When I was growing up, fitness and athletics simply weren’t a part of my everyday life. It wasn’t until I was an adult that I got exposed to the benefits, and joy, of staying physically fit.
As an adult, I’ve pretty much always lived in Phoenix, Arizona. So, it’s hot. Like, really, really, really hot. In my mid-20’s I started running and participating in 5k’s and 10k’s, losing some extra weight, and gaining an appreciation for exercise. Fortunately, I didn’t run into a whole lot of cramping problems on the shorter distances.
I also liked hiking the local mountains. At the time, my favorite was called “Squaw Peak”. It has since been renamed “Piestawa Peak”, but after tens or hundreds of times up Squaw Peak, in my mind that’s what it’ll always be. Anyway (and back on topic), I was spending more time outdoors and have been known to hike the mountain at 3 or 4 in the afternoon in August. For those of you that haven’t had the pleasure of an Arizona summer, that’s a REALLY bad idea.
One thing I noticed was that I got leg twitches a lot. Like, my muscles would just spasm seemingly uncontrollably for hours and hours (and days) on end. But other than simply driving me crazy, there weren’t really any other negative issues. As I think about it now, with 12-13 years of more intense training, nutrition, and cramping experience, I’ve had these muscles spasms my entire life. I just didn’t think of them as “cramps” as a child.
As it often happens, 10k’s turned into 1/2 marathons and then an idea to train for a full marathon. But I’m getting ahead of myself, we’ll get to marathons soon enough. This is about the dry heat.
Ever since I moved to AZ, I’ve heard the summers referred to as a “dry heat” as a way of saying it’s not that bad outside. I vividly recall golfing (something I don’t do often) on a record 122 degree day one June many years ago. I don’t care how dry it is…122 is brutal! I definitely remember having those leg twitches for days after that golf outing, which is saying something like 20+ years later.
So, Arizona summers tend to push the body just living life. Add outdoor activities like golf or long distance training into the equation, and it makes me wonder. What is worse for cramping – dry and hot, or humid and hot?
When it’s humid, you notice the sweat more, but I think that’s just because it doesn’t evaporate. In the dry heat, most of it disappears and it’s more difficult to realize how much sweat you’re actually losing. I personally have had some struggles in humid races, but haven’t noticed an increase or decrease in cramping. Note to self: pay attention next time you’re at a humid race!
As I write this, we’re in June and heading into a summer of dry heat. Ugh, it makes me sigh just thinking about it.
So… which is worse? Dry heat or humid heat?