Beat The Heat

Pre­pare for a scorch­ing race day and you’ll run bet­ter in any weather

Runner's World (UK) - - Contents - BY ALEX HUTCHINSON Alex Hutchinson is a for­mer elite ath­lete and the au­thor of Which­comes­first, Car­dioor­weights? ( Wil­liam Mor­row)

Hot tips for sum­mer per­for­mance

THE PERENNIAL risk of sum­mer­time races is soar­ing tem­per­a­tures on race day. For­tu­nately, there are ways to pre­pare for the heat, even at rel­a­tively short no­tice. The goal with such prepa­ra­tion is to in­crease your vol­ume of plasma, the liq­uid com­po­nent of blood, so you can send blood to your skin to cool your­self with­out com­pro­mis­ing the sup­ply car­ry­ing oxy­gen to mus­cles. And if you’re lucky and race day is cool, you’ll still get a boost from th­ese tech­niques.


The best way to pre­pare for race-day heat is to run for 60-90 min­utes at an easy or moder­ate pace in con­di­tions like the hottest you ex­pect to face. You’ll be ac­cli­ma­tised af­ter eight to 14 ses­sions, but those days don’t have to be con­sec­u­tive: you can space them as far apart as once every three days. If you can ar­range a tread­mill in a room at, say, 23-28C, that’s great. If the room isn’t as warm as you’d like, wear­ing long sleeves and tights, and avoid­ing the use of a fan, can make an in­door run feel sev­eral de­grees hot­ter than a com­pa­ra­ble out­door run.

Fit­ting in that many heat runs can be tough, but a review found that three to seven heat-adap­ta­tion runs pro­duced a plasma vol­ume in­crease of 3.5 per cent – not as much as the seven per cent gain from longer train­ing pe­ri­ods, but still worth­while.


Run­ning in heat is an added stress, so you don’t want ac­cli­ma­ti­sa­tion to in­ter­fere with your ta­per. Heat adap­ta­tions last up to twice as long as you spend build­ing them – the ef­fects of five heat-adap­ta­tion runs could last 10 days. You can ex­tend this with top-up ses­sions, adding one or two heat runs a week be­fore your race. For ex­am­ple, plan five heat runs in seven days start­ing three weeks be­fore race day; do hard work­outs in cooler con­di­tions on the other two days so you can hit your goal paces. Then con­sol­i­date your gains with two more top-up heat ses­sions six and eight days be­fore the race.


Drink ac­cord­ing to thirst dur­ing your heat runs. This could leave you mildly de­hy­drated, which may serve as an­other trig­ger for plasma ex­pan­sion. Weigh your­self be­fore and af­ter to make sure you’re not los­ing more than about two per cent of your weight, then re­hy­drate im­me­di­ately. Also, take in some car­bo­hy­drate and pro­tein within 10 min­utes of fin­ish­ing to max­imise your plasma gains.


Fin­nish Olympic cham­pion Lasse Viren swore by his postrun sauna ses­sions. He may have been onto some­thing: a 2007 study found that run­ners who took a postrun sauna for about 30 min­utes at 90C four times a week for three weeks boosted their plasma vol­ume by seven per cent and en­durance by 1.9 per cent. And this year, Aus­tralian sci­en­tists found that just four 30-minute postrun sauna ses­sions at 87C de­grees also in­creased plasma vol­ume. To sup­ple­ment your heat runs with sauna ses­sions, start with five to 10 mins at 79C and build up, and don’t hit the sauna the same day as a heat run.

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