In my post from yesterday (It’s Not The Heat, It’s The Sweat!), I spent lots of word-age describing how I’ve adjusted to living in a tropical climate, and some of my strategies for making daily life more comfortable.
One important note: Many of the physiological changes that occur to help humans adjust to warm weather take time (up to several months). Unfortunately, for those of you in places where heat waves last a few days, then give way to cooler weather for another few days, and back and forth – your bodies don’t have the same opportunity to adjust – so you may never experience the full set of physiological changes. Every time the weather gets hot, you’ll suffer all over again (sorry!). You could, however, still take Sarrilly’s suggestion and go to bed at night with your feet resting on an ice pack!
So today, as I talk a bit about some specific measures I take to help me stay comfortable and safe while running in this super-tropical weather, please remember: This is geared toward people who are accustomed to living and working in a tropical climate (Southern US in the summer, Southeast Asia, etc.), and who aren’t dealing with the most acute stages of adaptation. If you aren’t already adjusted to tropical weather, be very careful – respect the heat!!
[I’ll also reiterate what I said yesterday: Several fellow bloggers have discussed excellent, practical strategies for dealing with the warming weather in the US. Check them out: Miss Zippy, Defy Your Limitations, and Fashionable Miles.]
Here is some perspective: As my running friends in the USA may remember, in 2007, the Chicago Marathon was cancelled 3-4 hours into the race, as the temperature climbed into the upper 80s. In 2012, the Boston Marathon offered participants the option of deferring their entry to 2013 when race-day temperatures were predicted to rise into the upper 80s. Both decisions were made in an attempt to keep runners safe and healthy – and both were probably good ideas. In Boston, thousands of runners sought medical attention from on-site medical personnel, and hundreds were transported to local emergency rooms. But these are the conditions that runners in Singapore face nearly every time we step out the door for a run. Of course we must be cautious – but the human body is an amazingly adaptable machine, and so the danger to us is less, since our bodies are already adapted to warmer temperatures.
[FYI: I just got back from a run. Current weather conditions: 32°C, 66% humidity. This is a heat index (“feels like”) temperature of 39°C/102°F. This is amazing to me, because honestly, except for the sweat in my eyes, I hardly noticed. See “the human body is an amazingly adaptable machine”, above.]
So, here is my list of additional/special/specific Tips and Tricks for Running in Uber-Humidity:
1. Apply Body Glide (or a similar anti-chafe product) EVERYWHERE. I have yet to go on a 10+ mile run where I have managed to glide every potential chafe-spot. I have, historically, been a crotch-line chafer, but in the tropics, I can also chafe under my waistband, at any and all garment tags, from the excess length of the drawstring in my shorts, under my bra strap, at any spot around the edge of my sports bra, under my arm, and even behind my knees (when I wear capris). The culprit appears to be random, and changes with each run.
2. If your run is >5 miles, have a mid-run plan to change your top. After about 3-4 miles, every piece of clothing on your body will be not only soaked, but it will be so incredibly wet that it is dripping and splashing sweat everywhere. This is less than comfortable. For the first time ever, during last week’s long run, I stopped home mid-run and changed to a dry sports bra and shirt. The result was an extra 3-4 miles during which my shirt was NOT steadily dripping sweat into my capris. Bliss.
[2.5 With or without a shirt? I haven’t figured this out yet. It’s pretty rare for women out here to run in only a bra (and those who do are nearly always Caucasians), although I’m OK with doing either. However, NOT wearing a shirt means that a bit more sweat is pouring down my body, into my shorts, down my legs, and into my socks. A shirt at least diverts some of this, for awhile. Sometimes I go one way, sometimes the other. I haven’t decided yet which way I prefer.]
3. I don’t care what you’ve read about “light, wicking material” – save those shorts for your <30 minute runs, or for mopping the floor or something. I’ve found that tightly fitting spandex bottoms are my best friend. The loose, wicking ones just end up wet and alternately plastered to my legs and flinging sweat everywhere. The spandex ones merely channel the sweat down my legs and into my socks. Speaking of which, you may want to change your socks, while you’re changing your top.
4. I guess you could change your shorts, but I’ve found that getting on spandex shorts (or, worse yet, capris) in the tropics is 10x worse than pulling on a wet bathing suit. My CW-X compression capris are especially tricky. I swear that getting those suckers on my sweaty legs is a workout in and of itself.
5. Wear a hat or visor. Sure, it keeps the sun out of your eyes, but more importantly – it catches the sweat before it runs INTO your eyes. Similarly, don’t pluck your eyebrows to a fine line – they also help divert the sweat. Some people tie a handkerchief or small towel around their wrist to sop up the face sweat, but I think my forearm sweat would soak such a towel before it was even useful on my face.
4. Drink and refill your bottle at EVERY opportunity.
5. But don’t stop for too long, because once you lose that tiny bit of run-induced evaporation, your face is going to get sweatier. And your hands will be too sweaty to wipe your face. And you’ll get sweat in your eyes. And you’ll wipe your eyes with your (sweaty) hands, making the problem worse. Have I mentioned that sweat is the bane of the tropical runner’s existence?
6. Triple Ziploc your valuables. I actually don’t have a good solution for carrying stuff and keeping it dry (from sweat and downpours). I see plenty of locals (non-Caucasians) out for runs with iPhones and iPods in armbands, or even in their hands – but this would never, EVER work for me. I guess these other folks just aren’t as sweaty as I am, but I’d sweat through that thing and have the phone ruined in half an hour. In fact, I already ruined one phone with sweat. And I’ve yet to find a company that makes a reasonably-sized waterproof pouch of any kind. So I usually leave my phone at home. Sometimes, I’ll move my SIM card into an old phone we have and bring that along.. Every once in awhile, I’ll risk the Ziploc method with my iPhone. But it makes me nervous.
7. Figure out a re-hydration strategy that works for you. I won’t belabor the point, but drink. A lot. And once your workout hits 45-60 minutes, get in some electrolytes (through a drink, or chews/gels, or salt tabs, or some combination). Bottom line: Drink when you’re thirsty (which will probably be all the time), and if you have a headache after your run, or later in the day, your electrolytes are probably off. Experiment to find what works. I had this all settled in the US, but I’m still experimenting to find what works for me out here.
8. Leave an old towel (or a pile of them) at the door. Because the minute you step inside, the sweat will be pouring off you. Frankly, I immediately strip out of my dripping clothes and put on some “intermediately dirty” duds (which, yes, also get sweat-soaked) while I cool off, stretch, re-hydrate, etc. Then, put that towel on the floor under the drying rack where you hang your wet clothes to dry. Otherwise, those clothes will drip all over the floor. Yum.
And that’s all I’ve learned so far. Take it – or not – as you will. And please, please, be careful in the heat. Be smart, be safe, slow down and cool off if you feel unwell (weak, dizzy, light-headed, nauseous, crampy, goose-bumpy, and/or fast-pulsed). Obviously, seek medical attention if your symptoms get serious.
But I can’t leave you all a post without any photos. So here are a few random shots that have nothing to do with humidity or running:
Why don’t “heat” and “sweat” rhyme?
Have any brilliant suggestions for keeping my iPhone safe and DRY while I’m running?
[besides leaving it at home…]
What do YOU “sometimes just need”?