Train Smarter This Summer!

Heat? Humidity? Be smart and you can still work toward your goals.


Kristen Dold |

Heat? Humidity? Be smart and you can still work toward your goals. – By Kristen Dold

When it’s humid, fewer sweat droplets can evaporate and cool you, which means your internal temp stays high—unless you stop for a dip midrun. Mitch Mandel
When it’s humid, fewer sweat droplets can evaporate and cool you, which means your internal temp stays high—unless you stop for a dip midrun. Mitch Mandel

Beers, burgers, and food markets aren’t the only things that might weigh you down this summer: sweltering weather can make even a short run feel like a trudge through mud. As the sun beats down, your core temperature shoots up, sending blood away from muscles to the surface of skin to help
heat dissipate.

RELATED: 6 Mouth-Watering Post-Run Burgers

It’s uncomfortable, but science says training in the heat is worth the trouble: hot-weather workouts teach your body to sweat more (which keeps you cool), increase your blood-plasma volume (which benefits cardiovascular fitness), and lower your core body temp – all adaptations that help you perform better in any weather.

RELATED: 6 Things Doctors Wish You Knew About Running In The Heat

But how hot is too hot? “I tell people to use caution when it’s more than 27 degrees out – or 32, if you’re heat-acclimatised. And if the humidity is high, you need to make even more adjustments,” says Dr Douglas Casa, head of the University of Connecticut’s Korey Stringer Institute, which studies enhancing performance in heat. Follow these specific tweaks, depending on what you’re training for.

GOAL: Autumn marathon

If you’ve pencilled in a long run and starting at 4 or 5am isn’t an option, make sure you’ve had a solid night’s rest, which enhances heat tolerance, says Casa. Avoid out-and-back routes (which don’t give you the option to bail), and tweak your expectations: “Many of us are around 10 per cent slower in the heat,” says Casa. Try running for time instead of distance on super-hot days: if a 30km normally takes you three hours, run for three hours at the same effort level.

GOAL: Summer evening 5-K series

Prep for post-work races by packing hydrating fruit and veggie snacks (like carrots, cucumbers, strawberries, and spanspek) to nosh on throughout the day. And chill a buff to wrap around your neck during the run: a recent study found that such cooling tactics during a race are more effective than pre-cooling strategies when it comes to boosting performance in the heat.

RELATED: 8 Ways To Keep Cool This Summer!

You’ll also want to halve your standard warm-up to avoid overheating, says running coach Ben Rosario. So if you typically jog for 10 minutes and do dynamic stretches for 10 minutes pre-race, do each for five instead – your muscles warm up more quickly in hot conditions. Set goals depending on how the elements look that day.

One idea is to focus on place instead of time: if you know you’re among the top 50 in a given race on a cooler day, shoot for the same approximate place when it’s hot.

Image by Mitch Mandel
Image by Mitch Mandel

GOAL: Sprint triathlon

Stay flexible as you cross off your two or three swimming, cycling, and running workouts per week: “We ensure we’re swimming in the heat of the day and running and biking when it’s cooler, and we’ll pick cycling routes that pass petrol stations for ice to put in jerseys and sports bras,” says Jeff Bowman, owner and coach at Rev Tri Coaching. During warm workouts, experiment with hydration to find the right balance of fluids and electrolytes for your needs, and practise drinking on the bike and on the run.

When there’s a heat advisory, Bowman’s athletes move running and cycling workouts indoors, where they can put in an intense effort with workouts such as the compound brick: “It’s pretty common for us to have to train inside – we’ll do run/bike/run/bike/run/bike (or vice versa) and increase the intensity each subsequent run/bike block,” he says. “But we make sure there’s air conditioning, fans directed at your face and body, and cool fluids.”

GOAL: Running for fun and fitness

If the weather’s taking the life out of your workout, change plans: join a spinning class, pop in a workout DVD, or go for an aqua-jog. As long as you’re clocking at least three moderate to tough runs weekly (inside or outside), for at least half of your usual weekly volume, you’ll maintain base fitness and be able to ease back into your normal schedule as the days become more tolerable.

When you’re enduring hot temps, trade heat-radiating roads and pavements for dirt or grass; run shaded loops where you can replenish water and ice; and go by feel instead of pace.

Try RW US Art Director Erin Benner’s workout for steamy days: grab a noodle, jog 10 to 15 minutes to your local pool, then remove your shoes and jump in. Spend 15 to 20 minutes aqua-jogging with the noodle looped under your ’pits, then put your shoes on and jog home. Apply anti-chafing balm pre-run to avoid post-pool discomfort.

READ MORE ON: heat strength-training SUMMER TRAINING