Friday, July 22, 2011

5 The Car: A Runner's Mobile Preparedness Unit :)


Can we say "hot"?! Phew! It's certainly been a heatwave lately. In fact, I write this, it's just reached 100°F here in DC, with a heat index of 115°F!

Of course, as the mercury keeps rising, it becomes all the more important to be prepared for summer running. And what better way than to properly stock your car with essential items and turn it into a "mobile preparedness" unit. :) Aside from equipping your car with all of the obvious general "survival" essentials -- umbrellas, a GPS unit, a first-aid kit and an emergency car repair kit containing jumper cables, tools, a funnel, a blanket, flares, and a spare tire, etc. -- there are a few items that we runners will most likely want to keep in our cars for those days when those merciless rays of sunshine begin to beat down upon us, threatening to melt us into a sizable puddle right there and then on the trail. ;) So, to help keep you cool, calm, and collected this summer, I thought I'd share some of my strategies with you so that you can adequately outfit your car for your summer running needs.

As everyone knows, on a hot day, the coolest part of a car is usually the trunk. That's why I keep my runner's "to-go" kit there. If I'm running in a park, I'll usually find the most shaded spot, i.e., under a tree or roof overhang, and then park my car underneath it. Next, I'll put my car window shades into place. When it's 103°F outside, every little bit of strategizing helps to keep your car as cool as possible. :)

As for the runner's "to-go" kit itself, I'd recommend drawing up a list and referring to it when you run out of an essential item and it's time to restock. And if you do this the right way, you'll be prepared for almost anything. After all, you don't need to be Boy Scout to understand the significance of their motto. ;) Just consider the consequences of the converse situation: "Fail to prepare, prepare to fail." And as we runners know, both short-term and long-term preparedness is especially important to ensure the success of our training efforts.

Of course, a lot of what we do to prepare not only happens in our day-to-day training, but also in our pre-run prep. For starters, if we're smart, we stay hydrated all day long, and eat nutritious balanced meals at regular intervals. Again, a day in the life of a runner is always about strategy, strategy, strategy.

Most runners lead busy lives and are on tight (and hopefully, well-coordinated!) schedules, so if we want to fit in our workouts, time is of the essence. We have to be time-conscious and prepare in advance; otherwise, we won't have enough time to accomplish our running (and life!) goals. And this also means that we typically only have a finite amount of time to get ready. Of course, a lot of what needs to be done isn't exactly rocket science. ;) It's easy enough to lay our running clothes out the night before, fill our water bottles and put them in the fridge, pack our keys, money, ID, and gels into our hydration belt, charge our iPods or Garmins, pack our gym bags, put together our race day bag, etc. It just takes a bit of forethought. And when it comes to "maracations" and local racing events, many of us also rely upon tried and true checklists to make sure we have everything we'll need before race day.

However, for as prepared as we runners tend to be, sometimes things don't go according to plan, and we need a backup plan. That's where a well-stocked car comes in handy. :) Those running-related items we've had the foresight to pack in our vehicles can be indispensable.

For example, take Exhibit A: Since it's getting hotter, many afternoon and evening runners have now become morning runners by necessity. (For many of us who fall into this category, this conversion is often painful and very often done begrudgingly. Haha!) And, if you're not exactly a morning person (like me!), then not only does it take more effort to be prepared and get out the door in a timely fashion (LOL!) but the sleepiness factor can often interfere with "normal brain operations." ;) In other words, it can easily induce a state of forgetfulness. Thankfully, I haven't had to resort to calling the locksmith after a run. Not yet anyhow. ;) (Fingers crossed!) Then's there are the physical effects: A sleepy "morning brain" often translates into a slow-moving body, and yes, sometimes even a little bit of klutziness. Hopefully, none of you have issues with walking into walls. ;)

Also, for us "morning runner converts," there's the issue of training our bodies to go to bed on time. In the interim phase of this "conversion," it's not uncommon for us to oversleep. Regardless of your preferred running time, you might've had the unnerving experience of forgetting to turn on your alarm clock the night before. ;) Of course, for all other seasons, sleeping in a little bit might be of little consequence. However, when summer rolls around, especially with the extreme summers we've been having here lately, then of course, that's an altogether different story. ;) Woe unto those of us who are forced to run outside in much hotter weather than we'd originally intended.

