Chi Focuses for Hot Weather Workouts

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All major weather forecasters are warning that the summer of 2012 could be as hot or hotter than last summer, which was the hottest since 1895. This means that those of us who run and walk for exercise will need to use discretion when our daily jaunts fall on hot days.

As with almost every activity we do, it’s the use of our mind that has the greatest effect on the outcome. In this case, we use our minds to make the difference between enduring heat and actually enjoying our workouts. Keeping your “cool” in the heat is the best way to befriend what could be a formidable adversary.

So, put mental focus and physical relaxation at the top of your Focus list. The better you use your mind to guide you through hot workouts and the more you relax, the less you sweat. Here is a list of Focuses to keep your mind engaged and help you expend less energy on hot days.

Hot weather running and walking can be divided into three levels:

1. Have a mindful response to heat:

  • Economize your running movement – it’s not the day to push your limits, so “shrink” your range of motion and soften your goals.
  • Shorten your running stride – it’s the first course of action to save energy and the easiest thing to do.
  • Use your lean for propulsion as much as possible. Avoid using your quads and lower legs to push you forward while running.
  • Engage your y’chi – feel yourself being pulled forward by focusing on a target up ahead.
  • Don’t take the heat personally. Are you feeling irritated, burdened, or overwhelmed by the heat? Do what you can to make friends with it. Mother Nature doesn’t have it out for you. A favorite phrase I repeat to myself is, “Heat is just another sensation.”
  • Do Body Scans often. Check in with your physical body as well as with your thoughts and emotions.
  • Don’t focus on the heat. Let your mind focus on what best serves you: relaxation, deep breathing, and efficient technique.

2. How to manage the discomfort of being hot:

  • Work on constant relaxation of all muscles and joints – head to toe.
  • Continually relax your arms and lower legs while running to avoid overusing them.
  • Wear a white, breathable baseball hat or sun visor to keep the sun off your face.
  • Wear a sweat band to keep the sweat off your face and out of your eyes.
  • Pour water on your wrists and the back of your neck.
  • Drink lots of water if you’re fueling with sweets, gels, etc. Sugars require your kidneys to work harder, so they need more water to process.
  • Wear a tech t-shirt or running tank that dries fast, yet allows plenty of air to pass through.

3. Precautions to take to stay out of physical danger

  • Know your body’s tolerances and adjust your workout parameters according to your specific needs.
  • Slow your pace … PRs and speed are out the window.
  • Shorten your distance.
  • Be aware that high humidity makes you sweat more but doesn’t allow for the evaporative cooling effect of wind. Take more water and electrolytes on humid days.
  • Drink at regular intervals. I carry a water bottle and take a mouthful every 8-9 minutes (set a countdown timer). This way you’ll avoid both dehydration and Hyponatremia (electrolyte deficiency caused by drinking too much water). Drink smaller amounts, but more often.
  • Take electrolytes at regular intervals. Electrolyte capsules work better than electrolyte drinks for giving you the right amount of salts. Take one every 45 minutes (set a countdown or alarm).
  • Run in the shade whenever possible.
  • Avoid running downwind. There’s little cooling effect when you’re moving the same speed as the air. Plan a route that gives you the most headwind or crosswinds.
  • Avoid wearing a dark shirt or one with a large logo on the front (blocks cooling wind).
  • Carry water with you and use it for drinking as well as dousing.

Some, or all, of these suggestions can help you maintain your fitness base and stay on track when hot weather conditions make it difficult to go running. Your job is to respond mindfully to the heat. In doing so, you'll find out what works best for you while making progress towards mastery over your circumstances and learn to run pain-free in even the hottest conditions.

Posted in Technique

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