This is a question runners ask as official rituals of summer’s end ensue… the start of school, the end of summer vacations, the closing of your neighborhood pool… but the heat and humidity is still here. Why? (said in my best, whiny, childlike voice…)
Indeed, if you are training for a fall marathon, cooler temperatures, air that doesn’t feel so humid that it seems you are breathing in a sweater, and sun that doesn’t seem to burn you to a crisp in 10 minutes are all things we look forward to as we move out of September and into October.
For most of us training for fall races, we are now in what we refer to as “the deep end of the pool.” That is, all of our weekend long runs are going to be 12 miles or more until taper. That’s a lot of time on your feet! It’s also during this stretch of training that we typically develop some version of imposter syndrome, asking yourself if training runs are this hard, how will I ever be able to run a marathon? I’ve now been through 7 training cycles. This is number 8. I ask myself this question multiple times every season! But, truly, it’s not you. It’s the heat and humidity.
So, what’s a runner to do? Since we can’t control the weather, let’s look at what we CAN control as we enter serious training miles:
Are you getting enough? Sometimes it’s challenging to get enough rest before a big jump in mileage as nerves kick in the night before a training run, so concentrate on the night before that. Make sure you aren’t skimping during the week, too.
Are you eating well? Now, this looks different for everyone. You know I’m vegan, but I’m definitely not perfect. And I absolutely feel better if I’m eating enough carbs and concentrating on a cleaner diet. That means reducing junk food, sadly! And I try to listen to what my body wants, which after a run is usually salt. There’s a reason for that craving:
We sweat out a lot of water and salt when we run. Make sure you are replacing fluids and electrolytes regularly. Especially the day or two before a big run when you are expecting hot and humid conditions, drink water and electrolyte replacements like it’s your job! Hopefully you will avoid a post-run dehydration headache this way!
- Extra curricular exercise
AKA: Cross-training. What kind are you doing? If you want to see what heavy lifting does to your performance during your runs, check out this post. Strength training should be maintained at this point, but not shooting for all-out Rx workouts at your CrossFit box, hitting heavy olympic lifts in the gym, or trying new and strenuous workouts as we enter “hell month.” The wear and tear on your body from your long runs will be enough stress on your body. When I was doing CrossFit, I ended up injured both marathon training seasons that I did both. Need some ideas? Look at my marathon training survival guide. Also follow @dr.lisa.dpt on Instagram. She’s a local Richmond PT who posts really good info about strength and mobility training for runners.
How about those shoes? Noting any increased aches and pains that can’t all be attributed to the gradual increase in miles? It may be your shoes! If you’ve been in the same ones since before this training season started, it’s likely time for new ones. I highly recommend going to a dedicated running store to be fitted for shoes, even if you fully understand the mechanics of your running gait. Shoes change every year when companies upgrade to the latest models. Good stores have good associates who understand this. And they should do a running gait analysis, as this may be much different than your walking gait pattern.
Another gear issue that requires attention is lighting! Sometimes getting your weekday miles in requires starting or ending in the dark. It’s less likely you will have an unpleasant encounter with a car or unexpected change in your terrain if you can see and be seen. My recommendations? A headlamp so you can see your path, and a NoxGear vest so you can be seen!
Are you #teamepsomsaltbath or #teamicebath? I personally prefer a hot epsom salt bath as part of my recovery after a run. The magnesium helps reduce cramping, and the heat helps move along the inflammatory process that helps to build muscle. That’s what the latest research tells us. Make sure a good meal is a part of your recovery within an hour or so after your run. And, yes, things like gentle stretching and foam rolling are still a good part of your recovery. But now is also the time in training to check out a yoga class. Look for one that is Yin, recovery, or restorative in nature.
- Don’t obsess about the training schedule!
I promise that if you miss a run, your training will not fall apart. To my Sports Backers participants, your coaches can help you with questions on how to adapt if something isn’t working for you. Personally, I stick with a 3 run per week schedule, making sure I get that mid-week longer run and my weekend long run. I swap one of my runs for another cross-training day. It’s just what works for me.
- Find a buddy!
If you haven’t found a running partner through your training yet, now is the time! See if you can find someone or a group to meet for your mid-week longer runs, especially as we move up into 8, 9, and 10 miles for these runs. Having a partner for accountability helps so much! For my Sports Backers participants, feel free to post in our private Facebook group to find a match!
- Remember your Why
That’s right. Maintaining your focus in training on WHY you are going through all of this craziness is half the battle. If you want a reminder about why we run the marathon, check out this post. The game is mental, for sure, but typically in a good way. You will feel like a stronger, tougher soul having endured this experience and seeing it through. As my friend Sarah told our friend Lisa as Lisa wanted to give up at mile 17 of her first marathon, the pain of not finishing will be far greater than the pain of the next 9 miles of the race. And in this season, we only have about 2 months left. We can do this!
Summer won’t last forever. But if you have any doubts about the effects of global warming, ask a runner! Summers seem to last longer and get hotter than ever before. Even so, the cooler, crisper fall and winter temperatures will eventually arrive. Those first runs in amazing weather will feel lighter, faster, and reassuring. I promise, if I can do this, you can, too!
Lead photo is courtesy of my friend Bill Draper. He is an amazing photographer and an accomplished runner, and if you don’t already follow him on Instagram, you should! And if you love the RVA and the James River Park System, he has a book that he created as a fundraiser for the park. https://g.co/kgs/eYnNy4 @billdraperphotography
Are you training for a fall marathon? Is the heat and humidity starting to wear on you? I’d love to hear about it! As always, I hope you all are safe and healthy.