Better than a bag of ice down your shorts

You’ve probably seen one of those lunatic runners out there trudging through the searing heat, sweat streaming down his body and pooling at his feet like he’s melting into the asphalt.

Makes you thirsty just to watch, doesn’t it? And you’ve likely asked, with equal parts pity and bewilderment, “Is he NUTS?”

I know, because I’m one of those lunatic runners. And I ask myself the same question.

But I’ve also learned a few things about beating the heat … okay, you can’t really beat the heat, but you can at least wrestle it to a draw. Of course it’s nuts to run six or seven miles when the heat index is soaring above 100 degrees. But sometimes it’s a necessary insanity. If you’re training for a marathon in the fall, you have to suffer through the summer heat. Take shortcuts now, start skipping runs because it’s too hot, and you’ll regret it later.

I used to run in the (relative) cool of the morning, until I joined a running club. The very first evening I was supposed to meet up with my new running buddies, the temperature was hovering around 95 degrees. Will they still run during a heat advisory? I wondered. Little did I know how crazy this group really is. Apparently they run hot or cold, rain or shine, never mind the tornado siren. After a miserable first day out, though, I was surprised how quickly my body adapted.

Short of slipping a bag of ice in your running shorts, what can you do to survive running in this heat?

Hydrate, without sloshing

The best strategy I’ve discovered this summer is a new product from Herbalife called Hydrate, part of the Herbalife24 sports nutrition line of products. Hydrate is a powder that comes in a small, convenient pouch, contains lots of electrolytes but only 15 calories, and mixes easily in 16 ounces of water. It has a subtle tangerine-citrus taste with only one gram of sugar.

Hydration isn’t just about drinking water. The sweat that you lose during exercise contains sodium, potassium, magnesium, calcium, and other salts and minerals. Hydrate contains all of that, along with a host of B vitamins to support carbohydrate metabolism. This is not an energy drink — there’s no caffeine, no carbs, no protein, no funky Oriental roots. This is all about hydration.

Make sure you’re well hydrated before you start running. On a hot day, when I know I’ll be running in the early evening heat, I mix two packets of Hydrate in my 32-ounce water bottle and sip on it during the entire day. By the time I leave the office, I am fully hydrated and don’t feel thirsty despite the heat.

This works for other activities, too, not just running. When I went to the U2 concert with Brian the Bass Player last week, we drank Hydrate during the afternoon before the outdoor concert. Temps were in the 90s, but we weren’t nearly as hot and thirsty as we expected. I know folks (including my wife) who work long shifts in hot environments and attest that Hydrate makes a huge difference.

Another piece of advice: a wet, cool towel over the back of the neck is worth its weight in gold.

Any other ideas? What tips can you offer to help the rest of us survive this summer’s heat wave? (Responses should not include the words “air conditioning.”)