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The Ideal Summer-Running Pace

By Susan Paul, Runner’s World
7/30/2014 11:13:21 AM

The biggest problem runners face when running in the heat is adjusting to the higher temperatures and humidity. When summer arrives gradually, temperatures and humidity levels rise slowly, which gives runners time to adapt and acclimate to this "new normal." Unfortunately, this summer many parts of the country have been hit with high temperatures and high humidity almost overnight, giving runners very little or no adaptation time.

Heat illness is serious, deadly serious, so, what's a runner to do? First, slow down! And then, second, use these adverse conditions to your advantage.

Credit: Runner's World

RELATED: How Heat Affects Your Fat Burning

Heat and/or humidity increase the physical stress on the body and therefore, increase the intensity or effort of the run, which results in higher heart rates. For example, let's say your 9:40 min/mile in good weather elicits a heart rate of 120 beats per minute (bpm). Hot, humid weather can easily add 20 beats or more to a runner's average heart rate. This means that the same run pace will now elicit a much higher heart rate. Your 9:40/min mile may now elicit a heart rate of 140 bpm or more. The higher heart rate makes that 9:40/mile run pace uncomfortable; hence, we are forced to slow down. The "slow down factor" varies from runner to runner, but in general, slowing down 30 to 90 seconds per mile is common in hot/humid weather.

RELATED: 3 Ways to Safely Run in a Heat Wave

Runners hate slowing down because they fear losing their conditioning and/or not being able to achieve their goal race pace on race day. Put your fears to rest because you can turn running in the heat to your advantage. A large part of training is related to the heart rates achieved during training. Even though your training pace has slowed down, your heart rate will still remain in the 120 bpm range and possibly be even higher because of the adverse weather. Your body becomes conditioned to that heart rate range regardless of the actual run pace. When the weather cools down, and you run at that heart rate, you will find you are able to run your 9:40 pace and probably even a bit faster after slogging through tough conditions! Come cooler temperatures, you'll feel like you lost 10 or 20 lbs. overnight and have to be careful not to go out too fast on race day!

RELATED: Prevent Muscle Cramps During Summer Training

Now, the downside is that by slowing the run pace, training is not as specific. A slower run pace means specific muscle fibers may not get recruited due to the change in stride and therefore, these muscle fibers may not receive all the conditioning they normally would at the faster run pace. But, by focusing on your heart rate instead of run pace, you can learn to use hot weather to your advantage. It's sort of like making lemonade out of lemons.

Along with slowing down run pace, here are some more tips for surviving the summer without derailing your training....

For the full list of tips, continue reading on Runnersworld.com.

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