Here comes summer!

Photo courtesy of Ann R.


Right Coach. Last I checked it’s dark, wet and COLD out there.

If you are planning on an early spring event and are used to cool to cold temperatures, you need to start planning for building heat tolerance for your event now.

That’s right. You thought you just had to worry about swimming, biking, running and strength training? The well prepared athlete will also look at expected temperatures for their goal races. Preparing for an event in winter and spring doesn’t prepare an athlete for race day temps they may encounter in Spring.  For instance, for every 10 degrees above 50 degrees, marathon times may increase 1-3%. Runners who are less fit, are larger or are taking diuretics are typically more impacted by heat.

What are the key points to adaptation which allow for greater aerobic performance?

  • Increased blood volume
  • Earlier and increased sweating
  • improved fluid electrolyte balance
  • Increased mental tolerance and a decrease in perceived exertion.

Every person is different but generally it takes one to two weeks to adapt although up to 75% of the adaptation takes place after five days. Heat adaptation is lost quickly after a week. This makes the timing of heat training crucial as just when you’d want to be working out in heat is right when you are cutting back on workouts for taper.

Current research suggests starting heat training 3 – 4 weeks before your goal event. Not every workout needs to be in heat but aim for 3-4 workouts of an hour duration in a warm environment.

To achieve a warm environment indoors, wear more clothing than you would typically wear and do not use a fan. Remember that typical indoor temperatures are still much greater than our outdoor temperatures at this time of year. Remember to start drinking fluids earlier and slow down your pace as you would if you were outside running on a hot day.  Make sure to hydrate as needed throughout the rest of the day.

To achieve a warm environment outdoors, layer up including wearing a hat and gloves. The same advice for hydrating earlier and more often still holds true.

Saunas and steam rooms can also be used to adapt to heat by just sitting in a warm environment.

With any of these techniques, ease into heat training and make sure you are hydrating properly. Know the signs of heat exhaustion and heat stroke! 

The last week before the goal race, you should be focused on recovering. The heat adaptation you have built up should last so focus on tapering properly and not stressing your system with specific heat training.

The good news? Heat training can have positive effects on race day performance even if it’s not hot.

Further reading:

Heat Acclimation for Runners

Heat Training and Acclimatization


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