Running Long in the Heat

imageLike most people in the US I’ve been dealing with heat acclimation over the past several weeks. My runs have felt sluggish, my heart rate has been elevated way above what it should be for my level of effort, and running beyond 3 miles in 90+ degree heat saps me. The problem is that I actually really like running on hot days, so I tend to just deal with it until my body adapts.

This morning I had to take my wife’s car in for some recall work. My usual tactic on such occasions is to drive the car in, then run the 6 miles back home. However, the temperature this morning was pushing into the 80’s and I really had no desire to run, but alas I really didn’t have much choice. So, I told myself at the outset that I’d walk if I needed to in order to maintain a relatively constant level of exertion (I had used this approach last year over the same route with temperatures pushing 100 degrees – it actually does get hot in NH on occasion in the summer).

About three miles into the run I was actually feeling much better than I anticipated, and my strategy of walking up the hills was working out pretty well. I decided to take the long way home, which would be 11+ miles – longer than I have run in quite some time. I continued my walk uphill, run on flats and downhills strategy, and ultimately completed 12.25 miles at just a shade under 8:30 min/mile pace. For hydration all I had was a single hand-held bottle of water, which was more than enough to get me through.

Why share this story? Mainly because I often find it hard to force myself to walk when out for a run, even if it’s the wise thing to do. But, by doing so today I’m pretty sure I actually completed the run faster than I would have had I attempted to run the entire way. I finished feeling better than I have even after some recent five milers that left me completely trashed because I attempted to run too hard. And I got my first long run in for what I hope will be a return to the Smuttynose Marathon this October.

So, I sometimes need to write things like this down as a reminder to myself – it’s ok to walk when conditions warrant it. In the long run (no pun intended!) my body will be better off than if I tried to push through.

About Peter Larson

This post was authored by Peter Larson. Pete is a recovering academic who currently works as an exercise physiologist, running coach, and writer. He's also a father of three and a fanatical runner with a bit of a shoe obsession. In addition to writing and editing this site, he is co-author of the book Tread Lightly, and writes a personal blog called The Blogologist. Follow Pete on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and via email.



Comments

  1. elisabeth says:

    I’m a new runner, tackling much shorter distances than you, and your post really resonated with me. I run in Vegas, and I usually try to run around the heat, indoors or early in the morning. Sometimes, though, the races don’t allow that, and I appreciate your encouragement to do what the circumstances require.

  2. PurdueMatt says:

    This heat has forced me to start running in the mornings at 6am, since its been 90+ everyday lately in Indianapolis. Now that my body is used to it, I like it a lot better than running in the afternoon heat after work.

  3. Cold water and constant exertion are the only tricks that work for me in the heat. I freeze 3/4 of my 12oz handheld amphipod with insulation sleeve every night, and top it off with cold water before leaving the house. The insulation sleeve doesn’t really keep it cold, but it does prevent my hand from melting the ice quickly. Everything has melted but is still cool at the end of a 45 minute run.

  4. www.Runusual.com says:

    I live in Austin, so the heat index can easily be in the triple digits most of the day. I run early in the morning, and my body seems pretty acclimated. Although, I do have days when I feel light-headed. I make sure to drink lots of water.

  5. francesco perri says:

    Pete I’m glad you brought this up because I’ve had two 17.5 mile trail runs in the last month that both left my feeling nauseous. On both runs I had my Nathan Pack, I was getting enough water, I popped a Stinger electrolyte gel 45 minutes in, and had Pro Bars to replace calories on each run shortly after. However on both runs I got sick. Now I am in Utah and running some pretty hardy trails both climbed at least 2,500′. What product would you recommend to keep me from bonking? And I must admit that I am running uphill, all be it at a very slow pace instead of walking, which as you mentioned expends more energy. I’m also curious to find out why the body wants to throw up despite being dehydrated.

  6. Jennifer says:

    As a fellow NH person i can say yes, it gets hot here !

  7. DoubleX says:

    How long does it normally take to get acclimated to the heat though? For the first time, I tried to run at about mid day and was totally drained! I’m putting in 30+ a week but I can’t do the heat.

    • Pete Larson says:

      I don’t know that I ever get fully acclimated, but my tolerance definitely improves. I just make effort to moderate intensity, and then when it starts to cool in the Fall I feel like I can fly.

  8. Matt Bauer says:

    As long as you are not trying to keep a specific pace, I think a lot of it is mental. First, go out looking at it as a new challenge rather than dreading it. Sunglasses make a huge difference for me. Planned walk breaks help physically, but they are also something to look forward to.

  9. It took me nearly around 7 days to acclimatise to the heat of austin…initially it was too hard ,heat was saping all the energy out of my body but on the 5 th day i felt the difference and then my body got acclimatised.

  10. Now that i can call myself an ultra runner its perfectly legitimate to walk up the hills …or when you feel like a bit of a respite, all just part of ultra training, after all you gotta practice what your going to do on race day.

    I do have to admit that i would have never allowed myself to walk before i started them.

    But it really is all in your head, from a training perspective there really is nothing lost by talking a few walking breaks, and potentially much gained.

  11. Jennifer says:

    This makes me feel better, esply right now after a wake up call last week with pushing too hard all the time. (i think plantar fac flare and awful DOMS). An experienced runner such as yourself keeping this in mind is a reminder for the rest of us. Thank you.

    • Pete Larson says:

      No problem! I often get myself into the trap of pushing too hard, it’s a runner thing I guess. Need to always remind myself that it’s ok to ease of, and even to walk from time to time when necessary. No heroics needed in training!

  12. Allan Carter says:

    Here in Austin the lows in the summer are often in the mid to upper 70s and if don’t beat the sun up then the temperatures will be in the 80s and 90s for a long run. My solution was to run with a camelbak filled with powerade and to run by heart rate. I never had problems with heat illness even with temperatures in the upper 90s although my pace would sometimes slow to a crawl. It’s the Texas version of altitude training. And when the cool weather arrives in the winter you really start to fly.

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