perception of the heat is affected by the brightness of the sun on your face. Shade your face with a lightweight running hat and wear dark sunglasses.
Be patient. Like running at altitude, acclimatizing to running in heat and humidity often takes 10-14 days of exposure. Ultimately, you will sweat more readily and be able to cool yourself more effectively. Slowly increase your running volume and effort over this period. You can simulate these adaptations by spending 60-90 minutes in a sauna or steam room if you’re racing somewhere hotter than you live.