Running and exercising in warmer weather tends to be more taxing on your body and requires more energy to remain cool.
Most running experts suggest performance impairments of between 1.6% and 3% in marathon times for every 10 degrees above 55 degrees Fahrenheit. The exact ideal temperature (approximately 45-55 degrees Fahrenheit) is debatable and based also on humidity.
When you’re not acclimatized to running in heat, it takes even more effort to keep your running pace. This increases your risk of muscle cramping, bonking (hitting the wall), and/or being unable to maintain your goal pace (which leads to a longer finishing time).
Even moderately warm temperatures can significantly impair performance. Warm/hot temperatures can affect the body in many ways including:
- Increased heart rate.
- Increased blood pressure. This can worsen as you sweat and as your fluid loss starts to exceed 2% of your body weight. This occurs because your overall blood volume starts to decrease as you dehydrate. This means that your heart has to work harder to pump a reduced volume of blood to the needed muscles. It’s made even worse as the body shunts blood to the skin to help cool the body so even less blood is available to the working muscles.
- Excessive fluid loss which can lead to dehydration. Most runners will lose some body weight and up to 2% can even be performance enhancing. After the 2% mark, performance will drop even further. Some studies suggest 4-6% initially which worsens as dehydration continues.
7 Tips to Quickly become Heat Acclimated for Your Race:
1. Perform High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)
You will need to adequately train your body to handle the extra intensity needed in order to maintain your pace. The best method when training for a more intense pace is through High Intensity Training (HIT) or High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT). Perform short bursts (ranging from 30-60 seconds at a time) of activity followed by a 1-2 minute recovery. The 30-60 seconds should be at a high intensity, meaning that your rate of perceived exertion (RPE) is high. You should be breathing heavy.
2. The Sauna
My preference is to utilize the sauna post-running. This allows me to put forth max effort in performing my scheduled run followed by a 10-20 minute sauna session. (Initially, work up to a 30-40 minute session if tolerated.) You can use either a dry heat sauna or a steam room, but choose this based on the anticipated humidity during your race or sport activity. Utilizing the sauna provides best results if initiated three to four weeks prior to the event. However, positive effects can occur in as little as one to two weeks before the race. I recommend tapering down and discontinuing sauna use two or three days prior to the event. If you’re hard core, try performing light exercise when in the sauna or steam room. A few rounds of push-ups or squats can be beneficial. If you own a sauna, you may even consider gently riding a stationary bike. (If you have a heart condition, please first clear any use of a sauna with your physician.)
3. Hot Yoga
Currently, this form of yoga is a “hot” fitness trend. Preforming hot yoga is an excellent cross training method which allows you to acclimatize to the heat. I recommend one to two sessions per week as part of your cross training routine.
4. Increase your Fuel Intake
You will likely be putting forth a harder effort in the heat to maintain your pace. I recommend increasing your fuel intake by 100-200 Calories per hour during the race. This will provide your body with enough energy to push harder than expected. Experiment with the increased fuel during your training runs or prior to the event. This will eliminate any potential gastrointestinal (GI) issues from the change in your fueling strategy.
It is rarely necessary to supplement with salt or electrolyte tablets during the race. Muscle cramping can be an issue, but it’s usually due from over exertion and not from a lack of salt. Heat increases your exertional levels. If you start to cramp, you can quickly place something salty (such as some pickle juice or a mixture of sea salt and honey) in your mouth. (You don’t even need to ingest the food or beverage.) It will trigger a neurological response which can alleviate the cramp.
Colostrum is the first milk produced by female mammals after giving birth. It contains a host of immunoglobulins, anti-microbial peptides, and other growth factors. It is especially good at strengthening the intestinal lining which prevents and heals conditions associated with a leaky gut. Colostrum can also help a person more effectively exercise in hotter conditions. Over all, it can boost the immune system, assist with intestinal issues, and help the body to recover faster. I recommend CapraColostrum by Mt. Capra, which is a goat based supplement. If you have a goat allergy, I also alternatively recommend a cow (bovine) based supplement known as IgG 2000 CWP. This supplement is an immunoglobulin concentrate made from bovine colostrum.
7. Run when it’s Hot
Now this one may seem obvious, but you need to practice (as best you can) running in the conditions that will likely be present during your race. The most important component one must be aware of when running in hot weather is to adjust your expectations as well as your fueling and hydration strategy. Plan on increased times and decreased effort. Personal records are rarely accomplished in hot weather scenarios.
In general, exercising in warmer weather tends to be more taxing on your body. It requires more energy to remain cool. If possible, do anything you can to help your body remain cool including staying hydrated and using any external sources of cold on the body itself to help reduce your overall core temperature.
Becoming acclimatized to the hotter conditions will help your body adjust which can allow for a lower heart rate and a more prepared cardiovascular system. This can improve your performance by maintaining your goal pace while avoiding dehydration and muscle cramping.