Hot Running: Heat, Humidity and Dew Point

There is a great article in Running Times this month called It’s Not the Heat, Nor the Humidity.  You can’t read it online, but the ladies over at The Bitchy Runners have summarized it and created a replica of the dew point chart that you should check out.

I incorporate race training into my run commute.  It’s not that exciting, but it can be pretty intense based on which route I am running at the time (hills vs. flat).   Sometimes during the summer, it REALLY sucks the life out of me; almost to the point where I am worthless the rest of the day.  I always chalked it up to humidity, but after reading the RT article, I realized that what I should really be keeping an eye on is the dreaded dew point.

Wikipedia defines dew point as:

…the temperature to which a given parcel of humid air must be cooled, at constant barometric pressure, for water vapor to condense into water. The condensed water is called dew. The dew point is a saturation temperature.

Part of a body’s cooling process is sweating.  If the dew point is high, the air cannot accept very much additional water vapor into it.  So a runner’s sweat will remain on his/her skin longer which in turn slows down the cooling process.  If you can’t thermoregulate properly, you’ll feel like a crap sandwich (and a soggy one at that).

Here is what Atlanta’s last 24 hours looks like (from the National Weather Service):

I could only swing 2 miles this morning at 7:00 am (dew point = 73, temp = 77).  While the dew point was high and I was running much slower than usual, I cut my run short by 3.5 miles (took the train) so I didn’t wear myself out as I have to run an additional 4 – 8 miles after work.

On days like this, just forget about training.  Take it easy and shut your stopwatch off so you aren’t tempted to pick up the pace.  Carry water with you and regularly sip it throughout your run.  And just listen to your body – if you’re sucking, stop running and walk for a bit.

Be careful out there!

About the Author:

Josh
Editor-in-Chief of The Run Commuter by night, paralegal by day. Father of three boys. Husband to the world's greatest bicycle advocate. Avid runner. Lover of beer and urban gardening. Can be found running with a backpack around the streets of Atlanta, Georgia. Contact Josh at info@theruncommuter.com

4 Comments

  1. Kyle
    Kyle July 14, 2011 at 10:31 am - Reply

    Further incentive to slow down in such heat: recall Zachary Gregory, who died in the yellow-, then red-, and finally black-flagged Chicago Half Marathon in June, 2011. Others were hospitalized. http://huff.to/iteQnP

    My dad used to intone every time one of us set out to drive somewhere, “Don’t worry about getting there fast, just get there.” Mikey T. is a wise man.

  2. Angie July 14, 2011 at 5:44 pm - Reply

    Thanks for the shout out! I can’t believe your dew point was so high with such a nice temperature! I guess it’s not just Texas that sucks for summer running!

  3. […]  My speed has suffered a little, though I’m not sure if it is from the shoes or the ridiculously high temps and dew point we’ve had so far this summer.  The changeover has been slow, but it’s been injury free […]

  4. Bon Crowder @MathFour June 13, 2014 at 3:37 am - Reply

    Okay, so this explains a bit about why my first three days have caused me to feel like cultured pot-roasted crap after I get back home. The dew points have been 66d, 69d and 75d!

    I just downloaded the accuweather app that gives dewpoint and I’ll take it slower when the dewpoint is way up there.

    Thanks so much for the info!

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