Trick of the (summer) trade

I’m seeing it all over the blogosphere right now–complaints about the heat and how it is affecting workouts. I feel your pain, trust me. In Maryland, we get heat and humidity like nobody’s business. I haven’t been to many parts of the country (barring the deep south) that can rival the muggy haze we get here in the summer.

hazybaltimoreskylinehartzenbusch2002 thumb Trick of the (summer) trade

Baltimore in the summer haze

And no, it’s not a lot of fun to train in or race in. I pretty much shut down racing anything much longer than a 5k or 10k in the middle of it. I don’t race well in heat and I know this about myself. I do, however, keep up my training volume throughout it all. Why? Because I feel like it makes me that much stronger for the fall racing season, and when I do race in summer, I am that much better prepared for whatever temperature comes my way.

There are a lot of benefits to acclimating your body for the heat. Heat acclimation is when an individual has been conditioned to maintain a higher blood plasma and volume level, increased sweat rate, a decreased salt amount in the sweat produced, decreased fatigue rate of sweat glands, and quicker onset of sweating when placed in the heat. Studies have shown that one session of about 100 minutes in the heat each week can go a long way to deliver these benefits.

To get this bang for my buck, I make an effort to get in one or two runs per week later than my normal crack of dawn running time. This might mean mid-morning, the afternoon, or evening–often I’m at the mercy of my kids’ schedule–but I make a concerted effort to get in a warmer run than what I usually would. The run might not be my most enjoyable of the week, but I know it pays off.

Plenty of elites have used this method over the years. Gearing up for the Olympic marathon in Bejing, which took place at 4 p.m. on hot, polluted roads, most of the Americans prepared with extra clothing and in the middle of the day’s heat. Ultra stud Pam Reed reportedly trained up to three hours on a treadmill in a sauna to prep for Badwater. Um, yeah, that’s not in my future, I don’t care what the benefits.

Whatever your location and conditions, summer undoubtedly makes training a bit more challenging. But try some specific heat training and see if it doesn’t pay off for you.

Do you take steps to manage the heat in summer? 

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  1. says

    Great post! I wasn’t consciously incorporating heat acclimation into my training, but during the summer, its hard to avoid all together. Next time I”m running in the heat, I”ll remember the benefits you mentioned above (and hopefully stop whining about how hot it is. ;)
    ‘Ama Runs recently posted..Check out Moms Home Run!My Profile

  2. says

    yes, we have to be careful this time of year here in south texas, that’s for sure! the mucky, yucky humidity will kill ya if not careful. Yesterday’s workout took place at noon and it was ROUGH, but we got through it. It’s like walking outside takes your breath away, but we make it work, especially since our kiddos wanna stay and play outside all, day.long!!
    marissa recently posted..great workouts…how about you?My Profile

  3. says

    I live in the South where this time of year 80 degrees is chilly and if the humidity is “only” 60% it feels dry LOL. By Aug, it’ll be 80 at 5am. So I definitely either have to stop running or get used to it. I choose to get used to it.

    I’ve started changing my long runs to Friday so I can start by 5:30 and be done before the sun is up too high. At least once a week my husband and I will do a short run (slow) around 11-ish when it’s getting really hot. It definitely helps you acclimate. And on the weekends I will try to go between 8 and 9 and just take it slow, always with extra water.
    Heather (Where’s the Beach) recently posted..Breaking Rules, Lifting Weights & BlahMy Profile

  4. says

    I live in the deep south (literally 10 miles from the gulf of mexico in MS) and it has been crazy hot and humid since early may. It will stay this way until late october. That’s the sad part. Most other parts of the country don’t heat up till end of june/early july and it’s gone by sept. But not here. aaahh!!! I don’t race at all after may and until mid sept unless it’s a destination race. It’s just too miserable!
    Heather recently posted..Coca-Cola: America is Your ParkMy Profile

  5. says

    Right now it is very pleasant here. Wish I was on my bike! Oh well, I will be again. I admire you for purposely training in the heat. I have only done that once or twice,

  6. says

    I kind of dive right in when the weather is warmer. Lately I can only run in the afternoons, and it has been HOT here. My upcoming race is in July and it’s usually hot and humid, so what keeps me motivated is knowing I’ll do better then if I deal with it now.

  7. says

    It takes me about 4-6 weeks every year to acclimate fully to the South East Texas heat and humidity. I alternate TM runs and outdoor runs to help.

