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How to Run in the Heat Like the Pros

Check out a past article I wrote a while back about handling hot weather.


Running in the heat can be challenging, but with proper preparation, you can excel. Alex Hutchinson shared insights from a heat adaptation protocol used by elite athletes like those from the Bowerman Track Club. Here’s how you can apply these principles to your training. I have summarized and provided some additional context for practical use.


The Goals of Heat Adaptation

Heat adaptation is essential for athletes, especially with major events taking place in hot climates. The main goal is to spend at least an hour a day exercising in hot conditions over 10 to 14 days. This helps your body make several physiological changes:


  • Lower core temperature

  • Higher blood volume

  • Earlier onset of sweating

  • Increased sweat rate


These adaptations help you stay cooler and perform better in hot conditions. Interestingly, heat adaptation can also improve performance in cooler weather due to the increased blood plasma.


Challenges of Traditional Heat Training

Traditional heat training can be exhausting. Training in hot, muggy conditions for an hour can impact your overall training plan, making it hard to hit your desired workout intensities and potentially increasing your risk of overtraining. So, how can you get the benefits without the drawbacks?


The Modified Minson Protocol

Chris Minson’s lab at the University of Oregon uses a more manageable approach. Here’s a simplified version you can try:


  1. Controlled Environment: If you have access to a treadmill, set it in a warm room. Aim for about 100 degrees Fahrenheit and 40 percent humidity.

  2. Thermometer Pill (Optional): Minson uses a thermometer pill to monitor core temperature, but for most of us, paying close attention to how we feel can suffice.

  3. Hydration Check: Ensure you are well-hydrated before starting. Minson checks urine-specific gravity, but you can simply ensure your urine is light yellow.

  4. Run and Monitor: Start with a five-minute warm-up, then run for 30 minutes at a comfortable pace. Rate your perceived effort and thermal sensation regularly.


What It Feels Like

During the run, expect to feel increasingly warm and sweaty. The goal is to reach a core temperature around 101 degrees Fahrenheit without feeling excessively hot. Minson uses a scale from 0 to 10 to rate thermal sensation, with elite runners typically feeling between 5 and 6 out of 10 by the end.


Post-Run Recovery

After the run, immerse yourself in a hot tub or warm bath set to around 104 degrees Fahrenheit. This extends the heat exposure without further physical exertion, promoting additional adaptation.


Practical Tips for Everyone

Most of us don’t have access to high-tech labs, but you can still adapt to heat using these methods:


  • Hot Baths and Saunas: Post-run hot baths or sauna sessions can help.

  • Overdressing: Wear extra layers during runs to simulate hotter conditions.

  • Hydration: Stay hydrated to prevent dehydration during these sessions.

  • Listen to Your Body: Pay attention to how hot you feel and adjust your training accordingly. Overheating can be dangerous, so it's crucial to recognize when you’re pushing too hard.


Conclusion

Heat adaptation can make a significant difference in your performance, both in hot and cooler conditions. By incorporating controlled heat exposure into your training routine and carefully monitoring your body’s responses, you can build resilience to heat like the pros. Stay cool, stay hydrated, and happy running!


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