It’s hot out there. The kind of hot that makes people tired, grumpy, and unmotivated to venture far beyond the sweet relief of their AC. As a Charlotte native, you’d think I’d be used to it by now, but I am most definitely not. Whenever I make small talk about the weather (real original) and mention the oppressive heat and soupy humidity, the victim of my complaining will often ask “Where are you from originally?” as if to say, “Suck it up, buttercup. Welcome to the deep South in August.”
One comfort is that we’re all in this together. You’re not the only one mentally functioning below your usual 110%, having your blowout ruined in record time, or getting a wee bit on the “shiny” side during your march from car to office.
Luckily you can beat the heat with some careful planning (pack water everywhere you go, dress appropriately, etc.), even when venturing outdoors for a run. Although running on asphalt that is roughly the same temperature as the surface of the sun is both physically and mentally a big NOPE for many, it’s not unmanageable or unhealthy as long as you pay attention to what your body is telling you. In fact, your body is more readily equipped to adapt to heat than it is to altitude or cold, according to Lawrence Armstrong, heat researcher at the University of Connecticut. The fall race season offers participants near-perfect conditions as we approach cooler months, but training for those puppies is brutal. Picked out the perfect late September “half”? Great, fun training for it in 100+ degree weather. But not to fear, we have you covered (literally) with some “shady-in-the-good-way” picks for local running routes plus some tips for making your workout even cooler.
Shady (and some slim shady) Charlotte Routes:
Elizabeth Up-and-Back – 7 miles – I miss my old ‘hood and this route dearly. Although the stretch on Caswell is not heavily shaded, your tour through Chantilly and Myers Park more than make up for it. This is a longer route, so feel free to break it up however you’d like- heavy on the Elizabeth section or more in Myers Park! Looping through neighborhoods and down tree-lined roads is a great way to stay cool and also explore parts of town you might not otherwise have found.
Booty Loop – 2 miles – Real estate day dreaming pairs wonderfully with a jaunt on the Booty Loop. Regardless of the school of thought you subscribe to about the origins of this route’s name, its large oaks give you plenty of shade to tone your backside. Some people think it’s called the Booty Loop because of the… ahem… eye candy that frequents this area, others (myself included) prefer the more Disney/PG-rated idea that it’s because it whips your butt into shape with a few challenging hills and rewarding valleys.
Dilworth – 3-5 miles – This route is really fun to play with and improvise. Take a turn down a road that looks interesting and rest assured that you’ll be covered by the leafy Dilworth canopy along the way.
South Charlotte – 3 miles – Although hilly, you’ll be rewarded handsomely with lots of natural sun protection in the form of Myers Park’s famous trees.
Whitewater Center – The USNWC’s system of trails will keep you cool and covered, even when temps soar.
Irwin Creek Greenway – located in 3rd/4th Ward, this greenway has plenty of mature trees. I love riding my bike here because there are parts that feel like you’re in the mountains. Use caution, however, as this area doesn’t have heavy traffic/crowds- ultimately a plus!
4 Mile Creek – a true gem in Matthews. Parking is available at Squirrel Lake Park located at: 1631 Pleasant Plains Road Matthews, NC 28105.
Rail Trail Up-and-Back – 4 Miles – Although you’ll struggle to find shade on the Rail Trail, there are plenty of water fountains along the way to make up for it. Even in high temps, this is one of my favorite routes for it’s flat terrain and South End hospitality. Rail Trail people are my kind of people!
- Don’t forget the sunscreen. Make sure it can last through an especially sweaty session too.
- Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. But remember to replace electrolytes! Hypoatremia occurs when you’ve effectively washed away your body’s electrolytes and is as dangerous to your health as dehydration. Plan for water stops or BYO. From belts to handheld hydration helpers, there are a plethora of products available for your preferences. WeTap even does part of the work for you with maps of public water fountains in your area.
- Run early if you can. I used to be a pro at this pro tip, now I like my beauty sleep. Kudos to you early birds- you’re doing it right!
- Slow down. Make your movement intentional and controlled rather than sprinting at your top speed. Your body needs time to get used to heat training.
When desperate, take a cue from one of our favorite Nike tv ads, taking the true measure of Shade Running.