(Some people might say, "But what about running indoors?" Well, as for the dreadmill option, I'd personally rather propell myself forward with my own self-controlled "force field," versus getting sore joints from being pulled forward by a barely cushioned rolling belt with such unnatural, herky-jerky motions. Plus, dreadmills are mind-numbingly boring to run on, not to mention that they don't come packaged with natural scenery. ;) So, no thank you. It's outdoors or bust, baby! And anyhow, if you take the proper precautions and gradually acclimate yourself to the changes, the experience of running in the heat will most likely be an productive exercise, because if you keep at it, it will inevitably toughen you up. ;) After all, if you want to be ready to race in it, you've got to train in it, right?)

And in such extreme heat, even those of us who get up and run at the crack of dawn aren't necessarily guaranteed cooler running temperatures. Case in point: By 5 am today, it had already reached 82°F here!

And since we've got to get our run in for the day, bailing really isn't an option. And lately, neither is waiting for nightfall. Around here, it's still been in 90's after the sun goes down. Not to mention, there's the obvious security and safety issues that often go hand-in-hand with night running. So, morning it is, even if we oversleep a bit and have to pay a rather scorching price. ;)

So, as a result, now we'll need to "call in for reinforcements" to prepare for the hotter weather: more water, a running visor &/or sunglasses, sunscreen/sunblock, etc. The works. :) And that takes more time. Precious time that we might not have. So, not only do we now also have to even less time to workout, but we also have less time to prepare for our workouts. ;)

When this happens, we all know the drill: We go through the mental checklist. Do we have everything we need? And if not, do we have enough time to quickly do all of these things right now? ;) It's not long before we're frantically rushing around, assembling our running apparel, accessories and gear, and then rushing out the door. But then we start thinking, "Did I forget something?" ;)

Of course, rushing around often results in forgetting to bring necessary items with us for our runs. And sometimes we don't even realize we've forgotten something until we've already reached the trail. Lol. Things like our sunglasses or gels. Or, maybe we forgot to apply sunscreen/sunblock before we left the house. However, all of these scenarios can easily be fixed or prevented from happening in the future by using your car as your "backup" plan. The solution is simple: Keep spares of these all-important items in your car. On days when your life feels a bit more chaotic, a well-stocked car can become a runner's saving grace. Or put another way, car =  survival mechanism. :)

Now consider Exhibit B. Yes, let's pretend that we're once again dealing with the results of another one of our potential screw-ups. Oops. ;)Well, OK, let's face it, no one is perfect. Maybe we've hydrated or eaten too close to our run but there's no porta-potty in sight. Or, as was the case a few days ago, the porta potty at the trailhead ran out of TP. Uh-oh. There was no way to predict that one. ;) Again, that one's easily fixable: Keep a roll of TP in your car. Then you can just tuck a few sheets into your pocket or hydration belt. Problem solved. :)

I could go on and mention a few more scenarios, but I think that, by now, you probably get the idea. ;) So now, as a fitting end to this post, I'd like to provide a list of some of these practical "backup" items and some related notes to help you better plan and organize various running necessities for your car.

The Runner's To-Go Kit -- Essential Items to Keep in Your Car:

