Tuesday, 24 November 2009

handling the heat

Posted by speedygeoff on Tuesday, November 24, 2009 with 5 comments
It looks as if we are in for a long hot summer. There have been record high temperatures for November in many parts of the country, we are in the grip of a continuing drought, more hot days are forecast, it has been uncomfortably warm by 9am most days, 9am being my usual time of emerging from the house in the mornings. Not quite what I wanted for resuming serious marathon training. How can I complete effective distance training runs when the weather does not co-operate? I have a training plan, all well and good, but how to manage it when heat has not been factored in?

Here I am running in the heat. Why? The main reasons are, I am back in marathon training so need to keep the mileage up, I am not an early riser, I don’t have to rush off to work, and I have developed a set routine I don’t like to break. But also, I am running in the heat because it is possible to train in the heat and benefit from it.

I would do well to think about what I am are doing, and be prepared to make some adjustments to my approach to racing and training.

Rise at 5:00 in the morning you say? Not on, I need my sleep!

What do I need to counteract the heat? Shade. And being well hydrated. And a shady spot to cool off afterwards. And a cool shower after the sweating has stopped. And shade. A breeze to carry away the sweat and cool me down. Moisture wicking fabric, which best facilitates evaporation. Being prepared to change the plan and shorten the run on the hotter days. Shade. And thinking before running about where you I will run, and how fast.

Dry and dusty and hard surfaces are a pain in hot weather – some nice pine needles or tan bark are much more pleasant. And if I run in the coolest time of day – the dark – I will have to be careful about the possibility of missing my step and falling.

Summer also means long grass, and snakes. That possibility, and the chance of heat related fatigue, means that running in company, always recommended, is essential. Although the only signs of snakes I have seen so far are just that, signs. Saying “snakes live here”. I have seen the signs but I have not yet seen the snakes.

Who knows, I might even start carrying water if this heat keeps up. But I usually don’t, so planning ahead, sensible thinking ahead, involves running where there is water available, or if not available, planting water bottles in advance where I will need them. I have done that more than a few times for longer runs in the past.

Checklist: sunscreen; hat; big drink before I start out; drink(s) on the run; and a training pace which isn’t going to set any records. And shade.

What are the benefits of hot weather running? For a start, development of heat tolerance is very important for the marathon, whether race day is hot or cold. And it works both ways; a marathon-trained athlete tends to handle hot conditions, in shorter racing and training, better than does someone who runs short distances in training.

However I will still be seeking out shade.

Enjoy your running, and take care.

This article was prepared for the December "Vetrunner" but was not included owing to lack of space.


  1. What a shame it couldn't be included in Vetrunner. Great article! But I still think you should run earlier than 9am in the heat!!

  2. I ran last week when it was 35 degrees at midday. It's about getting used to it, drinking, sunscreen, pace. Mentally it removes another negative that can worry when you run a marathon for example.The mind says I do this all the time, so just do it. Then every time it's cold, just add another layer.

  3. I recall reading somewhere that training (sensibly) in hot weather has similar physiological benefits to training at altitude.

  4. We had some pretty challenging conditions in the Relay. I had one leg in the heat of the day and was sure I was going to die ;-). Especially considering the someone running the leg before me (on another team) collapsed at the finish line and required ambulance help. I think it was about 36C and bloody humid. But then I ran super fast the next morning because it was cooler and felt great. If it doesn't kill you it makes your stronger :-)

  5. Yes Ruth, but it's a very good issue of Vetrunner regardless ... December Vetrunner is now on the website available for download. Narelle does an excellent job editing it.
    We will be meeting at 8:00am now on Saturdays. Everyone who has been lobbying for an earlier start will have to provide a note from their mother if they don't turn up.