As temperatures (finally!) rise in the UK, it’s worth considering how to adapt your training, nutrition and recovery bearing in mind the added stress that heat adds.
Increased heat and humidity can significantly impact performance and overall well-being. However, with the right strategies, you can adapt, stay safe, and continue to make gains in your training. In this article, we will explore how to adapt your run training when it gets hot, including adjusting your nutrition, hydration strategy, and training sessions. We’ll also provide tips to help you prepare for training in the heat and recover effectively when the temperatures are high.
Some of this might be teaching you to suck eggs, but it’s always useful to have a reminder however obvious some of the below suggestions might be!
Adapting Run Training in the Heat:
1. Adjusting Training Schedule:
When it warms up, consider adjusting your training. Avoid running in the early afternoon when it’s hottest and punt instead for early morning or late evening when it’s cooler (and you’ll be able to work harder).
2. Gradual Acclimation:
Acclimating your body to the heat is important both on a micro and macro level. It takes a couple of weeks to get used to warmer conditions, particularly here in the UK where it tends to follow a drawn-out period of cooler, wetter weather over the winter, as we’ve experienced this year. Increase the duration and intensity of your runs gradually. This allows your body to adapt to the environmental stress and improve heat tolerance over time. Begin with shorter runs and progressively increase the duration and intensity as your body adjusts.
But it’s also important on a micro level to acclimate to the heat during each session. Don’t dive right into intense running – build into it and let your body adapt.
3. Hydration Strategy:
Hydration becomes even more critical when running in the heat. Start your runs well-hydrated and sip water regularly throughout the day to maintain proper hydration levels. Carry a hydration vest with bottles or a bladder for anything longer than 60-minutes and consider adding electrolytes if you’re a heavy or salty sweater to replenish those lost through sweating.
Be sensible! While tiny bib shorts and a vest might be the most comfortable, is it right for sensible sun exposure? If you use suncream, then perhaps it is – common sense prevails here.
Choose lightweight, moisture-wicking clothing that allows for proper ventilation and evaporation of sweat. Wearing a hat and sunglasses can help protect your head and eyes from direct sun exposure. Use high SPF suncream to protect your skin from harmful UV rays.
Adapting Nutrition in the Heat:
5. Increased Fluid Intake:
In hot weather, your body sweats more to regulate temperature, leading to increased fluid loss. Stay hydrated as described above. It’s also worth monitoring your urine colour. You don’t want it to be completely clear (that’s a sign over over-hydration) but rathe a pale yellow colour.
6. Electrolyte Balance:
Sweating causes the loss of essential electrolytes like sodium, potassium, and magnesium. Include electrolyte-rich foods in your diet, such as bananas, oranges, coconut water and sports drinks. These will help maintain the electrolyte balance and prevent cramps and fatigue.
7. Pre- and Post-Run Nutrition:
Prioritize easily digestible carbohydrates before your runs to provide the necessary energy. Opt for foods like whole grain bread, fruits, yogurt, or energy gels. After your run, replenish glycogen stores with a combination of carbohydrates and protein, such as a fruit smoothie with added protein powder or a balanced meal.
Training Sessions in the Heat:
8. Modify Intensity and Duration:
When running in the heat, it's important to adjust your training intensity and duration. High-intensity workouts can be more challenging, so consider incorporating more moderate-paced runs or reducing the intensity of your intervals. Listen to your body and be mindful of any signs of overheating or exhaustion.
Remember that heat in itself is a stress. Running at 10:00 minute miles in the cool might be easy, but 10:00 minute miles in the heat creates a lot more stress on your body. If you recover well, this is an added gain, but be aware that heat is a training stimulus in its own right.
To avoid excessive heat exposure, consider incorporating indoor cross-training activities such as swimming, cycling or weight lifting on particularly hot days. There’s a load of benefits to cross-training and strength training which we cover in these articles:
10. Shade and Cooler Routes:
An obvious one, but if you’re able then plan your routes to take in more shaded routes – head to parks with more tree cover and avoid tarmac which radiates heat.
Preparing and Recovering in the Heat:
11. Pre-Run Cooling:
Before key workouts – of for the uber-committed! – you can lower your body temperature before starting your run by applying a cold towel or ice pack to pulse points like your neck, wrists, and forehead. This pre-cooling has been proven to delay overheating and improve performance.
12. Post-Run Cooling:
After a hot run, cool down by taking a cool shower or bath to lower your body temperature. Applying a cold compress to your neck and wrists can also help bring your core temperature down. Additionally, rehydrate and replenish lost fluids and electrolytes to aid recovery.
13. Listen to Your Body:
Pay attention to any signs of heat-related illnesses, such as dizziness, nausea, headache, or cramps. If you experience any of these symptoms, stop running and drink fluids to rehydrate. If symptoms persist, seek medical attention.
Running in the heat can be challenging, but with the right strategies it's possible to adapt and continue training effectively. Gradual adaptation, proper hydration, adjusting nutrition, modifying training sessions and implementing pre- and post-run cooling techniques are all essential aspects of running in the heat.