Heat Acclimating for Hot Weather Racing

Posted on 21 March 2011

There are many sources of articles for secrets, tips and ideas on how to get ready for a hot weather race.   Of course we all have different experiences in racing and training in heat.   Many athletes tell me all the time that they can’t race well or perform at their normal levels when it’s hot.   Nonsense, you can train your body, mind to deal with the heat!   There is no question that with the appropriate training, acclimatization strategy, fueling and race day pacing strategy that you can perform well.   The best example of an athlete that was able to overcome severe heat was Scott Molina (“The Terminator”during his Ironman racing career.  Scott had a high sweat rate and struggled in Hawaii several times before perfecting his training and race strategy to overcome the heat.   He went on to win the Ironman World Championship in 1988.

With our Cyprus Ultra  “Donkey Run” occurring July 28, 2012, athletes are going to experience extreme heat and terrain, http://www.cyprusultra.com.   The race will be held in the mountains with no shade for 135 miles of 115-120 Fahrenheit Temperatures with the big kicker – over 90% humidity in normal temperatures at that time of the year.  Unlike Badwater which is run on roads with intense dry heat (feeling like running in an oven) The Donkey Run will have the added effects of trails and humidity.   So how do you get ready for this epic event or another hot weather race with significant humidity?

Here are a few training tips to add to your program in preparation for the event.

  1. Plan on at least 8 weeks of heat acclimatization training, beginning very slowly.
  2. Wear dark clothes and plan on running in your area when the temperatures are the highest in the middle of the day.   I would recommend that at least 75% of your workouts are with additional “dark” clothes.  The workouts need to begin very easy and build effort over time.  The effort will be significantly reduced compared to normal with all the additional clothing.  No vigorous training – slow and steady!
  3. Each week, continue to add additional layers.  For example week one, plan on wearing tights, 2 long sleeve running shirts (one of them with insulating/fleece components).  Prepare to be soaking wet including your shoes.
  4. Don’t use air conditioning in the car or home as much as possible.  A good technique to consider is while driving in the car, keep the windows up and turn on the heater. Bring towel for your seat and to wipe away sweat.
  5. Fluid and electrolyte replacement is crucial!  You must practice in these extreme conditions so you know how much you need and how your body will process the large amount of fluids.  Stomach distress is a common problem.   You need to get your bladder, skin and stomach ready for this intensive heat.
  6. As you build up over the 8 weeks continue to add layers during your run.   For example add an additional pair of running pants, additional jackets, and of course a cold weather ski cap (all preferably in dark colors).
  7. Two Extreme training ideas:   1. use a plastic garbage bag (cut the top and two areas for your arms) as the first layer next to your skin and then add additional clothing layers.  2.  Put a wetsuit on and then cycling shorts, shirts, ski cap and jump on the bike trainer (no fan).  These are very difficult to start out with, but will provide intensive heat acclimatization.
  8. Go to a sauna multiple times per week (for the Cyprus Ultra you will need a sauna with humidity not just a dry sauna) and start with sitting for 10 minutes and build up every week by adding additional time.   Take electrolyte drinks into the sauna.    Extreme – do some mild exercise such as pushups, jogging in place while in the sauna for a few minutes.  Also, you can add some light clothing or just wear a winter ski cap.

Consult with your doctor before attempting all these techniques and start very slow.  In 8 weeks time you get you body acclimated to the effects of the intense heat.  It’s very important to get recovery drink as soon as finishing these intensive workouts.   Be safe and yes it will help come race day!      If  you need additional advice don’t hesitate to email me at wayne.kurtz@racetwitch.com.




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