For the trunk:
(1) Car organizer for your runner's "to-go" kit: This can be as simple as a cardboard box or a sturdy zippered nylon bag with multiple dividers or compartments. If you need to organize smaller items, shoe boxes and sturdy, structured plastic containers will also work.
(2) Roll of TP, preferably kept in a large resealable plastic bag to keep it sanitary. (A tissue box is also a must-have, but that can be kept in the general car interior for all-purpose use.)
(3) Roll of paper towels: If you eat a post-run banana, you might get some of that mush on your hands. ;)
(4) 24-pack of water bottles or gallon water jugs: That way, you'll never be without water, even post-run. Even with the 100°F days we've been having lately, I'm happy to report that the plastic water bottles currently being stashed away in the trunk of my car still haven't melted yet. So far, so good. ;)
(5) Pre-run energy snacks: For example, a banana and unsalted raw/organic almonds: If I'm in a rush and I haven't gotten the chance to eat something before running, I'll sometimes eat these before I run. Of course, I'm fully aware that it's not really ideal to eat less than 1 1/2 - 2 hours before a run, but if your energy is low, sometimes a "runner's gotta do what a runner's gotta do." ;) Also, I sometimes will grab these before I head out the door. The almonds don't upset my stomach, and the banana doesn't seem to cause cramping on the trail, at least not for me anyhow. Of course, do whatever works for you.
(6) Post-run recovery snacks: For example, a banana, which, as most runners already know, makes for a great post-run recovery food. It replenishes electrolytes (potassium), etc. Also, salted almonds are good for replenishing lost sodium after a run, helping to repair/develop muscle fibers, and sustaining one's energy and blood sugar level when coupled with carbs. This category would also include spare recovery gels/drinks as well. The heat might denature them in time, so probably best not to keep them in the trunk for an eternity. ;)
(7) A running-related tool for muscle relaxation/stretching &/or to relieve soreness, or pain: For example, "The Stick" or a foam roller. It's rather convenient to have this one in your car for obvious reasons. ;)
(8) Night gear: Mesh reflective vest or, (even better for the hot weather!), a reflective safety belt or strap(s), head lamp, infrared night vision goggles, etc. Just kidding about that last one. LOL.
(9) Necessary items for women: Elastic hairbands, emergency stash of feminine products, etc.
(10) Mini anti-chafing stick: Self-explanatory. Especially vital for pre-run prep on those days when you forget to apply it before leaving the house. ;)
(11) Towel: Use it to dry off or to keep your car seat clean. ;) After all, if it's really hot and you've turned into a complete sweat bucket, you might not want to perspire all over your car. ;)
(12) Post-run change of clothes: If it's really hot, and you don't want to get into your car with your clothes sticking to both you and the seat, a change of clothes is always nice to have on hand. Plus, if you forget #11, at least you won't mess up your car seat. ;)
(13) Pepper spray: I make a point of keeping mine in my hydration pack, but if you can't fit yours in there, you could also keep yours in your car until you're ready to hit the trail. I love the version I have, the Sptifire, which has a handy key ring and is miniaturized for personal use.
(14) Sunblock &/or sunscreen: Again, it's probably not a great idea to keep these items in the car for a lengthy period of time (due to denaturation caused by extreme outdoor heat and a relatively short shelf-life, i.e., 2 years), but they're great to have on hand if you should forget to apply before a run or need to reapply after your run.

For the glove box compartment:
(1) Scissors: You might need to open or cut through something, whether running-related or not. ;)
(2) Post-run, non-perishable recovery protein: My go-to snack is salted, roasted almonds (made without additives or oil): Almonds make an excellent recovery food. Plus, they contain Omega-3's. The protein helps rebuild muscle and of course, the salt is great for replacing lost sodium. I like to keep them in the glove box as opposed to the trunk because, when it's really hot outside, chances are, I'll soon be hopping into the car, cranking up the AC. :)
(3) Pain relief medicine: Because you never know when you'll need it. Examples: ibuprofen, Pepto-Bismol tablets, etc. These items are frequently runners' go-to remedies. :) This way you can quell any dyspepsia, discomfort, or throbbing aches and pains now instead of waiting until you get home. ;) To save space, use a small pill dispenser.
(4) Spare pair of UV protection sunglasses and accompanying sports sunglass retainer: That way, you'll have an extra pair for running if you should forget to put them on before you leave the house. If your car is newer, chances are you might already have a separate compartment for storing these, which is even better than storing them in your glove box compartment or clipping them to your car's sun visor.

So, let's see: Did I miss anything? If you think I've left out any crucial "runner's auto essentials," or have some new and clever organizational ideas or tips to help outfit cars for runners, please let me know and I'll consider adding them to the above list.

Hope you find these ideas helpful!

Happy summer running! Stay safe and cool. :)



Linda said...

Great post, I'm saving this! I keep so much stuff in my car I could live in it, but I don't have nearly everything on your list. I wonder if I put all of that stuff in my Prius if it will affect the great gas mileage I get? :-)

Cyberpenguin said...

Thanks, Linda! Glad you found the list to be helpful! LOL, regarding your Prius comment. :) BTW, if you need to print out the list, there's a "print" button immediately under the title of this post. If you don't want to print the entire article, you can click on the paragraphs you don't want to include, & that will delete them in the print preview.

sahib said...

The post is very nicely written and it contains many useful facts. I am happy to find your distinguished way of writing the post. Now you make it easy for me to understand.

Cyberpenguin said...

Thank you, Sahib. I greatly appreciate your compliment and am glad that you enjoyed the post. Hope you found it useful. Happy Running!

Anonymous said...

Wow great post. Just like collecting anything else, getting your kit together becomes a sort of addiction. Watching it grow tool by tool, and seeing how each part can be used, is lots of fun and it makes driving your car more interesting.

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