Running in the heat

Summer in West-Australia: temperatures can reach easily to over 40 degrees. Running doesn’t feel that great in these circumstances – so how do we keep our fitness up without running in air-con on a treadmill?

Running in the heat costs more effort and you will feel that. For every 5 degrees above 12 degrees Celsius marathon times increase with 1.5 to 3 %. Heat makes us dehydrate, increase our heart rate and decreases blood circulation (and with that less oxygen) to our running-muscles. Our bodies are working overtime to lose all that heat: we sweat or evaporate a lot of liquid and essential minerals with that.

What is the remedy? A lot of training! Through training the amount of liquid in our blood increases which makes it easier for our body to keep cool. Getting used to the heat helps as well. In the beginning of summer it is often hard to run a good race. A few weeks into the heat it will already be easier to maintain a certain pace. Your blood plasma increased, your body is more effective in its sweat production, the concentration of salt in your sweat decreases because your body becomes more effective in holding on to it and your heart rate will increase less than in the beginning of summer.

On a hot day it is wise to adjust your expectations of how you will perform. Rather than increase the length of a run or the amount of interval repetitions it is better to focus on exercise intensity and listen to your body’s signals. Use electrolytes in your water (wear a water-belt/camel back or bring a handheld bottle), try to avoid direct heat by wearing a hat, run in the shade and use water to bring your body temperature down.