Improve running in hot climates is scoffed at by many people who live in cold, rainy climates who look longingly at people who live in hot countries and think – “if only I lived in a hot country, I would be so fit- as I could get outside more, I would feel like training more, the sun would be shining”… and they tend to build up this nirvana in their head about living somewhere hot.
It also allows them to have excuses for letting themselves off their own training schedule- “oh well, its raining.. or it’s cold…I can’t get out today.”
I am sure we all know people like this(We may even be one of them from time to time)!
However it is easy to forget that it is can be dangerous, difficult, and completely energy draining to train when it is too hot.
Whilst it can be idyllic sitting by the pool in the shade reading a book when it is scorching outside, the thought of doing an 8 mile tempo run can be very challenging.
Summer training can be amazing though, and teaches our body how to deal with different stresses placed on it.
Many of the best runners in the world come from hot countries.
How can we use the heat to our advantage to improve our running?
Below are some ways we can optimise training in the heat for great success and better running.
Avoid hard running in the middle of the day.
The early mornings and late evenings can be amazing and the extra light gives us more time to train to improve running.
Try to do your longer runs or high intensity work in the early evening or early morning before work to avoid to hottest part of the day. This can be a great feeling- workout done, and healthy breakfast devoured before most people get out of bed.
If for some reason you HAVE to exercise at lunch time, try to either run in shady areas, or choose the middle of the day session for your strength training session in the air conditioned gym, or use it as your swim session.
Another possibility that most people do not do- is to run in the water. This will massively help you to improve running.
Substitute one weekly outdoor walk or run with a pool-running session of the same duration. If you’re new to pool running, use a flotation device and simply move your legs as if you were running on land, with a slightly exaggerated forward lean and vigorous arm pump. This will help your technique and your fitness without the impact that running usually places on your joints.
This is actually how they do a lot of training for prize race horses. This allows them to continue to get the fitness benefits of running, to improve running gait but avoid injury or overuse from pounding on the ground.
If it is good enough for them????
Triathlon is a great sport as there are so many components, we can adapt our training to the conditions to ensure we always make progress towards our goal.
Look ahead at the weather forecast and plan out your week according to the conditions.
It is always important to make sure each session counts.
A couple of years ago, a friend of mine lived in Perth, Australia. It regularly gets above 104°F (40°C) in the summer. His programme, which he had planned out in the winter, included 2 long lunch time runs per week to improve running. He kept persisting with these during the height of summer.
No surprise then when some of the runs, he could not complete, because he felt so drained and had to walk back. He often reported feeling washed out and drained for a couple of days afterwards.
I asked why he did not switch his early morning swims for the run sessions so he could run in the early morning and swim at lunch time. He simply had not thought of it because he had got so into the mindset and discipline of executing his training programme no matter what, with no excuses!
Admirable for sure but it was not serving him and was interrupting the rest of his training programme.
A simple change and he was back on schedule.
Make sure you are hydrated
We lose more fluid than we think in hot weather.
Even when we are not actively exercising, our body sweats more to keep us cool.
Keep drinking regularly throughout the day. This will dramatically improve running.
In addition, you will need to ensure you take enough fluid if you are doing a long training session. You will also require extra electrolytes as when you lose water, you lose electrolytes. If you are doing hard training over 45 minutes as you lose both water and salts when you sweat. Sports drinks are designed to be absorbed more rapidly than plain water.
Avoid alcohol and too much caffeine, as these are dehydrating. Also be careful of medication as antihistamines and anti depressants can be dehydrating too.
Check your pee throughout the day- make sure it is clear, not deep yellow which is a sign you need to drink more.
Also headaches and dry skin can signal signs of dehydration.
Look cool, feel cool
Clothing is important to improve running. Wear fibres that breathe, that are lightweight, that are light in color, that allow the air to circulate and has vents or mesh. Wicking materials are great to help get rid of the water rapidly.
Always wear a running hat, sunglasses and sports sunscreen if in the sun in the middle of the day.
Allow time to acclimatise
The body does adapt to different conditions. Whether it is heat, cold or altitude. There are changes in the thickness of the blood and the oxygen carrying capacity, changes in sweat rates and regulation of core body temperature which occur. This process takes 10-14 days usually.
If you live in a certain region- your body should adapt as the season gradually changes. However if you have booked a race somewhere very hot but live somewhere cool, it would be a very wise idea to get to the race venue 2 weeks early if possible to acclimatise to improve running.
If this is not possible, some athletes try sitting in a sauna to simulate the same changes.
Others try to stimulate training in the heat by wearing more clothes than they need in training to get their body used to training under hot conditions.
Listen to your body to improve running
There is a time for “pushing” through with training, and a time for respecting the current status. If you do have to train in the middle of a scorching day-be aware that performance may deteriorate. Allow your body to slow down a bit.
Instead, use it as a technique session where you are focusing on good form to improve running instead of speed. Maybe work on engaging your core throughout the run, maintaining good posture, practising your breathing or do a shorter run than usual and spend the extra time to do the stretches that you rarely have time for!
Remember heat can be dangerous and must be respected-it CAN kill.
There is no need to be a hero every day!
Here are the likely dangerous things that can occur:
Heat cramps, heat fainting and heat exhaustion are common.
For these conditions, get fluids quickly, have some electrolytes, cool down- in the shade, or with ice packs on the back of the neck, rest and do not run again in the heat until fully recovered.
On a more serious note it is possible to get hyponatremia- which is when people have too much water intake.
This is more likely in Ironman events when people are exercising heavily and drinking all day.
The symptoms include headache, disorientation and muscle twitching.
Emergency medical treatment is necessary.
So respect the heat, respect your body, but like in all things triathlon- preparation is key.
This can be your huge advantage- as preparation is one of the key ingredients that most people lack!
You can improve running gradually and steadily with a plan and a bit of preparation before hand.
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