Beat the Heat: Tips for Texas Runners
Training for a race in the dead of summer? Take time to acclimate your body to extreme heat.
In summer, temperatures in Texas easily reach 100°F or higher during the day. Conditions can also be humid, making the heat feel even more intense. Whether you’re a seasoned endurance runner or training for your first long-distance event, extreme heat can get the best of you if you don’t take precautions. Hazards of running in extreme heat include muscle cramps, dehydration, dizziness and fainting, heat exhaustion, and heatstroke.
Get Used to It
Heat acclimation (also called acclimatization) helps you avoid serious risks by letting your body adjust gradually.
“Your body can adapt to extreme heat by gaining more blood plasma volume, enhancing cardiac function, increasing blood flow to the skin, improving skin vasodilation, storing and using muscle energy more efficiently, and sweating more productively,” says Hal Welch, P.T., D.P.T., S.C.S., C.S.C.S., clinical coordinator of Physical Therapy and Sports Rehabilitation at Texas Health Harris Methodist Outpatient Center Burleson. “This process takes at least 10 to 14 days, and the longer an athlete is acclimated before an event, the better.”
Welch recommends building up your training in event-level heat conditions until you can run for at least one to two hours in those conditions without experiencing symptoms of heat illness. Perform at least six workouts at event-level heat in the two to three weeks leading up to the event, including one to two workouts the week before. If possible, achieve and maintain acclimation for 12 weeks prior to the event.
How to Hydrate
No matter how efficiently your body learns to regulate itself, it will never be able to perform in extreme heat without proper hydration. Water loss of 2 percent or more of your body weight is enough to impact your performance. To maintain hydration:
- Two hours before you run, drink 500 mL of a carbohydrate fluid.
- While running, drink a fluid that contains sodium and potassium, as well as 4 to 8 percent daily value of carbohydrate. You should replace 30 to 60 grams of carbohydrate each hour that you run by continually sipping fluids.
- After you run, drink 500 mL of carbohydrate-electrolyte fluid every 30 minutes until you’ve consumed 2 liters.
“If you dread training, can’t sleep well or are always fatigued, you may be over-training or going too fast,” Welch says. “Slow down and have fun. Most importantly, don’t ignore warning signs of heat illness.”
To find a personal trainer who can help you design a tailored training schedule for your next running event, visit TexasHealth.org/Fitness.