The Biggest Mistakes Runners Make Training in the Heat

running in heat

Training in the heat is one of the most effective tools runners have in their arsenal. The benefits of heat training for runners are nearly endless, with your body improving its cooling and oxygen transportation systems in ways that few other conditions can match. Incredibly, heat training can even teach your body to hang onto valuable electrolytes while you sweat

But like any powerful tool in running, heat training comes with its potential drawbacks. By using heat the wrong way, runners can overwork certain energy systems and develop inefficiencies that will plague them in cooler temperatures. 

Here are some of the most common mistakes to avoid while training in hot conditions. 

1. Consuming the wrong drinks post-run

Hydration becomes particularly important during the year’s hottest months. But did you know that by drinking the wrong things post-run, you could actually be negating the benefits of your workout? 

It turns out, fortified antioxidants, including Vitamin C and Vitamin E, can actually block your body’s natural adaptations that take place after running. That means the hard-earned fitness you develop by slugging it out in warm weather may be partially negated or delayed by drinking these vitamins after you train. (Thankfully, many studies have shown that natural antioxidants from real food and fruit juice can actually aid in your recovery from workouts). 

Many common sports drinks are now fortified with artificial antioxidants, including Powerade, Prime, Vitamin Water, Body Armor, and more. Check the labels of what you’re currently drinking to see if Vitamin C or Vitamin E are in the ingredients. If they are, you may be better off going with Gatorade, water, or fruit juice. 

2. Relying too heavily on typical training metrics

If you need proof that heat slows us all down significantly, look no further than the greatest marathoner in history, Eliud Kipchoge. In the 2016 and 2020 Summer Olympics, Kipchoge ran significantly slower in the hot and humid conditions, despite taking home Gold Medals in both races. How much slower? In his first 19 marathon outings (including his sub 2-hour attempts), Kipchoge averaged an incredible time of 2:04:01. In the warm Olympic races, he ran 2:08:44 and 2:08:38, times that are roughly 3.8% slower than his average races and over 7.5% slower than his 1:59:40 time trial. 

With so much information available to us through our watches, runners become used to relying on metrics like pace and heart rate to analyze their training. But as we can see from Kipchoge, heat alters our usual metrics in a big way. When it’s warm out, runners will often work too hard to hit their usual paces, or slow down too much to hit their target heart rate zone. The result is inefficient training, which is a waste considering how beneficial heat training can be when done correctly. 

Runners who train with See You At The Finish are given training paces for workouts that make statistical adjustments for forecasted weather. This process ensures you are getting the most out of your hard work on hot days. 

3. Tensing up mid-run

The harder a run gets, the more runners have a tendency to tense up and lose proper form. Heat is one the biggest contributors to this tension, and it can lead to bad habits that carry on well into the cooler months.

As a larger marathoner and former avid indoorsman, I used to struggle significantly with smooth, relaxed running on hot days. But through the right training, I slowly taught my body to stay calm in hotter temperatures, allowing me to generate the type of relaxed power that leads to efficient strides. 

The best ways to teach your body to stay relaxed in the heat are through the correct alternator and accelerator workouts, which should be tailored to your recent training. If you can run smoothly when it’s hot out, you’ll work the right energy systems and be able to parlay your training to the cooler months, when the benefits of training in the heat really take effect. 

If you’re interested in having your own training customized for year-round efficiency, shoot me an email at Danny@SeeYouAtTheFinish.com. We’ll ensure you’re able to maximize the value of heat training without falling into the common traps that hold most runners back.