As we face the peak summer heat, it's important to stay cool to get the most out of your training. When the temps warm up, let your body adapt to the heat by focusing on your rate of perceived effort. During your first week of running in warmer weather, listen to your body and adapt gradually over the ensuing couple of weeks. It's ok, and arguably more beneficial, if you run a slower pace to maintain the same effort as you did in cooler weather. When heat spikes even post-acclimatization, perceived effort should be your guiding principle!
Here are my 5 tips on running strong during heat:
1. Nutrition: Electrolyte intake is crucial given we lose more electrolytes, and at a faster rate, in the heat. Before, during, and after runs, try having an electrolyte sports drink instead of just water. NuuN/Zym tablets and SaltStick are worth first experimenting with and then using routinely. Ample hydration and electrolytes will prevent the common occurrence of "cardiac drift" in the heat, where your heart rate increases over the course of a run even when your effort is the same. Dehydration causes your heart to work harder to pump your blood and deliver oxygen to muscles.
In the heat, I almost always carry a bottle with an electrolyte drink. While carrying a bottle adds extra weight, I alternate between my right and left hands and use the bottle to reinforce good form, holding it by my hips instead of chest and driving up and down instead of side to side.
2. Sun protection: Don't forget sunscreen for those hot and sunny days. A light cap or visor will help keep your head cool and prevent your body from overheating. I often also wear sunglasses to avoid squinting and using extra energy. Like the bottle, sunglasses can also help reinforce good form - your head should be steady and your shoulders back and relaxed to keep your sunglasses secure. My favorite brands include Lululemon and Tracksmith for a light hat and Goodr for sunglasses.
3. Apparel: Keep your clothing to a minimum, e.g. a singlet and split shorts. Your kit should be light in color, lightweight, and ideally have vents or mesh. You'll notice many pros cut holes in their singlets for races in the heat! Use nip guards and a healthy amount of vaseline in areas where you experience chafing.
4. Speed work: Do your best to accommodate speed work at the lowest temps of the day, ideally pre-sunrise or post-sunset. You put extra strain on your heart and body and can risk heat illness when running hard intervals in the heat, so be smart and feel free to even take your speed work indoors on the tread.
5. Mental & Physical strength: You will most likely not be racing a marathon in the heat, but even if you do, you'll be mentally and physically prepared. Use the heat to build your mental strength. Your body will also experience physiological changes to sweat faster and pump blood more easily, becoming more efficient at cooling itself. The improved blood circulation delivers more oxygen to your muscles, building your aerobic capacity and physical strength.