Heat training can be your best adversary to not only prepare for races that are in hotter climates but also test your mindset, how badly you want to succeed.
Veteran athletes and total newbies alike have all experienced how heat can affect performance.
I can remember one of my biggest failures but also a race that taught me so much about how drastically different you can feel from trying to race in hot, humid conditions as opposed to cool, overcast conditions.
Have you ever seen the Kenyans in major races?
It never seems as if the conditions affect them.
The truth is, hot and humid conditions can affect anyone, even them.
I have been in numerous races over the years where heat training came into play for me to finish the race.
I have seen some of the world’s top Kenyna athletes drop out of races on account of hot and humid conditions.
The Kenyans are not exempt from this occurring.
They train in the heat but they also put their pants on one foot at a time and bleed red like you and I.
They are human, work extremely hard but even they can feel the effects of warmer temperatures and perform less then their capability.
The important thing is to remember that and not to let hotter temperatures make you feel as though you are out of shape or not living up to your expectation.
Be patient and persistent with this.
Focus on clean, healthy living.
We live in a society where success is glorified and failure is frowned upon.
The problem with this mindset is that most of the world’s greatest successes were bred from some of the most painful failures.
Thomas Edison didn’t just create the lightbulb.
He was quoted once as saying,
I have not failed, I have only found 10,000 ways that do not work
It is a very unique way of looking at things.
The greatest success stories have come from enormous amounts of failed attempts.
I can humbly say that I have failed far more times as a runner as I have succeeded but I never would have run a mile in 4.19, a half marathon in 1.07 or marathon in under 2.19.40 had I let failure rule my thoughts or steal my joy.
Neither can you and it doesn’t matter the times we run, that we win our age group at ever race, are a multiple Boston marathon qualifier or have run a sub 2.20 marathon.
No one is any less then the other.
What matters is we stay motivated and don’t lose enthusiasm for what we do on account failure or jumping to conclusions that we don’t have what it takes just because we miss an athletic goal due to hot and humid conditions.
To let something like this get the best of us is asinine.
Are you healthy?
You have another chance to make up for it.
If no one is interested in this post I write does that mean I quit writing?
Absolutely not, I write another..and another.
How To Overcome The Heat?
It really comes down to your perspective.
There are people who look at a bad workout as the end of the world, as if one run in the heat dictates how great of a runner they can be.
Don’t put yourself in that category.
I have trained with some world-class european, kenyan, ethiopian and american middle to long distance runners.
They all are affected by warmer conditions but heat training, preparing to race in hotter conditions will eventually teach the body to adapt to the environment.
You have to be smart about it though.
If you have the choice of training in the heat of the afternoon or getting up earlier when the temperatures are still within reasonable levels, which is the smarter move?
Most would say in the morning.
What if you have a race in mind where you know it is going to be hot?
Do you think most of the Olympians that were getting ready for the 2004 Athens Marathon were training in the heat?
Of course, they were preparing to experience what they knew they were most definitely going to deal with in Athens.
Everything In Moderation
If you are preparing for a flat marathon what is the sense in constantly training on hills?
A mixture of rolling and flat terrain is best but thinking that training specifically on hills is going to make you a faster marathoner isn’t necessarily true.
Sometimes you can do everything correctly and still miss the mark.
That is why you keep trying.
There is no short cuts in this sport.
Second guessing yourself is selling yourself short.
Your letting worry and being too caught up in your goals that it eventually steals your joy.
You grow tired, fatigued and irritable.
No one has all the answers, not you or me, regardless what level of athlete we are.
What works for someone like me who has run 2.19 for the marathon distance isn’t necessarily going to work best for you.
We all can make each other better and all of us can share with someone who needs our help.
The point in writing this post is to remind you to not let the hot and humid conditions get the best of you.
Do Not Get Discouraged
Do not expect to run as fast in hot and humid conditions as you would on a less humid, cooler day.
Everything is effected by it.
In a 2004 study conducted by Tucker et al. examined cyclists who were to complete a 20 kilometer time trial in a lab.
One group were riding at 59 degrees, the other at 97 degrees.
Those who rode in the hotter temperatures, understandably, had higher internal temperatures and slower times.
Peak internal temperatures were 100 degrees for the riders who did the time trial in the cooler temperatures and 102 degrees for the group training in hotter temperatures.
The biggest difference between the two groups is those athletes that were doing the time trial in 97 degrees started off slower.
Your body already has a built in ‘anticipatory’ strategy for controlling heat buildup.
What does this mean?
You are already physically impaired before your body even reaches a maximum internal temperature.
The Bottom Line Up Front
Heat training is not dangerous but you also have to listen to your body.
One of the conversations I was having with one of the athletes I coach is wearing a heart rate monitor on easy days in the heat.
It really doesn’t matter if you are wearing it on an easy day, tempo run or a long run.
If the day of the workout or race is to be set on a hot and humid day, plan accordingly.
