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.
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?