    But by the time Oct rolls around I am a machine running in the cooler temps. I cannot wait to see how I perform in the cooler temps of Quebec this August after suffering through the hell-like conditions all summer.
    Jeff Irvin recently posted..Things of Interest …My Profile

  8. says

    I also try to avoid the heat by getting up earlier, but this week my kids have been at daycamp starting at 9am so I’ve been heading out for a run after I drop them off. It’s been an adjustment- not worrying so much about my pace just going on feel. I think it does help to run in all types of weather- since you never know race day.

    I’m looking at the Canton Half marathon this Sunday. Looks like it’s going to be already pretty warm at the 6am start. Must remember not to worry about pace- since it’s a training run- not a race for me.
    Heather Winkler recently posted..Yay! Summer’s here!My Profile

  9. says

    Great info. I like the 100 minutes because it’s easy to keep track of. I had read somewhere [my feeble memory fails me] that it takes a good 5-6 runs in the heat to *begin* to acclimate but don’t recall it mentioning what to do to maintain that acclimation. But 100 minutes, even I can remember that!

    I actually didn’t let my kids run in their last track meet because it was in the upper 80’s-mid 90’s and the meet didn’t start until 1. They were used to running in cooler temps and I didn’t need to add ‘take care of kids sick w/ heat exhaustion’ to my To Do list.
    Tracy recently posted..Red AlertMy Profile

  10. says

    I know I need to do more of my training in the heat but, but… I don’t like heat… there is a reason I work out early in the morning. I am such a wimp when it comes to higher temps. Anything over 75 is a heatwave.
    Ewa recently posted..Keeping activeMy Profile

  11. says

    If you can take the heat-it will benefit you in the long run. But drink lots of fluids folk!! :)

    You weren’t kidding about he deep south. I thought Houston (where athletes came in ’08 to get ready for Bejing) was intense. I did some runs in Alabama and Florida and they hands down were the most challenging conditions I’ve seen in a long time. But once I got back home, I had a great workout when the others were complaining;)

    All relative, I guess….
    Adrienne recently posted..Where The Wind May Take YouMy Profile

  12. says

    I like this a lot. My week runs are all early morning runs so I make sure I train later during weekends to get used to the heat a summer race might throw at me. It definitely makes you stronger even though it feels as if the workouts are terrible.
    Johann recently posted..Gauteng Winter Trail XL PreviewMy Profile

  13. says

    No acclimating to the heat was totally my downfall during last year’s marathon. I’ve made it my mission to make training this summer different. I love this post and getting out there in the heat despite a slower time and uncomfortable sweatiness, is totally worth it in the end. I’m hoping this is true when I attempt to race a 5k tonight when the temp at the start is supposed to be 82. :)
    Kelly @ Running Kellometers recently posted..Finally, Progressive Run SuccessMy Profile

  14. says

    Call me crazy but I love running in heat. Not the sweltering put me in a sauna with a treadmill heat but your “summer sun, it’s hot but I can take it” heat. Does that make sense?

    On a weekend, I will head out early in the morning to avoid the heat but on weekdays I’m all about taking what the day has given me. If it is hot and steamy at 4pm, or drizzly and rainy, I run in it. This prepares me for race day because you never know what mother nature will throw at you!
    Siobhan @ SiobhanMcCarthy.ca recently posted..2 Races in 2 Days Recap Part One!My Profile

  15. says

    This is a really encouraging post! I just recently moved to the Columbia area (close to you!) and it’s been a huge change compared to training out in Colorado. I’ve tried to tell myself that instead of having the advantage of training at a high altitude, i now have the advantage of training in higher heat/humidity, and that it’s building character :) Definitely has been an adjustment getting used to sweating this much.

  16. Michelle says

    I just started REALLY running this year, so this will be my first summer of running. I live in Austin, TX and it’s already in the 100’s some days. I think I’m going to stick with a treadmill all summer unless I’m up at 5am (it’s still so hot though!).

  17. says

    I just deal. I grew up in Texas, and the heat was always just a given. I remember one summer day where the high was 106, and the low was 90 — at midnight. I ran in the dark at 8 pm or so at is was 96.

    One lesson learned: hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. And I take in more gatorade when the sweat gets going in the humidity.
    NY Wolve recently posted..FIRST, againMy Profile

  18. says

    My tricks of the trade:

    Step 1 – Adjust your attitude. Look at it as a psoitive for your training.

    Step 2 – Be smart. Take it easy the first few times and learn what’s different. More water, less endurance, etc.

