Ultrarunning: Acclimatizing to Heat

January 10, 2012

This article is part of Endurance Planet’s ultrarunning article series. If you have questions, comments or feedback about “Acclimatizing to Heat”, please leave it below in the comments section…

Heat is one of the many formidable forces a runner will have to confront during an ultramarathon. This will particularly be challenging to deal with if the race will be held in a venue with ambient temperatures that are higher than a normal human body’s core temperature. Athletes who will go through these extreme conditions are advised to supplement their conditioning routines with heat training to ensure not just optimum performance levels during the actual race, but quick recovery afterwards as well.

Heat acclimatization

Heat can easily take away one’s strength and resolve during a race. But one can adequately prepare for extremely hot conditions by way of heat acclimatization. Its purpose is to prime one’s body and mind for the harsh environment and the consequent discomforts it will bring about.

Who needs heat acclimatization?

Athletes who live and train in moderate climate zones will benefit most from heat acclimatization. Training in relatively comfortable conditions, even if one does so religiously and furiously, won’t be enough if one is to join a desert race, for example. One’s body won’t exert as much as it would when it’s forced to perform in hot and arid environments. So if you live in an area with comfortable climates and you plan to participate in a desert ultra, consider heat training a priority in your preparations.

Methods

Even if you live in a moderate climate zone, there are a number of methods you can implement to get your body and mind accustomed to the rigors of extremely hot conditions.

  • Sit in the sauna – Some long distance runners utilize saunas during their heat acclimatization phase. Sure, all one gets to do in the sauna is sit. But staying in it can be challenging as one needs to endure the hot temperatures for extended periods. If you’re not used to sauna, it would be smart to gradually introduce your body to its use.
  • Layer clothing – Perform your routine runs while donning layered clothing. This technique has long been used by veteran marathoners as it is the quickest and cheapest way of creating a micro climate for your body. However, training in thick layers of clothes can be inconvenient and can bring about overheating and dehydration. So again, slowly introduce your body to this practice. And Running Research News advises no more than 10 minutes of training in layered clothing at any one time.

Heat acclimatization presents best results when done a couple of weeks prior to the race. But remember that while adaptation to grueling hot conditions can be achieved, it is only to the extent in which one has trained. So to make sure your heat training doesn’t fall short, it would be smart to get all there is to know about the ultra you’ll be joining. This way, you can train and acclimatize to heat sufficiently so that you get to finish the race in a comfortable state.

Summary

Do you have questions about heat acclimatization, or what you’ve read so far? Do you have any ultrarunning pointers of your own to add? Please leave your feedback, comments and questions below, and we promise we’ll respond.


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