The hot summer in Texas had an early start in June and is now carrying over into July. The heat makes it tough for runners almost any time of the day or evening. Early morning and late evening seem to be the best time to get a run in that allow any kind of distance or pace work. The short speed workouts are one alternative because the time in the heat is shorter. For longer runs, water stops or water backpacks are a necessity. It is tough to be a Texas runner during a hot summer.
There are a few alternative workouts that can take the place of running in the heat. Running inside on a treadmill is one good workout to avoid getting overheated on a run. A runner can try other indoor machines that work the cardiorespiratory systems and also bring in other muscle action. A stationary bike is a good workout for leg strength and aerobic benefits, and the amount of time the runner can exercise is usually increased. The rowing machine is another great workout for a runner. The movement back and forth on the sliding seat develops leg strength. The pulling of the oars develops the arms and upper and lower back muscles. Rowing is considered one of the best workouts for overall strength and aerobic conditioning. For a runner, the rowing exercises are a great carryover.
One other alternative workout for a runner is water resistance. Injured runners that have leg injuries that prevent the pounding on the pavement have used floatation vests to run in water. It is a non-weight bearing activity for the legs but is still good for aerobic benefits and the legs can move fast or slow to simulate running. The resistance of the water gives enough strength development for an injured leg to recover without harm. The water pressure around the chest area helps with breathing benefits that can almost be like running sprints and having to breathe hard.
People tend to forget that water can offer a surprising amount of resistance for muscle development. This is especially true if the water is moving. Water resistance increases exponentially with every mile increase in speed. If the water speed goes from two miles an hour to four miles per hour, it is doubled in speed but the resistance is four times as great. We are blessed in San Marcos with a natural flowing river. There are areas along the river where the water is just above knee-deep, which makes it a perfect place to run against water resistance. Imagine running intervals upstream for 10-20 yards. The water resistance will increase leg strength and with the water knee-deep, the runner will find it helps to have a higher knee lift. The runner may have to select an off hour when the river is not overflowing with people trying to cool off or an abundance of tubers. The benefits include being outside for a run and if the runner starts to overheat, the easiest way to cool off is to lay down full-body in the river. Running upstream in the river is a win-win type of workout.
If the runner has access to a pool, this is another good alternative workout. It works best for the runner to get in waist-deep water. This allows enough weight above the water to let the runner touch the bottom of the pool with their feet without floating. The increase in depth to waist-deep in a pool makes up for the resistance of running in knee-deep flowing water of the river. Run across the width of the pool at a “fast” speed and then walk back for recovery. It is a good workout and allows the runner to stay cool and refreshed.
Whether you run in the water indoors or outdoors, the run is much cooler and has less danger of heat exhaustion or heat stroke. And the added benefit of water is that you can also swim for a workout. The benefit of swimming is the need for controlled rhythmic breathing. You can swim fast for one lap and recover on the return lap. You can set a steady pace and swim for a distance. The ratio of swimming to running is roughly one to four. Swimming a quarter of a mile is equivalent to running one mile. The effort you put into the swim is the same effort you would put into running. The one difference that is most noticeable in the benefits of swimming as exercise is the skill of the swimmer. Good swimmers are much more efficient in the water than unskilled swimmers. An unskilled swimmer gets a good workout just swimming from one end of the pool to the other end.
Be cautious of exercise in hot weather and maybe try a water workout as an alternative.