You gotta have guts, good ones that is

The metro (Atlanta) has had a very mild summer.  90 degree days have been few and far between and no 100s.  As such running has been a fairly joyful experience, then August happened.  It’s still not really “Georgia hot” as we’ve been right at 90 but the humidity has been absolutely out of this world.  Creature of habit that I am I still run outside only on the weekends and only in the morning, which happens to be when the humidity is at its highest.

So what had happened was…
Last Saturday, I really didn’t feel like going as I was tired from the week, tired from my other workouts and just plain old tired.  I checked my Accuweather app and in spite of the the reported 100% humidity I took my tired tail to a park that I’d not been to in a long while, thinking different energy, different people would motivate me and I would enjoy the run.   The park was fine, this particular trail is a shorter one which was fine as it turns out. After my usual quarter mile walking warm up I started plodding along, slower than usual, knowing that this climate was not conducive for pushing pace.  I checked my mile time and though I’m a slow runner, my time was way slower than usual.  My legs were feeling like lead, I was sweating bullets but could not cool off at all.  I got to 5 miles (was scheduled for 6.5) stretched briefly and jumped in the car and went home.

The routine is usually, shower, food, nap and then the rest of my daily activities.  However that plan was delayed a bit by my bad guts, it didn’t stop me from my routine however, I ate, and napped as usual, but was really busy up until Monday, so busy that I didn’t drink much and didn’t eat well.  By Monday, which is a scheduled treadmill running day I was screwed, never made it to the gym my stomach was giving me fits until about noon that day.  This weekend was a repeat performance, humidity was near 100% yesterday morning. I sweated like crazy, put in 6.25 miles and followed routine except for the nap.  In fact I was busy all day yesterday and worked early this morning.  After work and breakfast this morning, I’d planned to go to church, my guts had other ideas. I figured dehydration was a problem and food choices were a problem as well.  I let Google do the research for me and here’s what I found out.

Running in humidity
Type in “running in heat and humidity” and you’ll get over 11 million results.  What I found most helpful was an article from Runner’s World, which explains in layman’s terms the impact humidity has on the body.  Basically, the higher the humidity, the harder the body works to stay cool.  Humidity makes sweating inefficient at cooling the body because the sweat doesn’t evaporate.  As the body heats up, the adverse effects pile up, dehydration, increased body temperature, increased heart rate, changes in mechanics and judgment and possible heat illness.  Age and weight can exacerbate these issues.
About Dehydration
From the Mayo Clinic: “Dehydration occurs when you lose more fluid than you take in, and your body doesn’t have enough water and other fluids to carry out its normal functions. If you don’t replace lost fluids, you may get dehydrated.”  Reading through the symptoms, causes and risk factors, I knew that more than food, dehydration was the cause of my GI problems. My risk factors are pretty high and include:
  • Diabetes
  • Medications (all the ones I take adversely impact hydration)
  • Inadequate fluid intake
  • Age
  • Climate
  • Cumulative effect – “Dehydration is also cumulative over a period of days, which means you can become dehydrated with even a moderate exercise routine if you don’t drink enough to replace what you lose on a daily basis.” I exercise 5 days a week 3 of those days are running days in which I sweat plenty.  I’m also peri-menopausal meaning I might bust out a hot flash every now and again or a night sweat and I can say with certainty, I am ALWAYS dehydrated
But what about those bad guts?
This isn’t a simple answer but a number of factors that can contribute to GI issues for runners include the simple jostling of the gut during running, food choices before, during and after run and dehydration.  Knowing my risk factors and habits, I’m re-thinking this whole running in the humidity thing.  If I want to continue to run in humidity (heat isn’t as much of a problem for me), I’ll need to make some adjustments like thesethese and these or, I may just have to let it go until the climate moderates here during the fall and winter.  I’ll let you know how it goes.
What about you.  Have you had GI problems during or post run/exercise? Have you narrowed down the culprit? Have your issues been resolved and what did you do? I’d like to know, so please share in the comments.
Until next time see you on the trail.