october 17, 2015
By Coach Eladio Valdez
Believe it or not, you can actually enjoy running in warm, humid weather if you’re willing to adjust enough. The good news is that your body will adapt to the heat in as little as a few weeks and continue to improve in the heat throughout the summer. The payoff is that you’ll perform better in all conditions as long as you stay acclimated which is why fall is a popular time to achieve fast times. The key is to see how long you can allow your body to release more heat than it builds. Once you overheat, or build up more heat than it can release, the rest of the run will be a struggle so do what it takes to lower the risk of this happening. Here are some key ways to do so.
1) Start hydrated – Drink enough throughout the day so that your urine is pale (not too dark, not too clear since you can also overdo it). Since sweating is your number one cooling mechanism, the longer you can avoid losing too much water, the longer you’ll be able to optimally cool off. During the run, listen to your body and scale back on the drinking if you aren’t thirsty, especially if your stomach is sloshing. It’s normal to lose a few pounds of fluid since it won’t affect your performance and you’ll be able to replenish afterwards.
2) Start slower – A slower start lowers the risk of your body overheating when it’s the most susceptible to do so. It takes time for your body to become fully effective at cooling off so give it the time it needs.
3) Stay slower – Since more energy is expended to release the heat, less energy is available to run. As a result, scale back on the pace as needed and instead settle into a doable effort – roughly on the scale of 1-2 seconds per mile slower per degree it gets above 60. So, if it’s 80 degrees, you can still enjoy your run by going 20-40 seconds per mile slower. Run the first half slower with the option to pick it up a little if you still feel really good at that point.
4) Go easier on the ups – Uphills are a common culprit for causing runners to overheat so back off, even more on them, to play it safe in the heat.
5) Welcome hydration & walk breaks – When you stop, it allows your body to more effectively get rid of the heat. This is why it’s common to feel flushed when you stop. Learn to view hydration breaks as opportunities for the body to regroup. A one minute walk after each mile allows the body to release more heat during the walk break. Consider walk breaks more frequently if you need them or on uphills.
6) Speed Workout adjustments – To keep your speed workouts productive, go more by effort rather than trying to hold a pace. Fartleks are an effective summer workout. If you prefer to hold the pace, shorten the repeats and/or lengthen the recovery time to cool off. Those incorporating goal pace miles on their long run should consider spreading them out by alternating one goal pace mile with a recovery mile or scale back by one second per mile per one degree above 60 if you want to run them consecutively.