    Step 3 – Monitor. If you aren’t feeling well, shut it down. Walk today, run tomorrow I always say.

    Step 4 – Embrace the heat!
    Jamoosh recently posted..Road Trip and Chi NewtonsMy Profile

  19. says

    Due to circumstances outside of my control, almost all of my weekday runs are done on the treadmill which in my house, is located on the 2nd floor in my bedroom. It gets hot up there, especially in the summer. I’m running in the heat all the time, year round. I think it helps prepare me for the heat outside come summer time.
    Robin recently posted..Trail Race #3My Profile

  20. says

    I prepare for my summer heat by running in the scorching temps of 75 in San Francisco. The sun burns off the morning fog and without a cloud in the sky it hits us right in the face. So HOT.

    In honesty, that is how my lunch runs go and it does work up a sweat. On the weekends, in the East Bay where it can easily hit 100, some planning comes into play and being smart is key.
    PavementRunner recently posted..Playlist Thursday Goes Rock (Hard)My Profile

  21. says

    That is great advice – thank you! I’ll be training for my first half through the summer months and will have to run at various times, so should start to get used to the heat. I’m lucky? (or unlucky lol) that my CrossFit gym isn’t airconditioned so I’m used to working out in the heat, just not running.
    Carly recently posted..Wordless Wednesday–Vacation Video EditionMy Profile

  22. says

    I’m all about embracing the heat. When I was deployed to Iraq, I was out running at noon some days. It’s going to be hot and going to suck – so once you accept that, the run is not so bad. I actually looked forward to those runs b/c I felt like I sweated out all of the “crap” that was in my body!!! (Somewhat warped mentality). I do most of my runs at pre-dawn, however, like you, try to do a few during the heat. They are mostly my shorter, easier runs but I find that it helps me deal with the heat!
    Michele @ nycrunningmama recently posted..4am Wakeups? No, Thank You.My Profile

  23. says

    This is a good reminder that running in heat and humidity has benefits (I’ve heard it compared to altitude, actually). I still hate it. I’m actually really glad the solstice is next week, because that means that even if we don’t feel it in the temperatures, the earth’s axis at least is headed toward fall. And fall makes summer worth it every year.
    Terzah recently posted..7 Randoms, 5 Things I’m Loving and 5 Days Until TuesdayMy Profile

  24. says

    When it’s hot, I like to freeze a disposable water bottle. For the first 30 minutes I keep switching hands because it is so cold but I tHink it helps cool the blood flowing through my hands. At about 30 minutes, I start to drink it and it’s nice ice cold water. By about 45 minutes in it’s still cool and I drink the rest. If I’m running more than an hour, I’ll stop by a water fountain and fill it up again. It no longer helps with the cooling, but helps with hydration for another 30-60 minutes.

  25. says

    Thank you for confirming what I’ve been telling myself- that all this hot weather running will somehow pay off! Unfortunately, even running at the crack of dawn it’s 80 degrees and humid here, so I don’t need to worry about afternoon or evening runs… just wish there was a time of day that offered a little relief!!
    Laura recently posted..30-20-10 Intervals and Yogurt-makingMy Profile

  26. says

    I try to run twice a week in the afternoon all summer. Its tough and I usually sweat so much but I think its definitely helpful in acclimating to the heat. Pretty soon though its going to be super hot at 5am too, but I love this time of year no matter what the temps!
    J recently posted..Summer RainMy Profile

  27. says

    Interesting post! I learn so much reading your blog! I’m pretty much stuck running in the heat all the time these days. Ruby pretty much alternates eating and sleeping until noon and we start the bedtime routine (for both of us) around 7 at night. Which means I’m running in the afternoons! I pretty much always run on hills too since, well, my neighborhood is hilly and I can’t bring myself to drive somewhere to run. So I’m really hoping I’m miraculously faster the first time I do a flat race in the morning.
    Laura recently posted..Things I’m telling myself latelyMy Profile

  28. says

    Interesting, i have recently taken up running again and find myself living and sweating in Houston. I have half convinced myself that training in all this heat and humidity must have benefits come Autumn, I just didn’t know what they might be? Soooooo what are they?! I thought those who trained in heat/humidity to acclimatize for a race were doing that just to acclimatize, what benefits are there once it cools down? Glad to have found your blog!

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  1. […] increase my odds of getting my workouts in if I do them early. And so with the exception of a few runs in summer designed to acclimate me to the heat, and during marathon training when I’ll add in […]