Saturday, June 21, 2014

Summer Slowdown

Today marks the official start of summer. And for many reasons, I welcome it with open arms. More than anyone, I am ready for days at the pool, cook outs, flip flops, and summer vacations. I am a summer girl through and through. As soon as the temperature starts inching towards the 90's, my whole mood changes. I really live for summer months. 

Except in one small area.... summer running!  I'm just gonna put it out there: summer running is a real bitch. No matter how hard I try, along with summer comes the inevitable slow down.  This time of the year, Houston is plain ol' hot and humid. Plain ol' hot and humid leads to plain ol' slow. I mean really slow. 

Yesterday morning on a five mile run I had to stop....twice. The day before that, I ran 3.1 miles and came home telling my husband it might have been the hardest 5k I'd ever run. It doesn't matter that I'm out the door running before 6:00 a.m.  Houston is already near 100% humidity and well into the 80's as soon as the sun rises. It doesn't matter that I've been hitting the treadmill intervals really hard lately or that I've stepped up my strength training game. None of it matters when I step out summer running. Once summer hits, runs feel less like a connection to the universe and more like a trip towards a slow death.  For me, summer running is not summer loving. 

Here is the thing: it's not just me. The summer slowdown happens to most runners and there is scientific reasoning for it.  The heat and humidity actually physically makes running more difficult by significantly increasing your heart rate and decreasing the evaporation rate of sweat (sweat is your body's natural cooling method). This leads to both perceived increased effort and actual increased effort.  Which, as I've mentioned, leads to some sever slowing of pace.  I came upon this chart the other day that made me feel a little better about myself. I've only been seeing about a 35 second her mile slow down, but it's good to know the slow down is normal.  
Of course, knowing it's normal is not much of a consolation. We runners (I can speak for you too now, right?) hate slowing down. Let's be honest, we live and die by those numbers on the Garmin. Seeing that pace number creep up and up is frustrating and discouraging. It's hard to know as a runner that you're doing everything right in your training, but not getting to see any of the results. 

Maybe that's the problem. We judge our results not by the effort we put into a run, but by the numbers we see on our wrist after the run. Maybe during this summer slow down the thing to do is focus on the  strength and endurance we are building and not on the speed in which we are doing it. Instead of needing the instant gratification of seeing an improved time, let's find the enjoyment in knowing that down the road, when the temperatures fall and the summer shorts are put away, we will be faster, stronger, better runners for having pushed on through the summer. 

In the meantime, I hear being red faced, covered in sweat, and crawling on your hands and knees is really in this season. What's that you say?  Oh, it's not?  Yeah, I figured. 

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