Back off your pace drastically the hotter it is.
Heart rate will most notably be far higher in hot conditions than if it is were a cool day.
Cardiac output can be increased by increasing the heart rate.
Therefore, an increase in temperature, through the vasodilation of blood vessels causes a drop in blood pressure, which is compensated for by increasing the cardiac output, which can be achieved through increasing the heart rate.
Therefore heart rate increases when temperature increases.
Why Is My Heart Rate So High But I Am Going So Slow?
When outdoor temperatures rise the heart has to beat faster to pump more blood to the skin to assist in sweating to keep it cool.
Obviously, the opposite is true when it is cooler out.
You will most often times never run as fast in the heat as you would in cooler temperatures and this is one of many reasons why.
Have you ever been out on a run on a hot and humid day and felt as if you were crawling, yet your heart rate is as high as it normally would be for a tempo run?
The above statement is the reason why.
The best advice I can give is do not overanalyze or self-criticize yourself if you cannot maintain the pace you initially wanted before starting you run.
You have to make adjustments to the goals you set for yourself especially on hotter days.
There will be times where the heat may cause you to stop.
Be very cognizant of this.
Adjust Your Goals
For example, if you have a 10-mile run planned and it is 95 degrees out a good tip is to adjust your pace.
There is a big difference in doing a 10-mile run in 70 minutes on a 55 degree day with 30 percent humidity, as compared to a 95 degree day with 90 percent humidity.
One will feel, if in great shape, very easy, the other will feel like you have just finished a marathon regardless how fit you are.
Far too many runners are beating themselves up about a bad run in the heat.
When you catch yourself doing this, keep this particular post in mind.
Like negativity, let it go in one ear and out the other but don’t hold on to it.
You have to have a short-term memory when workouts and races don’t go as planned.
The most successful athletes are that way for a reason.
They don’t let bad performances float around in their head for too long.
Do not entertain any negative thought.
It doesn’t matter if they are world-class athletes or total beginners, the best runners are usually the happiest.
The ‘best runners’ are not always world-class athletes either and many of which could teach top distance runners many important tips themselves on how to run more effectively.
Do Not Let Running Be Your Only Identity
There are athletes who seem to have no other identity outside of their sport.
The biggest flaw I see with some (not all) top runners is that they clamor for attention.
They want to talk about their workouts and races.
It is normal and can be helpful to share your successes but at the same time keep in mind there are people who would love to equal your greatest failed attempt.
Don’t get cocky.
There are people who don’t even have the luxury to run yet we complain and let a bad race or workout ruin our day.
Do remain humble.
I remember talking on the phone with famed University of Colorado head distance coach, Mark Wetmore.
I’ll never forget the conversation I had with him.
We were talking about this same subject and he mentioned Adam Goucher,
Nate, Adam is a great athlete, one of the nation’s best distance runners, but what is he going to do when he is done with his running career? You can’t run forever, running doesn’t pay the bills and even if you are one of the top athletes in the world as he is, they still don’t get payed enough to retire. What than?
It may seem harsh but this is true.
It is one thing to train full-time and some of my friends within this sport who are sub 2.12 marathoners and not working a full-time job like you and I, don’t fully understand this just yet.
They are ‘caught up’ with their running pursuits and, understandably, are trying their best to get the most out of their capability.
They are also training full-time with no other worries or concerns outside of getting fit.
What about the countless others around the world who are working two to three jobs, raising kids and putting in 50 miles or more per week?
They are just as impressive, if not more, then even the best distance runners I have trained with.
Let’s Get Real
Right now, they are on top of the world but winning $1000 here and $5000 there isn’t enough to retire on.
It takes a very special athlete with unique physiological and genetic gifts coupled with an enormous amount of work ethic to run well enough to retire and only a very small handful of athletes world-wide are in this category.
I am talking about the sub 2.05 male marathoners and the sub 2.21 female marathoners and middle distance runners who can put up equivalent efforts in their respective races that have the luxury to retire in their sport…
..and even they have to be watchful of how much they spent and as even they could run into issues.
It is very easy to talk about how great your workouts are, what splits you hit in this weeks repeat mile workout at the track but it doesn’t do anything for the guy or gal working a full-time job trying to run their first 5K.
The real value in this sport is when you take the attention off yourself and give it to someone else.
People don’t care what you ran your 10-mile race in.
They want to know how they can run 10 miles in a week and how they can do it easier, with more joy and increased motivation.
No one should give two shits that I ran 2.19 for the marathon.
What I hope is that they understand that I am an athlete that shares the same frustrations, successes and failures as they do and that I want to see them reach their potential.
Running is a selfish sport when 100% of the attention is on you.
It isn’t selfish when you are reaching out to others trying to assist them perform more efficiency and help them live up to what they are already capable of.
People need to know that their efforts count too.
Everyone doesn’t need to be a sub 2.20 marathoner to feel as though they have knowledge to share.
