As we approach the heat of the summer I wanted to share my thoughts on training in the heat.
First of all the biggest challenge you will face is taking the time to adapt! Spring in Texas has been fairly mild so it seems for 2014 we went from mild temps to HOT! Adaptation takes a few weeks to occur, and this will only happen if you are training at least 2-3 days a week outside. Keep in mind your workouts should be about “effort” and not “pace.” If your normally run a 9 min per mile pace in 50 degree weather or less, your pace may drop to 10 ½ minutes or more if it is 95 degrees! It doesn’t mean your overall pace is dropping or your running will suffer, it just means the same effort will produce a slower pace.
What is the best way to measure effort? A heart rate monitor is the best tool. If you train in zone 2 for example (180-age, plus 5 if you are very active, minus 5 if you are not active at all) then you can track your progress over the summer. You will be amazed at how much you can still improve your performance once the cooler temperatures return in the fall.
Over training in the heat can be very detrimental. If you train at your regular pace in the heat, it would be equivalent to doing speed work during every work out. This will result in fatigue and possible injury. Remember that even if it is just warm, the humidity will make it tougher for the body to cool itself, so even if it is 80 degree early in the am, if it is also humid then it will be just as tough as running in hot weather.
Things to make the heat more bearable: first, try to run or work out in the shade, this will help keep you cooler (it is all relative right). Second, be sure to drink plenty of fluids, not just during your workout, but before and after.
Finally, make sure you replace lost electrolytes in your body. If you train for more than an hour, it is a good idea to take in products like “salt sticks” or “s-caps”. While Gatorade and similar products tout electrolyte replacement, they also come with excess products like sugar (or worse, fake sugar) and other chemicals which will hamper your performance.
Keep it clean, stay focused and enjoy the experience. All your workouts in the “dog days” of summer will pay off once the cooler temps return.