We're right in the worst part!

A map to show you how bad the smoke is. My city is in the red portion.

This week has been all about one thing for me: beating the heat. I got up at my normal running time on Tuesday (9 a.m.) and was shocked to find the mercury already in the 80s. I opened the front door and felt the heat rush in on me as though I’d just opened the door to a hot oven. I figured I’d go running later that night instead, but boy was I wrong. It was over 100F for the rest of the afternoon and didn’t cool down until well into the later hours. So I’ve been getting up at the ungodly hour of 6:30 a.m. in order to get my training time in before the sweat really starts dripping.

Today I was really grateful that I managed to do that early workout because as the day progressed and the temperatures reached above 100 again the air became unbearable. This is in part due to smog, but is mostly due to the raging wildfires all over Northern California at the moment. How fortunate that my city happens to be right in the center of all the action, and in a valley no less. This means if there is no wind then all of the smoke settles right here for us to enjoy. Today and tomorrow are Spare the Air days in Sacramento, meaning it isn’t recommend for anyone to spend too much time outside today, not even if they’re just walking to the grocery store. One benefit is that public transportation is free on Spare the Air days in order to prevent people from walking long distances.

If you’re lucky enough to not have smoke-filled skies, be sure to follow some good advice on how to keep cool as summer heats up:

1. Drink lots of water! When you run in the heat you lose way more water than you do normally. A good way to know just how much to drink is to weigh yourself before and after you run. The amount of weight you lost was all water. Also, avoid caffeine and alcohol because they act as diuretics and can further deplete your water supply. IMPORTANT: Don’t wait until you’re thirsty! At this point you’re already dehydrated. Keep water on you and drink throughout the day.

2. If you’re running fewer miles (2 or 3), map out a one-mile loop that includes your house. Place a bottle of ice water where you can easily get to it. When you finish a mile poor some cold water on your head and into your hat to help keep you cool for the next mile. You can also stop to turn the hose on or go for your run when your sprinklers are scheduled to turn on.

3. Try running before the sun is at its hottest. I’m not an early riser either, but I prefer running in 80-degree weather rather than in 105-degree weather.

4. Wear sunglasses. Just like the rest of you, your eyes can be severely damaged by the sun, especially if you have lighter color eyes. Buy a good pair of sunglasses with UV protection. (This might help you to feel less like you’re running straight into the center of the sun as well, since your eyes will think you’re in the shade.)

5. Wear a hat. I know it might not be super comfy at first (I had a really hard time getting used to mine), but it really helps to not only keep you cool by keeping the sun off your head and face, but it keeps sweat from dripping into your eyes (learned this lesson this morning when I forgot my hat). Make sure to get a light colored hat (white is best) with good ventilation and wicking properties. You should be able to find this at pretty much any running or outdoors store.

6. Don’t wear cotton. Cotton clothes tend to stick to you and weigh you down. They don’t breathe as well as the DriFit fabrics. Plus they can cause chafing. Super not fun. Trust me, you’ll thank me once you get a DriFit shirt or pants.

7: SUNSCREEN is a must. I am the biggest proponent of sunscreen ever. I wear sunscreen on my face pretty much all day, and I certainly wear it when I go running. I’ve already got some ugly sun damage on my face (from years of willful disobedince as a swimmer/diver/water polo player/swim instructor. My tan was so dark and my hair so blonde that my friends called me the poster child for skin cancer – turns out they might be right.), so I’m not taking any more risks. I like to use Coppertone’s Sport Sun Block with spf 50. It’s great because when you sweat you don’t get the stinging sensation as with some sunscreens, and it’s supposed to stay on even with sweating. Lastly, don’t you dare skimp on the sunscreen just because you can’t see the sun. Even on cloudy days, the sun is up there.

8. Consider running indoors. I’ve always felt like a hamster running on its wheel when I run indoors, but the air conditioning sure feels nice compared to 95 when I have to run 4 miles…

OK then, try to stay cool out there!