Coach Culpepper: Beat The Summer Heat

Warm-Weather Racing Tips

Be Mindful Of Expectations
When it comes to racing in the heat, it is essential that you have a good understanding of what to expect. Going into a warm-weather event with a nonchalant attitude is never a good idea. You might not have all the intricacies of the route memorized, but knowing where the fluid stations are located and what the temperature is expected to reach are very important. Having a race-day heat strategy will give you the confidence that you are doing everything you can do to maximize your performance for those conditions.

In cool-weather races, you can get away with just taking it as it comes. In a warm-weather race, that’s definitely not an option. Plan your hydration strategy, factor in the aid stations on the course, note the temperature at start time and perhaps recalculate your predicted finish time. Slacking in one area could have big consequences.

Although knowledge about sports nutrition and hydration has proliferated greatly in recent years, studies conducted by the Gatorade Sports Science Institute have concluded that most runners aren’t taking in enough fluid, electrolytes or carbohydrates during a marathon, which is the primary reason so many runners experience a big bonk late in a race.

When it comes to warm-weather racing conditions, electrolytes are crucial. Sodium, potassium and magnesium are all extremely important to performance. Small shifts in the balance in your system could have damaging consequences. Water alone will not suffice when racing in warm conditions and in almost every instance, we lose more than we can take in.

Bumping up the sodium in your diet the few days leading up to the race can help create a nice buffer along with adding a sports drink to your pre-race hydration routine. During the race, electrolytes should be taken at every aid station as long as your stomach is not acting up. Practicing taking in electrolytes during your training will help your body adapt to the absorption required during the event.

RELATED: Sports Drinks Vs. Water

Most runners carbo-load the day before a long race, but many aren’t reloading lost carbs at a fast enough rate to maintain their energy during a race. Aiming to ingest 50-60 grams of carbohydrates per hour is a good benchmark. This might mean taking at least two gels or two servings of chews (which typically have 20-30g of carbs per serving) per hour, plus several swigs of a sports nutrition drink and copious amounts of water, too.

Just as you wouldn’t show up on the day of the race without training, you shouldn’t limit your hydrating and fueling strategies only to races. Practice drinking and refueling at regular intervals during your long runs, even if it means running in loops or stashing water bottles and gels ahead of time.

Ease Into It
Racing should always include an element of trusting your instincts and in the case of a warm-weather race, you will need to pay particular attention to how you are feeling. The effects of heat can creep up on you quickly so you need to really pay attention and be reactive to what your body is telling you. Taking in extra fluids at an aid station or slowing down can help you salvage a solid performance.

Easing into the race will also help your body adjust to the conditions and not send your system into a state of shock by going out too aggressively. Better to run consistent and steady when dealing with those warm-weather temperatures on race day.

This column first appeared in the July 2013 issue of Competitor magazine.


About The Author:

Two-time U.S. Olympian Alan Culpepper helps runners of all abilities via his website at

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