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August 8, 2020

Gotta’ Run: Humidity and other updates

Running is a daily struggle right now with the oppressive south Florida-style humidity. On a recent morning, I planned to do 5-6 miles but tempered those plans early. I leave in the dark, about 5:15 a.m., and noticed right away a low-hanging ground fog on the farm. Another day with no bounce in my legs was quickly apparent. I finished four miles in a full fog, at 75 degrees and 95% humidity, according to the National Weather Service. A mile cool-down walk was the perfect finish.

What happens to your body in warm and extremely humid conditions? In those conditions, if you are intent on getting in a quality workout outside, lessen your expectations. Opt for a shaded path or early morning darkness. Make sure to hydrate properly and let go of any time-based goal. Run by feel instead of pace. With high humidity, heart rate can increase by 10 to 20 beats per minute, which will make your perceived effort much greater.

When you run, your core body temperature naturally rises, and your sweat glands produce droplets that carry excess heat to the surface of the skin, where it evaporates. But humidity prevents sweat from evaporating, so the heat stays put. On a hot, humid day with no breeze, you lose a key way to get rid of your building body heat, which can make running dangerous if you continue to push the normal pace. 

If your body heats up and gets more and more dehydrated, it goes into survival mode, maintaining blood flow to your essential organs (to keep you alive) and to your skin (to regulate temperature). Less blood will flow to your GI tract and you may feel nauseous as a result. You may also find your breathing becomes shallow and uneven. And your heart rate will escalate as your ticker and lungs work overtime trying to deliver oxygen throughout your body.

 If you continue to push, your brain temperature will rise, which makes matters worse. Your ability to assess your own body temperature will become difficult and you can also start to lose control over body mechanics. I find pretty quickly that my form is not as efficient as usual and my foot strike becomes sloppy and forced. Dizziness or disorientation can come next.

The good thing is that we are 2/3rd of the way through our humid summer and this long string of sticky days is due for a break. We’re fortunate to have all four seasons here and this humid stretch will just make us appreciate the better conditions coming soon.

Bottom line, keep running but don’t expect as much. A day with a run is better than any other day!

In other news, many of you may have read that bikes, running shoes and other items used for personal fitness are in short supply. Good running shoes are essential and won’t wait once they are used up. Locally, Ralph Baker Jr. of Ralph Baker Shoes said, “We’ve been fortunate that while supply has been affected, we’ve not been deeply impacted. Most of our imported shoes come from Asian countries other than China so supply hasn’t been so much of an issue, but logistics is another topic. Many of the U.S. distribution centers are working on limited hours and just can’t get the product shipped out as quickly or efficiently as usual. The good news is that we buy nine months in advance and we have plenty of inventory in stock!”

New bikes and other exercise equipment remain in short supply. The one positive from the virus outbreak is that many of our neighbors continue to expand their exercise. Even with the summertime conditions, I love seeing so many locals out pushing forward with their own health considerations.

Normally, it would be time for a report on Robin and Isaac, the duo who have previously participated in the Post’s 2020 wellness challenge. Both are no longer in the program. A report will follow next week.

At press time, Salisbury’s 23rd Annual Run for the Greenway 5K is still on tap for Saturday, Aug. 15, at Knox Middle School. Race director Steve Clark said, “We are on go unless Gov. Cooper changes something.” Several successful nearby road races have followed new safety guidelines in recent weeks.
Keep updated at salisburyrowanrunners.org . Our next beginning runners class is set to begin on Sept. 10.

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