Every transition into summer brings a bit of whining about the weather. It seems as though everyone gets obsessed with being comfortable. However, I don’t believe anyone ever improved his or her racing performance, weight loss or body image by being comfortable. It’s when you’re especially uncomfortable that you start to get a training effect. So, who wants to suffer a little?
Training in the heat definitely has its advantages, especially if your goal race is expected to reach temperatures above 75 degrees, which is highly likely if you’re racing within the next three months. If you want to be prepared, you should train in similar conditions.
Now, before anyone gets too crazy and collapses from heat exhaustion, know that we’re not suggesting you push past your limit. Everyone has a different threshold for heat, so please know where your line is before you cross it.
Be hydrated! You want to feel the effects of the heat and have it supplement your training, but you need to go into it well-hydrated. Drink water generously for two to three days before a hot run. If you’re looping a route, doing hill repeats or are training at the track, bring a bag of ice with you.
Also dress appropriately if you’re heat-training outside. The best running outfit includes a light-colored cap, mesh or light material tank, light-colored and lightweight shorts, sunscreen and sunglasses.
Numerous studies have shown that training in heated conditions, two to three times per week for 20 to 90 minutes, can produce a multitude of beneficial training effects. These include:
- Lower core temperature at the onset of sweating
- Increased plasma volume (Plasma is the liquid component in your blood. If the volume is increased, you can send blood to cool your skin without compromising the supply carrying oxygen to your muscles.)
- Decreased heart rate
- Increased oxygen consumption
- Improved exercise economy
The result? You can run faster and/or more efficiently in all temperatures.
Treadmill: If Mother Nature isn’t supplying the heat you need, run on a treadmill in a room where the temperature is 75-85 degrees. If you want to be outside, put on a light layer of extra clothing. Keep your pace moderate and only run a distance you are used to. This is not the workout to increase pace or distance. Repeat once every three days.
Track: Here’s where the bag of ice comes in handy. Place the bag with your stuff on the infield of the track. Do an easy warm-up for 10 to 15 minutes and then begin some speedwork. Run for up to one mile at 5K pace and then put some ice in your sports bra or under your hat—and repeat. Each time you do this workout, use less ice. Repeat once a week.
Hills: After a mile warm-up, chose a hill you can run up at a comfortable pace in about two to four minutes. Run up, then jog or walk back down, 4-8 times. Do a cool-down walk or jog back and rehydrate immediately. Repeat once a week.
Obviously this is extreme training for some, but runners of all levels can benefit from being a little uncomfortable in all types of weather conditions. As long as you’re safe, don’t fear the heat — go outside and run!