Thriving in Heat

When a simple 4 mile run can feel like this it's time to arm yourself with some strategies to thrive while others wilt.

When a simple 4 mile run can feel like this it's time to arm yourself with some strategies to thrive while others wilt.

So you have registered for Monumental with a fast course and cool conditions on your mind.  But then the realization sets in that to be ready to take advantage in November there are some critical training months that will be neither fast nor cool.  It's hot out there!  I do not want to duplicate the other heat training articles you have read, but I do want to offer a few practical points that may help you thrive while others are melting this summer.

LIVE BY FAITH when the heat index is stacked against you.  Accept your watch will not be offering you much in the way of confidence building numbers. It will be rare to be feeling light and fast when the conditions induce sweating by the very act of stepping outside.  Have faith that great training effect can still be had from working through tough conditions.  Your watch may try to tell you that you are worthless and weak and you should take up a less strenuous hobby when all the while you have been building the perfect beast.  The first cool day will prove your faith was well placed.

YOUR HEART RATE WILL DRIFT in the heat.  Two primary factors will cause your heart rate to rise above your actual effort level.  Lower blood volume caused by dehydration results in increased heart beats to deliver the same amount of oxygen.  Blood is also redistributed closer to the surface of the skin to help cool you and that leaves less volume for exercise.  So your legs and lungs may feel fine while your heart rate is indicating you have increased the effort.  This is a good time to rely on your other measures of effort.  If we can no longer trust pace or heart rate we need to focus more on our respiratory rate, muscular tension and perceived exertion.

TRAIN YOUR GUT to get you through the fire.  We know that if you can keep your water, sugar, and salt levels constant, running long and fast sure is easier.  As they dip you have all kinds of trouble coming your way.  We know what dehydration can do to you,but without enough sodium there is only so much water that can be absorbed no matter how much you drink.  If you run low on sugar you are on borrowed time before all speed is gone.  Are you thinking, "I tried, but I just cannot eat or drink anything when I run"?  Well, maybe.  But just like endurance and speed that is trainable.  Start working on it now.  If you get this down the duration and quality of your workouts can be closer to what you can do in ideal weather.  Bonus: This skill will be a big deal on race day when you are trying to run longer and faster even in great conditions.

WEIGH EARLY AND OFTEN to manage your hydration.  Keeping your hydration level constant will not only maximize your chances of a good workout or race, but it will also help speed recovery.  In the summer, running consecutive days or twice a day for the higher mileage crowd, your ability to rehydrate can become your limiting factor.  How do you know if you are optimally hydrated?  The simple and most practical way is to keep an eye on weight.  As you weigh yourself you know what to expect in the morning, pre run, post run, and at bedtime.  This regularity helps prevent surprises because if you realize you are too light and dehydrated as you head out on a run there is not much to be done other than to suffer.  In most cases taking in fluid on the run is limiting your losses and not keeping up with them, so if you start dehydrated it is all but a lost cause.  However, if you know several hours before a run you have time to work on it.