The groundhog may have said we’ve got another six weeks of winter on the way, but many parts of the United States are experiencing unseasonably warm temperatures already. With the wild temperature swings that can sometimes come at this time of year, it can be hard to get your body adjusted to running at any given temperature. Before you know it, though, warmer weather will be here to stay. If you typically have a hard time when the mercury rises, these simple tips might help your running sail into spring more smoothly.
- Layer up: The rapidly changing temperatures at this time of year can leave you miserable on the run if you’re not appropriately dressed. With the mornings often freezing and the temperatures increasing rapidly as the sun comes up, it’s possible to experience a 30-degree temperature swing during your long runs. I like to plan to run a warm-up mile or two near my car and then ditch my outerwear in my car before continuing on. Other runners wear a range of light layers, while some people simply dress for the warmest hour of their run and try not to freeze beforehand. Just resist the temptation to overdress and avoid overheating!
- Learn your heart rate zones. If you’re like me, you’ve probably found yourself flying along in the winter at paces you couldn’t dream of in the summer, accompanied by a low heartrate and a feeling of ease, only to be knocked down a peg when the temperatures warm up. It takes time for our bodies to acclimate to warmer weather. It’s helpful to learn your heart rate zones (tips can be found here) and adjust your pace accordingly while your body gets used to the heat. Run smart and you’ll be running fast again in no time!
- Hydrate appropriately. Many runners only take hydration seriously during the summer, when the weather is hot and (depending on the area) humid. As the weather heats up in the spring, though, the air is often still dry, meaning dehydration is accelerated without being as obvious. You’ll want to increase your fluid intake over your winter levels to support your body as it works harder in the warmer weather.
- Plan accordingly. One of the most challenging aspects of training for a spring goal race is how different training conditions can be from race conditions. After running all winter, your body is used to cold weather and may not be prepared for the surprise warmer weather that can happen in spring. Avoid a bad race day by making sure your long runs mirror race conditions to the extent possible. If you’re running a race later in the spring (such as May) or in a warm climate, consider doing a portion of your long run in the middle of the day, or during the warmest part of the day. If it’s cold where you live no matter what time of day, hop on the treadmill for a portion of your run. Early spring races are likely to be cold, so run early in the morning or later at night!
- Have fun! If you don’t love running in the heat, the change in seasons may not be welcome at this time of year. Still, there are new things to see on the run – blossoming flowers, new leaves on the trees – and of course, the joy of Daylight Savings Time! Have fun and enjoy it. After all, spring only comes once a year, and soon, we’ll all be sweating our way through the summer!