It’s Not The Heat, It’s The Sweat: Running Edition – Movement Labs

It’s Not The Heat, It’s The Sweat: Running Edition

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 ZippyDefy 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:

Sometimes, you just need a cupcake. Preferably, a Cookies & Cream cupcake.

Sometimes, you just need a cupcake. Preferably, a Cookies & Cream cupcake.

Sometimes, you just need a lake. And you *might* even be able to find one that isn't framed by skyscrapers.  If you go up to Mandai Road.

Sometimes, you just need a lake. And you *might* even be able to find one that isn’t framed by skyscrapers. If you go up to Mandai Road.

And yes folks, on occasion, Holly actually wears Big Girl Shoes.  Shocking, I know.

And sometimes, you just need fantastic shoes. Yes folks, on occasion, Holly actually wears Big Girl Shoes. Craziness!

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”?

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  1. Allee @ Griselda Mood May 23, 2013 at 2:59 am - Reply

    Like I said yesterday, us Rochestarians are having a “heat wave” of the mid 80s right now and when my husband complained while sitting in our a/c house…I was like “LISTEN! My blogging buddy in Singapore deals with much crazier heat and often without a/c.” I then proceeded to give him a rundown (by memory, I might add) of all your tips. That’s my “I’m a Blog Stalker” comment for the day, haha 😉

    • Holly KN May 23, 2013 at 8:19 am - Reply

      Hahahaha. Good to know it was (?) useful (?).

      I really do think it’s harder, though, when the weather changes SO quickly and SO dramatically – you can’t ever “get used to” anything. [Except dark & cold. Rochester kinda does let you get used to dark & cold!]

  2. Oh I’m totally not looking forward to the Toronto summer.It’s generally about 33C plus really bad humidity. It’ll be interesting to see how my body responds this year after all the Bikram Yoga that I’ve been doing.

    I like your hat strategy! I always get really nasty painful salty sweat going into my eyes during Yoga but you can’t wear a hat there 🙁

    A big thing I’ve learned from Bikram Yoga is not to wipe your sweat. It’s there to help you cool down so wiping it off defeats the purpose 😛

    • Holly KN May 23, 2013 at 8:21 am - Reply

      It will be interesting to see after Bikram. I sometimes wonder why anyone would want to do Bikram out here…you could just do regular yoga in your living room! (kidding – sort of!) “Not wiping or fussing with sweat” was one of the hardest Bikram lessons for me to learn when I was practicing it. The sweat drips TICKLED. EVERYWHERE. But I wasn’t supposed to wipe them off – or even be DISTRACTED by them. Tall order!

  3. Logan @ Mountains and Miles May 23, 2013 at 7:19 am - Reply

    It’s in the upper 80’s today and humid. Not tropical humid, but not dry. I didn’t get up early enough to run, so now I’m just waiting for it to get dark and cool down a few degrees before I head out to get my run in. I tried a wrist band my last run and it was soaked in like two miles, ha.

    • Holly KN May 23, 2013 at 8:23 am - Reply

      Hahaha. I have to admit I’ve never tried it, but I just feel like that’s what would happen. And after awhile, who needs another sweaty, drippy piece of fabric hanging around??

      Hope the weather cools a bit for you!

  4. Debbie @ Deb Runs... May 23, 2013 at 8:12 am - Reply

    Please don’t make fun of me when you read about our “horrible humidity” today! I’m sure it’s laughable compared to Singapore’s humidity! Anyway, great tips!

    • Holly KN May 23, 2013 at 8:33 am - Reply

      But that was part of my point – I definitely WON’T make fun of you – the variability and unpredictability in the northeast makes adjusting really thoroughly an impossibility. The heat will always feel worse for you than for me – so I definitely won’t laugh at you!

  5. Hilary May 23, 2013 at 12:38 pm - Reply

    Obviously doing your runs early in the morning or in the evening is essential. One of the best things about cooler climates is not having to get up at 5am to get your long run done before temperatures get ridiculous.

    But I do agree with you totally that’s it much harder to deal with only intermittent heat – after 9 years of Singapore I’m more or less acclimatized – or maybe I’m just running much slower.

