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I've been a loyal outdoor runner for years. Truth be told, I always thought my preference for outdoor training was, well, a preference. But, it turns out there's a bit of science behind why my outdoor workouts outperform my gym-bound ones. Not only can being outside in nature reduce blood pressure and heart rate, but it also can lower cortisol levels too, making it a natural de-stressor. What's more, exposure to sunlight is a natural way to get vitamin D, which can also help stabilize the mood. Naturally, when it comes to pushing the body to run for miles on end, a lower resting heart rate and blood pressure are critical to reach peak performance. And without a doubt, it's easier to power through a tough run when you set it up to be as stress-free as possible.
Beyond the physiological reasons behind it, I just genuinely love training outside. However, since my playground is the streets of New York where summers are notoriously scorching, this isn't always easy. But how I stay motivated — and cool — during sweltering summer workouts is actually pretty simple with the right mindset and gear to keep me going.
Plan my workouts, and stick to that plan
Not only does this mean I choose the days of the week I reserve for intervals, cross-training, and long runs, but it also means that I plan each individual workout itself. In the summer when temps rise every minute, this type of planning is critical. To avoid overheating, I make sure to select a time of day that will let me enjoy my workout before or after the most intense heat and sun of the day. For me, this typically looks like a post-work sunset run. What's more, I make sure to select a route that supports my training. Oftentimes on a true dog day of summer, this is a route that I'm familiar with (no surprise extra miles, please!), one that has natural stopping points for water breaks, and shady spots to help cool down.
Naturally, hydration is key for beating the heat, but keeping the fluids flowing doesn't just apply during a workout. It means before and after it, too. In fact, how you hydrate before you even hit the mat really matters. An hour prior to my workout, I aim for 16 ounces of an electrolyte drink or good old fashioned water to avoid sloshing. When it's go-time, I make sure to drink six to eight ounces of fluids for every 15-20 minutes. The important thing I remind myself is to consume water, even if I don't feel dehydrated.
Trust my body and my training
I've run four marathons — and for every single one of them, I trained in the summer. The biggest lesson I learned from doing this was to simply trust my body. Putting in the effort both in the gym and on the trail has given me the confidence to know that my body is up for a challenge like a marathon. I learned to trust myself and the training I've put in. More so, I've learned to listen to my body in a totally new way. For summer training, this means I've learned to pull back on my pace when I feel like I'm pushing too hard. I've learned to pay attention to when my body says it needs a break. And, most importantly, I've learned to give myself permission to take breaks.
What you wear can also be a game changer, especially now that cooling fabric technology goes beyond mere sweat-wicking. So gear up appropriately. Choose products that avoid chafing and discomfort, and don't forget to invest in pieces that keep your body heat dispersed. Keep reading for my essentials to avoid overheating during summer workouts.