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#FuckSpring Part 3: Exposure

Updated: Jul 21, 2021

Sun Exposure is a BFD and runners need to ease in

Happy Good Friday even if you don’t celebrate it!  THE EASTER BUNNY IS BRINGIN ALL YA’ALL A PRESENT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  HERE WE GO!

Very close friends of mine are preppers. Like for-real PREPPERS. I am obsessed with them, they are amazing. You think you are organized and detail-oriented until you meet a prepper IRL.

As a wedding present, they gave us a book on survival, and told me which skills would be needed in their bunker should nuclear holocaust become a reality.  (That’s how preppers welcome you to the family, they tell you specifically how to be useful in the bunker so they have a reason to let you in).  It’s fascinating stuff, you have to think about the world differently when you don’t expect to go back to ‘normal’ after 2-3 weeks.  (Generally speaking, preppers who build bunkers fully expect to use those bunkers indefinitely.)

I’m telling you this, because my prepper friends would never make the rookie mistake I make every single year.   It’s a mistake you may be making right now.

Every year, winter happens.  It creeps up on us.  We go from running in shorts and tanks at 6am, to adding long sleeves, then tights, then hats and gloves.  Then we run a little later in the morning if we can, since it’s warmer when the sun comes up.  Spring comes with a BANG.  Out of nowhere, it’s bright again at 6am, but cold.  We are so excited for spring and summer that we run midday when we can, in the warmth and light of the sun.   Most of us get sunburned the second or third day, saying silly things like, “I didn’t think it was that hot,” as though heat is 100% of the equation.

The third and final piece to Spring is sun exposure. 

After months of working out indoors due to snow and/or cold or outside in the dark because we run at 6am, we go from 0 to 60 (minutes) of sunlight practically overnight and don’t think twice about it.  How much time did you spend in direct sunlight this week vs last week?  Vs a month ago? 

Yeah, I don’t think about it either.  I’m not particularly consistent, some days I run at 6am (but it’s cold and I’m layered up) and some days I run at noon (wearing very little and lots of sunscreen).  Some days my run might be the only time I spend outdoors, other days I’m not indoors enough to know what time it is.

My prepper friends would never do any of this.  Preppers think of EVERYTHING.  Every prepper knows you have to re-acclimate slowly to sun exposure.  Their (bunker) exit plans start with 10 minutes per day and work up to an hour over the course of a month.  (We just run out there like, “YAY SUN MOUNTAIN BIKING HIKING RUNNING SWIMMING YOLO WOOOOOOT!” )  They know the biggest, most immediate danger is sunlight.  Damned if they will survive a nuclear holocaust to die from exposure as soon as they leave the bunker!

SO MUCH HAPPENS in sunlight:

  • Direct sunlight is very hot, so your body will use energy to maintain a constant internal temperature (homeostasis).  Your HR and metabolic rate will increase dramatically. This is why just being in the sun can make you feel tired.

  • Even if you’re sitting still, part of your body’s temperature regulation mechanism is to produce sweat to cool you off. This causes you to lose stored fluids and salts, aka ‘dehydration’, which in turn leads to fatigue. It’s an ugly, rapid cycle. First comes dehydration, then heat exhaustion, then heat stroke in extreme cases when you have completely run out of fluids.

  • Ultraviolet rays suppress melatonin production; it surges again once you get out of the sun. Melatonin is a hormone that regulates your body’s circadian rhythms and those surges let your body know the sun is down so time for bed.

To recap: right now, your lung capacity is reduced due to all the pollen in the air even if you aren’t having an allergic reaction to it, you are less efficient because your body’s oxygen transport system is compromised, some of you may be breathing in GLO since that is emerging, most of us have gone from 0 to 60 in terms of sun exposure, and none of us are thinking about that surge in melatonin making us tired because we are JUST SO MAD that we can’t hit the paces easily; we worry we've lost fitness or gotten soft.

It’s not just you.  Here is last week’s long run.  Due to bad choices, I got a later start than I wanted.  Hills, wind, direct sun bearing down on me and reflecting up from the concrete for 3:30:36.   If you click the ‘more’ button above the analysis, you can see that Polar predicted it would take nearly 6 days for me to recover from this run versus my usual 48 hours; this figure takes the weather into account.  It’s not inaccurate; I’ve felt distinctly ‘off’ all week and have cut several of my runs short or made the final miles walks on the shaded side of streets lined with tall buildings.  When I think about it, that run is the longest period of time I’ve spent in the sun since October.  No wonder that run took a week out of me.

It’s easy to dismiss how much is working against you in Springtime.  Don’t ever forget though, through it all, you are #coachedandloved and #winningatlife.  All we have to do is survive Spring and remember that a strong fall is predicated upon what we do in Spring.  If you don’t stop working, the progress doesn’t stop coming.  Once the air clears up and you’ve acclimated to all this exposure your progress will be very, very obvious.

Coach MK

Coach MK Fleming is the founder of Fitness Protection, LLC where she coaches all kinds of runners for $29 per month and gives marathon plans away for free. Click here to download her most popular training plan, Tenacious AF!

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