Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Heat Training

In 2007, The Chicago Marathon reached record heat levels. In 2008, by three hours into the race--although officials were much better prepared than the previous year--the alert level was changed to red and runners were encouraged to walk it in due to the extremely hot conditions (although a couple of degrees cooler than '07). I was there, and can attest that it was a cooker.

I picked a Fall marathon for many reasons, but one of them is the generally more predictable weather of the season. Nothing wrong with toughing it out in windy, rainy, cold or generally lousy conditions that befuddle Spring marathon racers, but I'm after one goal this season: Qualifying for Boston. I picked Chicago, well, because I absolutely loved it! But I am counting on one thing: A doggone hot race. And I have a nice long, hot, humid Midwest summer to prepare for it.

There are several obvious things you can do to avoid training in the heat if that is what you're after. Use the gym's treadmill, run at 4 AM, wear light colored clothing, etc.

But, if you suspect that your biggest obstacle in a goal race is going to be how hot it is (and I do); I would recommend embracing the heat. Learning to live with it. Your body is an amazingly adaptable machine. And over time, it can be taught to adapt and perform better in hot conditions.

I don't hydrate well on my runs. In fact, I despise carrying fluid at all. For extremely long hot runs, this is not the wisest decision, and I'll usually circle back to a point every 4-5 miles to pick up something to drink. I don't have the benefit of a large training group where water stops are frequent, so I've learned to adapt--if you have that kind of support, great, it's probably not a problem for you.

One of the key hydration techniques I've learned is to begin the hydration process the day before. But, you can't just drink water, you'll interfere with your body's electrolytes. I use Endurolytes, and continue taking them as appropriate for my body weight, water intake, miles to cover and sweat levels. If done measurably well, I can manage almost any training run. The other thing that I struggle with is there comes a point when training hard on a long run, my body will simply not absorb what I need, and I will become extremely nauseated with the water sloshing around. Being a little super-hydrated (with the appropriate electrolyte balance) going into the run is the best tactic I have.

Get Hot.
Yeah, it's really that simple. Learn to be hot. Learn to process the fluid and adapt to what you need. Some people will wear an extra layer when training. Others will even sit in saunas, though that is a bit extreme, in preparation for extremely hot races such as Badwater. Sit in the sun or be outdoors for periods of time. Don't always use your car's A/C. It's funny, I used to be accused of needing the temperature in the house and in the car at 60 F at all times. Just the other day, I was in my car with mid-80s F temps and the windows up, and others were complaining how unbearably hot it was in the car. Wow, I was really comfortable and not even sweating.

The take away message here shouldn't be one to overdo the heat training, please exercise caution. Overheating, dehydration, heat exhaustion and heat stroke are all very real dangers to us runners out there. But, I do want to point out that you can learn and your body can adapt to training and racing in the heat. And if you are going to run a hot race, it's better to train in hot conditions.


Sharneysrun said...

Great tips! I'll be sure to keep them in mind for Chicago 2010 :-)

runner-grrl said...

Sharon, Great to hear from you :-) How's your healing going? Any updates? -Alex

runner-grrl said...

For more on this topic, check out my buddy Jesse's blog at:

He does a great job of talking through some other options on dealing with running in the heat. --Alex

Sharneysrun said...

Hi Alex,
Not much new. Just resting & healing! I see the nutritionist on July 15 (pending approval from my insurance - not going to go if it's not covered. I've spent too much $$$ so far including a $2500 deductible!!!)I then see the endocrinologist on July 28th. I will see my sports med doc on July 16th to go over my dexa scan. I've just been taking it easy & missing running/training so much :-( Glad to hear that your training is going so well!

runner-grrl said...

Sharon, Yikes on that deductible! :-S Well, I am wishing and praying for the absolute BEST recovery possible. Thanks for your ongoing support and visits. I know it's gotta be unbearably tough knowing you aren't going to be racing chi in a couple of months... so when you stop by to comment, it means a lot to me! --Alex