It’s getting hot in here – Heat training tips

Well boys and girls, down here in Australia, normal service was resumed at the Great North Walk 100s (GNW) for probably the last time as the ovens were turned up to full whack in the Congewai valley, cooking 61% of the field for a DNF. Following a couple of ‘cooler’ years, the temps sky-rocketed and left many to ponder as to what could have been. Some may say it’s hard to prepare for such heat, but you know we’re no fan of excuses here at Ultra168.What’s important is working out what to do about it.

With the horrors of the climb up to the communications tower still sharp in a few people’s memories, how do you prepare for the heat?

With quite a few of our big ultras taking place in the heat of the summer, it leaves very little time between our NSW winter and the full on effects of the racing in the heat, where this year we’ve seen record temps already. So what can we do? We’ve added a few suggestions and tips from things we’ve heard or read, as well as offer some links from others giving advice out too.

The boys and girls felt the heat at GNW yesterday. Here at Congewai School, the scene represents more of a battle-field of carnage than of an ultra race.
The boys and girls felt the heat at GNW yesterday. Here at Congewai School, the scene represents more of a battle-field of carnage than of an ultra race.

Option One – Run as if it’s -20 in the South Pole

I remember when I first saw a few training buddies doing this and I dismissed it as silly. How could you gain any effect from wrapping yourself up in thermals and a rain jacket when it’s 30 degrees in the Sydney summer and go off gallivanting in the sunshine?

It’s bad enough that everyone looks at you as if you’re deranged, while they parade around the footpaths in their t-shirts and boardies. It’s also excruciatingly hot inside all those clothes and there are major perspiration issues to consider too.

However, I can admit to being that deranged person, and have tried this a number of times on the hotter days that we’ve experienced here in Sydney over the course of a brisk 10kms.

The first few kms feel OK and to be frank, I couldn’t see what all the fuss was about. But slowly and surely, as the metres progress, my thermals become ridden with sweat, which then transfer to my lightweight, but extremely sweaty rain jacket. By 5kms I am a mass of sweat, dripping from the inside of the jacket. Other runners in their singlets and shorts look at me as though I’m on day release from the local funny farm. As the run moves on, I notice a draining feeling in my legs, something you associate with a 50km+ run, but had the early onset of at 7kms this time round.

Then comes the light-headedness, and by 10kms I was pretty glad to stop. Does it work? I’m not sure, but one thing it does, is get me used to feeling uncomfortable in the heat, and that’s something I think mentally you do need to get used to ahead of any race in the heat. Mentally you have to be prepared for the yucky hot feeling that encompasses your body.

Option Two – The Steam Room

Il fait tres chaud!  The words of Frenchman Pierre Viguier, who won the GNW 100kms in a very good time of 11hrs 25mins, despite the heat.
Il fait tres chaud! The words of Frenchman Pierre Viguier, who won the GNW 100kms in a very good time of 11hrs 25mins, despite the heat.

When preparing for the MDS a few years ago, I came across some theories that using either the steam room or sauna (depending on what type of heat you’re going to encounter) a few weeks prior is good, so ahead of a number of ‘hot runs’ in the past, I’ve done two weeks in the sauna or steam room. The theory here is that you raise your core body temperature a little, so that you can cope with the heat better. Again I’m no scientist or doctor, but I can see the logic here.

Some people are just naturally better at running in the heat because, well they live in hot conditions so their body adapts – this is what I’m assuming. I guess the same goes for people who live at altitude too. So with that quite a few runners I know will enter the steam room or sauna each day for two weeks prior, slowly building up their tolerance to it by staying in a little longer each day.

Again, does this work? I think there is some truth in this one and as mentioned, I have been incorporating it as part of my preparation for hot races for a while now. I’ve done it for GNW in the past and I must admit that overall, the heat appeared to be handled better by my body. Again, no science here, just an overall feeling I get.

These are just a few simple things I’ve come across in my attempts to better prepare myself for the heat that many of our races bring here in Australia and indeed abroad too. It also goes without saying that other factors do come into play here too, such as making sure you pace yourself correctly, take on board descent amounts of water and nutrition too.

if you’re interested in reading some more on the topic, below are some links to some useful heat training guides:

Badwater heat training advice

Marathon Guide – Heat Training

Ultra Running – Heat Training Guide

Camille Herron – US Rep Marathon runner

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I'm a mediocre runner who can bat above his average when I train hard. A man of extremes, I do enjoy everything life offers and consider it an absolute pleasure just to be able to put one foot in front of the other and let my mind wander somewhere different.

4 thoughts on “It’s getting hot in here – Heat training tips

  1. Good article Dan – very timely. I’ve been organising first aid teams for endurance events for a number of years and have found a few things out and have spoken with sports physiologists for advice: (1) some body types are more susceptible to heat injury than others (2) runners can condition themselves to go better on hot days as you’ve suggested (3) clothing choice helps – light coloured, loose and airy – no black lycra! (4) organisers need to offer more support in hot conditions such as more supervision of runners, extra CPs, ice on the course?, more shady rest stops etc (5) there are good guidelines like the WBGT index to help organisers work out the effects of a combination of heat, humidity, wind/lack of wind, radiant heat/shade. I use this for all events now to help plan for events where extra measures need to be in place in hot conditions. The BOM also has this info in real-time which can help organisers.
    Heat injury can get serious very fast with organ damage and death taking place if a heat-stroke patient isn’t rapidly treated and cooled. I’ve written a research paper on this topic and happy to share. Lucas

  2. I think just 1 20min session in the sauna before each of my last 2 long races helped. Even if it’s just getting your mind into the “right let’s add another difficulty” gear.

  3. As said above, great timing! 🙂 Living in Scotland, I’m about to enter the cold, wet winter months – which I do enjoy running in but as I’m training for the Transvulcania 2014, I have been considering the sauna / steam room option. Thanks for the other links as well! “Run like the wind!” :o}

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