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Summer Running Isn't for Sissies ... But It's Possible

Bette Davis once said that getting old isn’t for sissies.

(Ain’t that the truth?)

But with apologies to the famed actress, I’ll offer a slight variation on the theme — running in Oklahoma in the summer isn’t for sissies. It’s sunny. It’s hot. It’s humid, thanks a month of rain the likes of which we’ve never seen before.

In short, it’s miserable.

An admission — maybe I’m being too harsh. After all, I’ll pick running when the wind chills are in the single digits than when we have a heat index any day.

But even if you like running when it’s warmer, running in this neck of the woods can be brutal from May through September. That’s true whether you’re a high-level runner or a regular jogger or a beginner.

As I wrote on my blog last week, I’m undertaking a personal challenge this summer. I want to better my time and pace in 5Ks, but I also want to work on handling the heat better. Last week being our first with temperatures in the 90s was a good time to start working on heat tolerance.

A few things that I learned:

*Take it easy: When it’s hot but you want to get in a run, the best thing to do is ease off. I ran a couple times in the late afternoon, and it was rough. But I didn’t push myself. Sure, I’d love to be able to run really fast every time out, but I know that getting out there now and getting used to the heat, getting acclimated to the temperatures, will help down the road.

*Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate: I’ve admitted as much before, but I’m not a great water drinker. I just don’t think about drinking water throughout the day. So, I have to do some things to remind myself. Fill a water bottle at the house before I leave for work. Finish it before I have that second cup of coffee at the office. Refill after lunch. Finish it before I go home. Granted, that doesn’t get me all the water I need for one day, but I gets me down the road.

Speaking of how much water you need … I heard an interesting rule of thumb the other day. Take your weight, cut it in half, and the number you’re left with is how many ounces of water you need every day. And if you’re exercising, you need even more. That gives you an idea of how much you have to hydrate.

*Small goals are best: If we lived in a cooler climate, this might be different, but in Oklahoma, it’s best to set small goals for the summer. I want to improve my 5K time. I’ve run 5Ks before, so the distance isn’t a huge issue. But I have a small goal of improving my time. I’m not looking to shave off five minutes or anything. Just improve.

To that end, I’ve started doing some speed intervals. After running a mile to warm up, I run one block at a faster pace, then back off to my regular pace for one block. Then one block fast followed by one block regular. Every time I’ve done that, I’ve had mile splits that are faster than what I normally run — and I don’t feel like I’m overextending myself.

That’s because, as I said before, you have to take it easy when running in the summer in Oklahoma. “Go faster for a block” doesn’t mean “run so fast you puke.”

Moderation, my friends. Moderation.

Running is supposed to be fun, after all. Or at least not miserable. The Oklahoma heat makes it tough, but take it easy, hydrate and set small goals. If I can make it, so can you.

Jenni Carlson

Jenni Carlson, a sports columnist at The Oklahoman since 1999, came by her love of sports honestly. She grew up in a sports-loving family in Kansas. Her dad coached baseball and did color commentary on the radio for the high school football... Read more ›