Getting It Done in the Heat

It was 96 degrees Fahrenheit outside when I ran.

I’ve been asked why I run outside when it’s so hot, and why I don’t run on my treadmill indoors during the heat. It’s because I need to make sure my body is prepared and able to run during the worst conditions at all times. As a member of the military, I won’t get the privilege of dictating my environmental conditions during exercise or operations (combat or otherwise). If I can exercise in the worst of conditions, then operating in any condition not as severe will be much easier for me.

It was nearly 100 degrees Fahrenheit here. There is no time off for heat.

I don’t over-hydrate before runs, either. I never have. Why? Same reason; my body is accustomed to running at my normal hydration levels (and I admittedly stay well-hydrated throughout the day). If I run for anything more than an hour, then I’ll definitely drink before a run, and I’ll drink water with DropDrop ORS in it to replenish electrolytes and other nutrients, but for a normal workout? One half of a banana before exercise followed by another half of a banana is all I really need.

I must stress that when I run in the heat, I dial back the intensity. The hotter it is, the more I dial it back. My goal becomes completing the distance, not making a pace or time. When it cools down (under 83 degrees or so), I push myself harder because my body is able to utilize sweating to cool down enough, but otherwise, if it’s really hot out, I literally just take it easy and pay attention to any warning signs that may appear (no longer sweating, feeling dizzy, headache). If any of those symptoms come up (and they haven’t yet), then I will stop and seek shade, water, and assistance.

I also only run on the “Track” around the lake in front of my house when it’s very hot out. That way, if I need help for any reason, I’m no more than 100 yards from my home at any time. It’s also a very visible area, so if I were to go down, I’d be seen pretty quickly.

Another thing I do is run with LiveTrack on my Garmin Forerunner 945 watch. This watch sends out a beacon to my wife, daughter, and son and let’s them know I’m exercising, and provides them with a link to actually watch my progress as I run. If the device detects that I’ve fallen, my heart rate become erratic, or that I’ve stopped quickly with no further input, it notifies them and tells them there’s a problem.

I have found in the past that running in the extreme heat, while not very fun or comfortable, has prepared me well for cooler weather. Since I am needing to be ready for the ACFT in October, I don’t have the luxury of taking time off during the hottest times. “Then why don’t you use the treadmill in the A/C?” For a few reasons.

First, I vary my pace. Everyone does, actually, when running outdoors. I prefer being able to adjust my pace on the fly without needing to push buttons and trying to match a pace with how well I feel. I find that when building speed and stamina, it’s much more important that I can push my pace here and there naturally when my body feels like it’s up for it versus running a single pace for a long time. My treadmill is smart and has some workouts built in, but they’re not organic. I base my running pace and effort on how I feel. If I am energetic, I will push it. If I’m tired, I can dial it back.

Second, I have a hard time focusing and staying motivated to complete runs on the treadmill. I’ve watched movies, TV shows, YouTube videos, and music videos while I ran to try to keep me distracted long enough to complete a run, but my mind doesn’t accept it. It becomes drudgery, and I end up lowering the pace just to get through it and I don’t get as good of a workout with it.

So, running in the heat, it is. The kicker is that my runs follow a weightlifting session in my gym, so every time I go out and run, it means I’ve already completed my weightlifting and pull-ups/sit-ups/push-ups.

I never planned for my workouts to be structured this way, but when I tried to lift weights and run on alternating days, I found my muscles didn’t have a chance to recover (since every day is leg day for me). When I combined the weightlifting and the run days and allowed for recovery days in between, my progress became much better and I experienced far less fatigue and pain in my muscles. It turned out to be fortuitous: the Army Combat Fitness Test is a 6-event test that combines strength and cardio. My fitness plan actually compliments this well.

As a Warrant Officer, I have to be ready at all times for any job they give me.

So, when you see me running in the heat, know that I’m being safe, and that there are many good reasons for it. I take my job as a Soldier in the Army National Guard very seriously, and I feel that I need to be as prepared as I can be physically and mentally. Running in the heat helps me stay prepared and ensures that I can be relied upon to accomplish any task put before me.

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