Running is an incredible form of therapy for the body — one where we can solely focus on pushing ourselves ++ proving our body’s strengths. It’s accessible, efficient, + a fantastic way to score some much needed *me-time*. As the warmer weather approaches, we love taking our runs outdoors!
Transitioning as an indoor // cold weather runner to one that sweats under the sun is bound to be liberating, ++ filled with [hopefully!] inspiring scenery along the way. However, immediately lacing up our shoes the moment it gets warm + racing out the door as fast as we can is not all it takes for our bodies to adjust to a drastic change of temperature. Whether we have been training all winter for a spring race // marathon, or simply live in a hot climate, acclimatizing our bodies to the heat is absolutely necessary for optimal running performance ++ safety —
WHAT IS HEAT ACCLIMATIZATION?
Given adequate exposure to heat, hydration, ++ preparation, the body has an incredible ability to slowly, but surely, adapt to its surroundings. Training + repeating exposure to similar conditions prior to a spring // summer competition is heat acclimatization. In essence, it’s all about conditioning. Although some may find it daunting to run in a hot climate, it is a very achievable goal– all you need is to allow time for your body to be well prepared [++ patience is a virtue here!]
HOW DO YOU DO IT?
Like all forms of exercise, not one size fits all. Gradually ease yourself into an environment [of both heat ++ humidity!] similar to that of the competition // whatever you’ll be facing in the future. In order to get your body prepared, you’ll have to expose yourself to it by starting off small ++ slowly working your intensity // volume up as adaptation occurs. You can do this by fitting in weekly hot yoga sessions, [lightly] exercising in a sauna, exposing yourself to outdoor training when it’s hot, or wearing extra layers of clothing on a day-to-day basis weeks before the big day. Sadly, most acclimatization adaptations are lost at twice the rate they are acquired — So plan strategically around your next competition. Most importantly, remember to always have cooling methods on hand, like ice towels + ice water, just in case.
WHAT HAPPENS DURING ACCLIMATIZATION?
>> Our bodies will better distribute fluid output, making us less likely to suffer dehydration in the future
>> An increase in plasma volume [more blood to be used towards functioning muscles]
>> Better overall running performance because our bodies get used to the conditions
HYDRATE, HYDRATE, HYDRATE
The main issue about running in the heat is that it will inevitably lead to an increase in body temperature. This means that we perspire a lot more, ++ losing fluids at such a rapid rate can quickly become dangerous. Not only are we losing electrolytes in our sweat, but our heart has to work harder to sustain our muscles in the process. Signs of overheating ++ dehydration are two things that every runner should constantly watch out for [during the acclimatization process or not].
Adequate hydration is always important during a sweat sesh, but know that it’s extremely vital when dealing with heat // humidity ++ warm weather. Our bodies will simply not be able to adapt to the heat if it’s not properly fueled. We suggest drinking lots of water before, during + after the run to stay in tip top shape. A sports drink with electrolytes, like gatorade, or natural alternatives to replenishing your body will always be a good idea post-run.
Keep in mind that the acclimatization process can easily be done when preparing for the cold weather, too. Running in freezing or near freezing temperatures is [understandably] a little scary, but all our bodies need [similar to running in the heat], is a well thought out game plan // time to achieve our goals.
All cold weather runners should be weary of risk factors like frostbite // hypothermia — ++ always stay cautious of potential symptoms. The only difference in prepping for cold acclimatization would be that you now have to steadily induce your body to colder environments. You can get as creative as you’d like with this! However –regardless of temperature adaptation differences — remember that hydration is still as important as ever.
Keep in mind that you have the ability to run in any temp you’d like — you only have to be well prepared + motivated. Have fun with the process, ++ good luck on your upcoming race / marathon! : )
Becca [@becc_inchaarg] // [UMD CHAARG]