Hot Weather Running
FINALLY, summer is nearly here. Granted last winter wasn’t exactly Scandinavian-like with six feet of snow to contend with on your morning run, but there is something so much more relaxing about cruising along with the sun on your back.
This is definitely the time of year when we’ll all start to move a little quicker. Muscles are looser, you don’t have a storm-proof jacket and thermal pants weighing you down and best of all you can start counting down the days to your summer holiday. There’s a spring in your stride.
One or two of us are now already yearning for colder days, moaning about it being too hot and fretting that, actually, sunny days slow you down. The trouble is, even when it’s just 20C/68F that feels warm because many of us are too used to an endless string of moderately cloudy, mild-but-not-hot days and can’t quickly adjust to any extremes be that cold, or in this case, heat.
Scientifically speaking, of course, that is correct in that it does indeed take a little time to get used to running in really hot conditions. Spending a week or two acclimating to heat triggers a series of adjustments in the body, including an increase in blood plasma volume (the “liquid” part of the blood, rather than the red cells that carry oxygen). That, in turn, seems to allow you to run a bit faster even in temperate weather. That’s why our Olympians all headed off to Brazil to spend their final two weeks before the Rio Olympics. However, if you’re fretting about this summer’s BBQ summer heatwave predicted by some newspapers, or the 40C/104F temperatures you’ll experience in Florida on your holiday in early August, there is a way to get your body ready – take a hot bath.
Elite standard runners and racehorses will be only too aware of the well-documented recovery benefits of an iced bath, but few will realise just how handy a hot one can be when it comes to running quicker. Good news for someone like me, who is very reluctant to sit in a freezing cold whirlpool after a tough training run, but happily relishes the thought of a hot one.
Research suggests that sitting in a really hot bath (40C/104F) will indeed prepare you for a run in equally hot conditions. Those who soaked themselves for 40 minutes actually ran 4.9 per cent quicker in a hot 5km where the temperature hovered around 33C/91F. What swings the deal in terms of the test is that the subjects who volunteered for this didn’t actually improve in what runners would describe as ideal conditions – a balmy 17C/62F. It only pays off in really hot weather, which of course is a bit of a problem for some. If you live in a place where you can’t remember the last time you saw 33C/91F in your town, how would you know that it’s going to be that hot in a weeks’ time so you could actually put this theory to the test and acclimatise with the required six days of bathing?
Roll on autumn...