    • Holly KN May 23, 2013 at 7:14 pm - Reply

      I agree, if you’re out on the paths and roads – but I think on the trails, the time of day doesn’t make that much difference, really. Also, I think the humidity usually feels higher in the morning – although the temp is a bit cooler.

      Hahaha – probably a bit of both. See what happens in your first few races back in the US! 🙂

  6. grace May 23, 2013 at 4:42 pm - Reply

    My next comment is going to make you very, very jealous: I’ve been running here in NZ. The temperature in the morning is about 12 to 15 degrees celsius and I’ve been running in a tshirt and capris (practice race day outfit for Perth). I need gloves for about five minutes and then they come off. I feel like I could run and run for hours.

    • Holly KN May 23, 2013 at 7:15 pm - Reply

      Eh, it’s OK. I’m keeping my acclimatization, thankyouverymuch. 😉 This way, Perth will (hypothetically, because no fees have been paid) feel super-like-I-can-fly easy? [HAHAHA.]

  7. RunToTheFinish May 23, 2013 at 10:36 pm - Reply

    the title of this made me laugh so hard. After training in Miami for 4 years I still don’t feel like I’ve adjusted to the humidity, it just makes every long run feel longer to me and every speed work session feel slower. I do however employ lots of those tips, but never thought about changing my shirt…too lazy. once I’m running I don’t stop.

    • Holly KN May 23, 2013 at 10:46 pm - Reply

      Hahaha! Hi, Amanda – thanks for stopping by! Happy to provide a laugh here and there. I think there are certain things that are hard to fully appreciate until you’ve lived them. [Like, how my hands get too sweaty to wipe my eyes. I get prune fingers…WHILE I’M RUNNING. I didn’t even know that could happen!] Good to hear from someone who can relate.

      And yes, I agree – I’d be lying if I said I felt as sleek and speedy as I did in cooler climes (my times agree). But, at least everyone else out running is dealing with the same conditions. And I’m out doing something I love, so I can’t complain! [OK, I will complain, but just a little! Usually. :)]

  8. outside time (@itsoutsidetime) May 29, 2013 at 11:31 pm - Reply

    I just found your blog! This is awesome, thanks! I too am amazed by the ways the human body can adjust — I lived in south Florida for years, and only the first summer was a drippy, sticky mess. My first winter in Chicago was downright miserable..but I suspect if I had to stay here for a second one, I’d be just fine.

    I’m supposed to be base-building for a marathon while in Thailand next month, so thanks for letting me know what I’m in for!

    • Holly KN May 30, 2013 at 12:02 pm - Reply

      Thanks, and Welcome!! 🙂

      Thailand shouldn’t be anything that you weren’t used to in Florida. 🙂 And as someone who lived in Rochester, NY for 6 years, I understand the winter business. Some people say cold is easier, because you can always put on more clothes. But the cold, plus the wind, plus the dark…for me, getting motivated in the tropics is easier than trying to pry myself out of a cozy warm bed to run around in sub-zero temps. (I did it, but I didn’t always like it!)

      Enjoy your base building – and your trip! Personally, I can’t wait for the chance to pop over to Bangkok (just a few hours of fly-time from here)!

      [Also, just popped over to check out what you have going on in the Twitter-verse. Geesh, definitely a place I need to be getting myself, too, STAT.]

  9. John Fournier June 7, 2013 at 12:04 pm - Reply

    I’d love for you to check out sQoosh Bands so you can Sweat in Style! We’re in Tropical Florida so can totally relate! Hope it’s okay to post this… I’m always looking for people needing a sweatty relief!

    • Holly KN June 7, 2013 at 1:41 pm - Reply

      Thanks for the link, John! If there’s anyone who needs sweaty relief, it’s a heavy-sweating Caucasian in a tropical country! Checking out the website now. I’ll admit I’m intrigued… Will be back in the US in a few weeks, may just have to order one to test it out. 🙂

  10. […] Dealing with uber-humidity? Sure, she can totally write about that. […]

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