Training in the Heat

Disclaimer: Stay aware of fellow runners who appear to be in distress and seek Emergency Services when necessary, by calling 9-1-1 as soon as possible.

College Station, Texas, is known for its brutal summers of extreme heat and humidity. Consistent training throughout the year is vital in order to maintain our healthy lifestyles and reduce injuries both physically and mentally (i.e., “burnout”). The Brazos Runners Club (BRC) is here to help with some of the most important skills to learn and adapt your own training routines to best embrace the high temperatures and maximize our efficiencies. Training in the heat is all about maintaining your endurance. The strain on our bodies to keep cooler longer will be replaced with improved efficiency and faster speeds during the cooler times of the year. Keep in mind, heat & humidity training is comparable to high-altitude training and can be even more very beneficial if safely managed.

  • Building Heat Tolerance – as many Texans know, tolerating the heat takes time, consistency, and proper nutrition/hydration. When temperatures rise across the state, it is best to embrace it by getting used to it gradually with short intervals and extending them into longer sessions.

    • For example, as the temperatures begin rising proactively shorten workouts based on your exposure to the sun and heat. Try not to reduce the warmups or cooldowns unless necessary, but rather:

      • Increase the rest/recovery portions by walking or finding shade to restabilize yourself, and

      • Reduce the number of miles/repeats as necessary to ease the overall stress the heat will put on your body.

  • Hydration, to be completely honest, can get complicated quickly, so always consult with a Registered Dietitian and/or Doctor for professional advice. For the scope of Training in the Heat, there are a few general recommendations which we can suggest.

    • The general rules of thumb for average, healthy individuals:

      • BEFORE Exercising: 1-2 hours beforehand, drink 15-20 oz of water

      • DURING Exercising: “1-1.5 ounces per pound of body weight per day.”

        • For a 120 lbs. individual, 7.5 oz of water per hour.
        • For a 150 lbs. individual, 9.4 oz of water per hour.
        • For a 175 lbs. individual, 10.9 oz of water per hour.
        • For a 200 lbs. individual, 12.5 oz of water per hour.
      • ELECTROLYTE consumption highly depends on one’s

        • Current diet (already eaten) and dietary needs (for the remainder of the day).
        • Keep in mind consuming supplemental electrolytes can change how much can be consumed after the run as well in order to maintain optimal health.
      • AFTER Exercising: continue to rehydrate, drinking 15-20 oz within an hour or two.

  • Replace “Pace-Based Workouts” with “Effort-Based Mindsets” – with every degree/percentage the temperature/humidity rise, the more difficult it will be to stay calm and comfortable during runs. Throughout the Training Schedule building towards a race goal, some key workouts tend to rely solely on Pace-based repeats. This is by design of course because focusing on a specific speed/pace (especially if it is just far enough out of reach) will help runners improve their overall speed, strength, and efficiency with milestones as they become faster and more resilient athletes.

    • However, when battling against the high heat and other elements, sometimes it is best to completely change focus from hitting the hard to reach “A” or “B” goal paces and instead shift focus to a sustainable level of exertion to complete the workout as planned. In other words, SLOW DOWN and focus on maintaining a consistent, manageable pace for YOU (not your Strava™ followers).

    • Above all listen to your body and keep track of your fluid intake to make sure you are in control of all your senses.

    • Headache, tunnel vision, dizziness, nausea, muscle cramps/stitches, and a metallic taste in your mouth can be “red flags” that you have already reached Dehydration and on your way to Heat Exhaustion or Heat Stroke in extremely dangerous cases.

  • Total Time instead of Total Distance – focus on the total time and effort of the workout. Instead of trying to force an extra mile or repeat, listen to your body in order to judge how much effort it will take to 1) complete the workout and 2) try and meet your goal for the workout.

    • Additionally, keep in mind that as time progresses throughout a workout, the effort levels will progressively increase and sometimes even increase exponentially without proper hydration and rest. The sun will exacerbate the situation so do not feel guilty if you need to end a run shorter than anticipated.

Keeping these tips in mind will improve your overall health and could potentially save the life of those around you. Happy Running!