Athletes, of all capabilities, have knowledge that can make a difference in someone’s life.
My advice on heat training is no more credible than a 5 hour marathoner in another part of the world.
He or she has advice that I could learn from and vice versa.
1. Stay hydrated
This has been beaten into our subconscious many times before but it some of the most sound advice anyone can give.
We lose so much sweat in hotter temperatures and it is very easy to be dehydrated.
Drink plenty of water and stay away from watered down, sugary drinks like gatorade.
You also lose an enormous amount of iron through sweat and can run low on it without even knowing.
2. Lay off the soda
If at all possible, do your best to stay away from carbonated beverages.
They are filled with sugar and empty calories and do nothing for your recovery.
The body is over 70% water.
You will run far less effective and feel much more fatigued, irritable and less motivated if you become severely dehydrated.
Keep an eye on how dark your urine is.
Ensure it is white to light yellow in color at all times.
The darker it is, the more water you need and the less hydrated you are.
3. Eat plenty of fruits,vegetables and foods high in glutathione
A well-balanced diet high in glutathione and water will help to ensure you are not only properly hydrated but also will protect your immune system and help to balance and imbalanced energy capability within the body.
High performance nutrition is everything as running performance and success comes down to far more then just doing your daily workouts.
4. Get your blood tested if your feeling constantly fatigued
Not enough runners necessarily need to go to the extent but if you are constantly feeling fatigued, are doing everything right, yet still can’t seem to figure out the answer having your blood checked can work wonders.
You can have all the motivation in the world, running low in any of these can gave drastic effects.
If you go from one month hitting mile repeats at 6 minutes a mile to the next, hitting 7.15’s and struggling to finish or not finishing the workout at all this is a piece of advice worth considering.
I was diagnosed with anemia back in 2007 and have taken a 65mg tablet with orange juice daily.
Vitamin C helps to absorb iron within the body more efficiently.
5. Slow down
If you are racing or have a workout plan and you know it is going to be hot, listen to your body and adjust pace.
It makes no sense to act as if it is 55 degrees out in a race when it is 90 degrees with a heat index of 105 and go out and race as if it is cool.
I have seen far too many athletes go out way too fast for their own good in the past and one of those athletes I speak of is myself.
Lesson learned and one you do not have to make or continue to make.
If you run best in cooler temperatures don’t go into a hot and humid race and race in the same fashion.
It can be foolish.
I am all for shaking things up sometimes and going for it when the moment strikes but just make sure when you do your fitness matches your bravery.
I hit the first half of my marathon personal best three seconds off my half marathon PR.
It is good to risk sometimes.
Sometimes you can risk, but pick a cool day and most importantly, the right day, to do it.
You can 100% fit but the hot and humid conditions can challenge even the best athletes.
6. Have patience even when you fail
I was in the best shape of my life going into the 2007 Chicago Marathon.
I had just run a 1.07.06 half-marathon best in cool temperatures in Philadelphia a couple months before the race and was gunning for the than 2.22.00 2008 USA Olympic Trials Marathon standard.
The temperature at the start was 78 degrees and was already 82 degrees by mile in the race.
I was competing for the US Army World Class Athlete Program than where failure was most certainly frowned upon and only results were looked for.
You fail to meet time standards, you’re out of there.
It is a unit that is extremely difficult to get into and even more difficult to remain in as the expectations for you only go higher and higher.
You have a choice. You can be average, be good, be great. Your momma didn’t make it, the teacher didn’t make, the preacher didn’t make it, you made it. If you choose to be average than is all you are ever going to be in life – Coach Joe Newton, famed distance coach at York High School
I hit the half-marathon point that day in 1.11.13 but crossing the half marathon mat, I looked over at the 1985 Boston Marathon Champion, Lisa Rainsberger, who was coaching me at that time, with a look of despair.
I felt awful and the heat was certainly affecting the way I was performing that day.
The Army had payed my way and I had a lot of high powered people watching to see how I did.
I did not do well at all that day, to their standards or to mine, but I also learned an invaluable lesson.
Our greatest successes stems from some of our greatest failures.
I walked and jogged the last 13 miles of the race coming in at 2.51.55 and two months later ran 2.19.35 on a much cooler, calm day.
All it took was 3 days off and a very short-term memory.
Always remember to never hold on to the past too long.
Beating yourself up over a race or workout that you cannot even get back isn’t worth it.
Never let up or lose your motivation on account of hot and humid conditions.
Heat training is a great way to appreciate the day when temperatures do drop.
You will wonder why you couldn’t do a 5-mile run under 50 minutes in the heat, yet can go out and break 40 minutes in better conditions and feel much more at ease doing it.
You will find not only is your pace drastically faster but you are also much more motivated and optimistic about your preparation.
Do not lose enthusiasm regardless what trials and tribulations you may be dealing with as an athlete.
Always keep in mind there are far greater problems in the world than a bad workout or race on account of hot and humid conditions.