3 Ways to Train Through a Heat Wave

We’re now in the middle of Australian summer – and it’s safe to say things are heating up!

Running in the extreme heat shouldn’t be taken lightly. Although everyone’s heat tolerance is unique, most of us suffer reduced performance, delayed recovery, fatigue, crabbiness, and stress when running and training in extreme heat.

The body has to work much harder to cool itself and even more so in extreme temperatures. Those that live in hot, humid climates spend years acclimating to the temperatures and train at cooler times of the year or in the wee hours of the morning. You won’t see many marathoners out for their long runs at 9 a.m. They’re up and out by 4 a.m., and finishing before the sun rises.

The key to running safely and optimising your training is to modify your routine, and follow Smart Running Rule #1…

Just because we can run through the extremes, doesn’t mean we should.

This is especially crucial for those who truly suffer the effects of running in the heat, as dehydration, fatigue, and accumulated heat stress can set you back days – or even weeks.

Training for a long-distance event is stressful to the body on its own, and when you add the elements to the picture, pushing through a heat wave can alter your performance, slow your recovery rates, and set you up for a less than optimal racing season.

Mid-summer is when most long-distance runners are approaching their highest mileage and intensity weeks. This is the time to train smart, work with the heat for higher-quality workouts, recover efficiently, and stay on track with the training progression. The great thing is it doesn’t take much to stay on course in the heat, just a few tweaks.

Here are three ways to modify your running routine so you can stay on track and train safely through an extreme heat wave:

One: Take your workouts indoors. If you run your intervals, tempo, or even your easy runs at 20 degrees indoors until the heat wave subsides, you’ll get in a higher quality workout, your body will recover at its normal rate, and you’ll avoid the stress, fatigue, and emotional drain of trying to run your workout in the extreme heat It’s a short-term fix that will bridge your workouts during the extreme weather alert days.  It’s an effective tool for those who are trying to improve performance at the hottest time of the year and runners who can’t get out to run early.

Two: Cross-train and cut back. If the heat wave is going to last a short period of time (a week), modify your training and make it a cutback week in distance and intensity. Add in cross-training activities like cycling, and keep your effort levels easy to moderate to make the most of the cutback in training. This works especially well for those who are following a training plan that has a few extra weeks to play with, as you can move or shift the cutback weeks to train around hot weeks.

Three: Get up and out for your long runs by 4:30 a.m. This gives you plenty of time to get in your long distance run at the coolest time of the day. For those that suffer in the heat even after they adapt, consider planning your training seasons around the cooler months. Rather than fighting it, use the summer to run for speed and shorter 5K and 10K distances and the spring and autumn seasons for longer distance events.

Happy Trails.

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