Ok, it is that time again. For a few months I thought it was going to be a cool summer, but then … “BAM” it was hot. Ok, no problem. I have done this before. I love running in the heat. Oh, crap, this is HOT. Oh no, it is only 90 degrees and it will get to 100. Ok, calm down, breath, everything will be ok.
First off, I have to remind myself, I am working out, so I guess sweating is all part of that. Heck, the more I sweat, the more I know I am working out. I can deal with the heat, not a problem, Right?
Let’s first go over why I think it is good to run in the heat. Then I will talk about how to run in the heat.
So why should you run in the heat? Well, that depends. What are your running goals? Do you just want to run for fun? Are you running your first Marathon and just want to finish? Or do you want to PR at your next race?
Well if you answered yes to any of the questions other than PR at your next race, you don’t need to run in the heat, yet 😉 But if you’re ready to take it to the next level and PR, you need to love to run in the heat.
So if you’re still reading, you want to PR. Now why the heck do I want to run in the heat? And more importantly how is it going to help me PR?
As you run more in the heat, your body will adapt to it. The human body is an amazing machine. Even though most of us enjoy running and do it for fun, your brain is in flight or fight mode. It is doing everything it can to keep your body alive. At first it does this by keeping blood flowing to your legs and muscles so you can out run whatever you are running from to stay alive. Your heart rate increases and you start to sweat to cool your core temperature. As your core temperature increases, your brain is faced with a choice. Keep your vital organs working and cooled, or keep your muscles working and run. This is an easy decision for your brain so it reduces the blood flow to your extremities and focuses on cooling and keeping the vital organs alive. If you have ever started to feel numb or tingling in your toes or fingers, now you know why. Your core temperature is getting to hot. But like I said, your body is an amazing machine. As you continue to run your brain says, “I need more blood to keep the muscles working and the vital organs alive”, so over time (lets use 6 weeks, since it takes a broken bone about that long to heal), your body produces more blood. With your increased blood volume, your heart will not have to work as hard to keep you alive so your heart rate is reduced. You can see that all that hard training in the heat will pay off at your next race when the temperature is a perfect 55 degrees Fahrenheit.
Ok, so now you know why you should love to run in the heat, How do you run in the heat?
Just like every other run or race you need to plan. Temperature is part of that plan. Reduce you running intensity when training or racing in the heat. Consume extra fluids and electrolytes to prevent dehydration. I have to laugh a little when I say reduce your running intensity, because you will run slower and feel worse from the heat. The tough part about running in the heat, understanding that you are still getting faster and training smart even though you are running slower. Yep, you are running slower, but going to be faster for it. I remember running last summer training for my BQ race in September. I tried to run at pace on my pace runs. My BQ pace was going to be 7:20 minutes per mile. But no matter what I did, when it was hot, and it was HOT, I could not run at 7:20 for a 6 mile pace run. Well I trained, did my best and had no idea if I could run at my planned pace. To make a long story longer, I did, and I’m telling you, you can too even if it means running slower in the heat.
So how do I know what pace to train if it is HOT? I’m glad you asked. Reduce your running intensity by using this easy formula. Optimal running temperature is 55 degrees Fahrenheit. For every degree above 55 add 1.5 seconds to your pace per mile.
Still don’t believe me? Here is my work out today. My tempo run should be in normal conditions around 7:00 minutes/mile. But today it was 90 degrees, so that’s 35 degrees above 55. 35×1.5-52.5, so around 53 seconds added to my pace per mile. Or I should expect around 7:53 minute mile pace in 90 degree weather for my tempo run. Here is my run. 2 miles easy warm up, 6 miles at tempo pace, 2 miles easy cool down. Ok so I was a little slower, but I did this run on my normal neighborhood course and there are hills. So they might have slowed me down a bit 😉
Now running in the heat adds another problem, dehydration….
The best way to prevent dehydration during a run is to make sure you’re not dehydrated before the run starts. The easiest way to check if you dehydrated is checking the color of your urine. If it is clear you’re drinking too much, light yellow color or like the color of hay – your good, Dark yellow or like ice tea color – your dehydrated. Everyone is different, so saying drink 8 oz for every 20 minutes of running does not work. If you’re thirsty, then you should drink. Make sure you’re not only drinking water. Excess water in the body can cause hyponatremia (low blood sodium). So make sure if you sweat a lot you replace lost electrolytes with a sports drink or other form of electrolyte replacement and that you are not only drinking water. Consult a RD CSSD (registered dietitian (RD) and board certified specialist in sports dietetics (CSSD)) for more information on how much electrolyte replacements you need.
Now go out and run in the heat. You will be glad you did at your next race! (as long as it is 55 ^:-)