Why is Running in the Heat Difficult?
When running in the heat your core body temperature is increased, and just like when you have a fever, the higher your core body temperature, the worse you are going to feel.
Blood is diverted to the skin to aid cooling. Less blood is therefore available to transport oxygen to the working muscles. This lack of oxygen means you can’t run as fast or as hard, and the effort required to maintain your pace increases dramatically.
Dehydration occurs more easily in hot and humid conditions. As water levels drop, your body’s cooling methods are adversely affected; causing core body temperature to rise even faster, creating a vicious cycle that severely limits your performance!
It’s not just the running itself that becomes more difficult in the heat; even the recovery process is affected! After being ‘pushed’ in the heat, your body needs to utilise more energy to cool itself down rather than deliver nutrients to your tired muscles. If the muscles do not receive sufficient nutrients to repair any damage, the recovery process is slower and you may not be fully prepared for your next workout like you normally would be.
How to Train Through the Summer?
1. Adjust your schedule
- Do your best to avoid training in the middle of the day when the sun is highest in the sky; mornings and evenings are the way forward in summer.
- Of course, sometimes busy schedules leave you with no alternative but to train in the middle of the day. If this is the case, try to run trail runs that can provide plenty of shade.
- Plan out routes that provide adequate water stations along the way.
2. Monitor Your Fluids
- Your urine should be a light-yellow colour. If it’s not then try to consume enough water until it is.
- If you’re running in the mornings, ensure you consume water as soon as you’re out of bed before you run.
- Carry fluids with you for longer runs or make sure your route has plenty of water stations!
- Wear lightweight, light-coloured clothing with mesh or vents: the light colour will help to reflect rather than absorb the sun’s heat. Sorry to those of you who like to look flash in your all-black kit, but it’s got to be comfort over style in the heat!
- Wear a cap, sunscreen, and sunglasses with UV protection.
- Or if you want to go the extra mile, try an ice-bandana! Wrap a bandana around your neck, filling the back of it with ice cubes, re-filling the ice each time you reach your cooling station.
4. Medication and Alcohol
- Antihistamines, antidepressants and alcohol can have a powerful dehydrating effect. Therefore, if using such substances prior to training, ensure you take on adequate fluids.
5. Be patient and acclimatise
- If you’re not used to running in high temperatures, slowly increase the intensity and length of your workouts – but your body can take 8-15 days to adjust to the change in climate.
- Hot yoga can be a good way to help acclimatise before-hand!
6. Seek the wind
- We all know how well a head-wind cools you down!
- Of course, it’s not always possible, but if you can, plan your routes so that you’ll be heading into the wind for the latter stages of your run – by this point on a hot run, you’ll take all the help you can to cool down!
7. Pool Running
- Why not replace one weekly run with a pool running workout instead?
- Run for the same amount of time as you would normally, but just use a floatation device and imitate running on land with a powerful arm pump – it’s more tiring than you think!
8. Know your limits
- Focus on the effort level of your workout rather than the pace.
- Don’t go for personal bests on a hot day, especially if you aren’t used to the high temperatures or aren’t yet acclimatised.
- If at any stage you feel dizzy, disoriented, faint, or your skin feels strangely hot or cold, slow down or stop running completely, and if these symptoms continue, seek shade and medical assistance.
Remember, at the end of the day, every workout completed, regardless of the pace, is a step in the right direction, it’s progress. So, don’t be too hard on yourselves out there this summer, the Australian heat can be brutal and punishing! If it’s simply too hot to train, you can always do a session or two on a treadmill, no stress.
Think smart and run safe!