CASEY ANDREWS, PT, DPT, OCS
Casey can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Race Training in Hot Weather
Imagine…It’s early on Saturday morning in October, about 55 degrees with 5mph winds and slightly overcast and you are anxiously awaiting the starting gun for the race you’ve been training for over the last 3 months. Okay let’s be real – we live in North Dakota which means it could be 80 degrees, snowing, 30mph winds, or a combination of any of the above in October, but a girl can dream can’t she?!
Anyways, fall is a popular time to run a road race, but that means training through the heat and humidity. The hot summer months can have a negative impact on your training if you aren’t prepared for it.
Fortunately, there are ways that you can modify your training schedule and habits so that you are more prepared for those long runs during the summer months!
So, why is it so hard to train in the heat?
Our bodies are able to regulate our core temperature by producing sweat as our temperature rises. That sweat then evaporates off of our skin, taking heat with it, to help cool us off. When it is humid outside, the sweat is not able to evaporate as easily because there is already water in the air and we start to feel overheated. Also, excessive sweating can lead to dehydration. As our bodies become dehydrated, our blood volume decreases which makes our heart have to pump harder and faster to get blood to our working muscles. This means we will feel like we having to work much harder on a hot day than a nice cool day, even if we are keeping the intensity of our run the exact same.
Dangers of Running in the Heat
Yes, there are some serious complications that can occur from training in the heat, but these can be fairly easy to avoid with smart training choices. However, it’s always good to know the risks so you can be prepared!
Heat Cramps: Excessive sweating leads to a loss of water and electrolytes and when these get out of balance in our body it can lead to muscle cramping. This can show up while we are running or hours later. This can be avoided by drinking plenty of water and taking in electrolytes with a sports drink, gels, or eating fruits like bananas.
Severe Dehydration: Fluid loss due to excessive sweating is fairly common while we are running. In fact, loosing up to 4% of our fluid levels during exercise is still considered normal, however, any more than that and you risk becoming dizzy, fatigued, or even disoriented. This can be avoided by hydrating before your run. Drink a bottle of water in the hour leading up to your run, and then make sure to stay hydrated throughout your run.
Heat Exhaustion: This happens when your core temperature reaches 104 degrees and leads to dehydration, headache, and nausea. If you experience these symptoms get out of the sun and into a cool room and drink plenty of cool water.
Heat Stroke: This is a serious medical condition in which our body temperature gets to 105 degrees and requires medical attention where they will cool you down with a cold bath and cool liquids. Symptoms include disorientation, clumsiness, poor balance, confusion, and lack of sweating.
How to Train Safely in the Heat
Okay, now that we got the scary stuff out of the way, how can we make sure that our training is as enjoyable as possible during the summer months?
Run By Effort, Not Pace: Garmin watch people I’m talking to you! I know I love to keep track of my pace on my watch because it gives me a little extra motivation to push myself harder. However, on a hot summer day your watch might tell you that you are running slow, but your body is telling you that it can’t push it any farther. This is when it might be a good idea to ditch the watch and run by how you feel so that you don’t overdo it. Even if you aren’t happy with your pace, you are still getting the benefits you love from your run because your body is having to work harder to keep itself cool on those hot days.
Run Early or Late: Try to avoid the middle of the day when the sun is the most powerful. Early morning is usually the best time because it is the coolest time of the day.
Take it Off-Road: Asphalt and concrete can absorb the heat and radiate back onto your body, making you feel like your melting! Try getting off the paved path and give some trail running a try.
Consider a Change of Clothes: If most of your workout clothes are dark colors or cotton you might want to consider investing in some light colored, polyester clothes to help keep you cool.
Start Off Hydrated and Keep It That Way: Making sure you are well hydrated before a run is just as important (if not more important) than hydrating during your run. If you are well hydrated before a run, you likely don’t need to take in any water if you won’t be running for more than an hour. If you are running longer than an hour take water with you or make sure you route includes places that you can stop for water.
If you make sure to train smart during the summer months you can reap some great rewards!
Training in the heat can help us become more efficient at cooling our bodies and will actually stimulate our bodies to produce more blood over time which can be very beneficial when it comes to race day.
CASEY ANDREWS, PT, DPT, OCS