Regular readers will know that running in the heat really isn’t my speciality. I can acquire sunburn simply by watching Ice Cold In Alex on the TV and develop heatstroke from standing too close to the toaster.
Little surprise then that I find running in anything over 18 degrees uncomfortable, and anything over 23 degrees to be borderline suicidal.
But as it is always at least 23 degrees when I make it to the start line of any race, anywhere in the world, I’ve been making efforts over the last couple of years to improve my performance in the heat.
Medical opinion is that by regularly exercising when it’s hot, you can train your body to send more blood to cool at the surface. But having tried this theory out through most of last Summer, I have to say that this doesn’t work for everybody.
In fact, the only thing I’ve found that helps to ease the pain of hot runs is to slow right down in order to minimise the strain on your heart.
The effects of heat on heartrate
Having recently reviewed the Garmin 405CX, I’m beginning to pay more attention to my heart rate than my running pace these days. So I recently noticed that while pacing myself at exact 8 minute miles with the Garmin, my heart rate was fully 15% higher in 22 degrees of heat than it had been a couple of days earlier in a more pleasant 16 degrees.
Yet when I repeated the exercise and compared otherwise identical hot and cool runs at a very leisurely 8.45 pace, my heartrate was just 3% higher in the heat.
So while these are far from being the results of a major medical study, they certainly convinced me that the only way to avoid putting too much strain on my heart in the heat is to treat every hot weather run as a slow run.
Unless of course, you know better?
Dealing with heat is one area in which I’m happy to admit my shortcomings. So if anyone out there has got a great tip for how to deal with it, feel free to leave a comment.
I’m going to be writing a ‘how to deal with the heat’ piece for my Mate Down the Pub column on the runningbug.co.uk shortly, so any really good tips will be shared with roughly 50,000 fellow runners.