A Little More Each Day

One working mama learning to run & to maintain my 100+ pound weight loss!

Running in humidity

on January 21, 2014

This weekend, I got to run in 60 degree weather, which is much closer to average Florida temperatures than the teens I’ve done most of my outdoor runs in so far this winter. Despite the warmth, I know the bigger challenge for me in adjusting to Florida weather next month is going to be the humidity. It is very odd to think about running in the heat and humidity in the midst of an Omaha winter, but I know from experience (Castaway Cay 5K) how much harder it is to run outside in the heat and humidity, so I want to be prepared. On the cruise, I was caught completely off guard by the humidity on the island. There was always such a breeze on the ship, I never felt sticky. On the island, especially running through the interior, it was very very wet.

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I grew up in southern Louisiana, so I know how bad humidity can be, but there’s a good reason I didn’t start running until I left the South! Running on the island in the humidity greatly slowed my pace and made everything feel harder. I ended up walking more of that 5K than any other I’ve done and it is my slowest time by far. Knowing that it will be more humid than I’m used to when we get to Florida next month, I want to be better prepared this time. 13.1 miles is a long time to be wet and sticky.

A lot of the difficulty with humidity comes from it’s interference with your normal sweat functions. Sweat serves as a way for the body to cool off thanks to the heat loss due to evaporation. Unfortunately, when it is humid, sweat has a harder a time evaporating because there is already so much moisture in the air. That means we’ve lost one of our biggest means of cooling down when we’ve raised our body temperature due to exertion. That wet, clammy feeling isn’t just uncomfortable. It will make a warm day feel hotter. It can also be dangerous thanks to overheating. You can experience nausea and more GI disturbances than usual when it is humid. This is because the increase in your body heat diverts blood flow away from your GI tract and toward your skin in an attempt to cool down. Thus, you’ll feel flushed and queasy (check and check for my Castaway Cay run!). If things progress, you can start to experience symptoms of heat exhaustion and heat stroke, including confusion, dizziness, clumsiness, shortness of breath and racing heartbeat.

Tips for making the best of it:

Pay attention to how you feel! If you start to feel any of the symptoms I’ve noted above (nausea, shortness of breath, racing heartbeat, confusion, etc) then you need to stop and cool down (and possibly seek medical attention, depending on the severity of your symptoms).

Wear quick-drying technical fabrics. The faster you can cool off, the better. When the air is damp enough that it is hard for things to evaporate, you don’t want to compound that problem by wearing something like cotton that will hold onto moisture. That will make it harder for you to cool off, be very uncomfortable (and heavy!) and put you at risk for chafing (see below). This was definitely part of my problem at Castaway Cay. I did not own my current myriad of tech shirts and shorts and therefore was running in cotton.

Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate! While there was a water stop on the course at Castaway Cay, I should have taken more water along with me as well. It is odd to think of adding even more fluid when you already feel so wet, but it is easy to get dehydrated when you’re overheating. Drinking cool fluids will also help drop your core body temperature and prevent overheating in the first place. This includes hydrating before and after the run with some electrolyte replacement, in addition to the electrolytes in whatever you take on the course.

Slow down! There’s an interesting post over on Runner’s World (here) that has different pace expectations for different degrees of moisture in the air, but essentially the wetter it is, the harder it is going to feel when you are working to meet your usual pace. If it is very humid, just expect your speed to slow down. Run slower or take more walk breaks in your run:walk intervals and above all else, pay attention to how you feel!

Body glide: Sweat that doesn’t evaporate well means your chances of chafing go WAY up. Be sure to liberally apply Body Glide (or whatever your lubricant of choice may be) before the run and during the run if needed.

Ideally, we’d also avoid long hard workouts in the humidity, change the time of day to optimize the weather or run in the shade but we don’t have that kind of control over this event unfortunately. It would also be nice if we were running in the humidity 10-14 days before the race because then we would be better acclimated, but alas that isn’t going to happen for most of us traveling to PHM either. RunDisney has historically done a good job of keeping runners updated about the weather and giving them safety tips based on the anticipated conditions. With the tips above and close attention to conditions, I think I’ll be in better shape than I was during the Castaway Cay 5K and meet my primary race goal of finishing safely and having a good time!

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Do you run in humidity on your normal runs? It will definitely be a change for me!

References for More Reading

Runner’s World Tips for Running in Humidity

Competitor 5 Ways Heat Affects Running Performance

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7 responses to “Running in humidity

  1. Lauren says:

    Ugh Houston is horrrrrible in the summer time when it comes to heat and humidity. Just running 5-6 miles can often feel like death! Part of the reason I chose to train for an early spring marathon is so I could avoid running long distances during the summer.

    • I can’t imagine running in Houston! I think about my years in Houston any time I hear someone complain of the humidity here in Omaha. People in the Midwest have no idea what humidity can really be. That’s why your Jasmine ponytail is so crucial for running in Houston. Can’t wait to hear more about Tink!

  2. Thank you so much for the explanation of how humidity affects your runs! I knew it sucked to run in humidity, but your explanation makes so much sense! Living in STL, humidity is a frequent companion on runs from June to September, unfortunately. It’s so suffocating and it completely zaps my energy. I learned last summer that I just need to expect a 1-2 minute increase in my pace when it’s that hot and humid. I’m having flashbacks to some pretty muggy runs, so it is making tomorrow’s cold run seem not so bad. 🙂 I think I’d much rather run when the temps are in the teens versus 85 with 100% humidity!

    • Me too! I remind myself of that frequently when I’m complaining about the winter weather. I can out on lots of layers in winter. In summer, there’s only so much I can take off to keep cool!

      Sent from my iPad

      >

  3. Ahh yes, I’ll much rather running in 20º temps in South Louisiana than 90º or higher. During the summers I have to make myself get up early and get it done because ain’t no way that’s happening in the afternoons! LOL

  4. […] far as the humidity was concerned, I ended up being really glad I’d done all that research about how to handle it and tried to put the things I’d learned to use. I stopped at every water station offered (and […]

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