How to Quickly become Heat Acclimated for Your Race

Spring racing season can be particularly difficult as you prepare for the weather.  Unless you live near the equator or the southern hemisphere (where seasons are opposite), then you likely spend most of the winter preparing for a spring race in relatively cold weather.  How can you quickly and safely become heat acclimated to prepare for a race, soccer or other outdoor sports when most of your training was performed in cold weather?

As you approach mid to late spring, the weather becomes more unpredictable in many parts of the world.  The conditions could be cold, windy, and rainy or in near summer heat while you’re running or playing your sport of choice.  The change from heat to cooler weather is usually an easier transition for most runners and athletes.  However, the transition from colder weather to heat can affect performance.  The exact ideal temperature (approximately 45-55 degrees Fahrenheit) is debatable and also based on humidity.  Most running experts suggest performance impairments of between 1.6% and 3% in marathon times for every 10 degrees above 55 degrees Fahrenheit.

Running and exercising in warmer weather tends to be more taxing on your body and requires more energy to remain cool.  When you’re not acclimatized to running in heat, it takes more effort to keep your running pace.  This increases your risk of muscle cramping, bonking (hitting the wall), and/or being unable to maintain your goal pace (which leads to a longer finishing time).

Group of people running.

6 Tips to Quickly become Heat Acclimated for Your Race:

  1. Perform High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT).  You will need to adequately train your body to handle the extra intensity needed in order to maintain your pace.  The best method when training for a more intense pace is through High Intensity Training (HIT) or High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT).  Perform short bursts (ranging from 30-60 seconds at a time) of activity followed by a 1-2 minute recovery.  The 30-60 seconds should be at a high intensity, meaning that your rate of perceived exertion (RPE) is high.  You should be breathing heavy.  If you are overweight or have arthritis, this may be performed while using a stationary bicycle or in a pool.  You can also walk uphill at a quick pace, then stop and rest.  This is performed in intervals ranging from 30 to 60 seconds as well.
  2. The Sauna.  My preference is to utilize the sauna post running.  This allows me to put forth max effort in performing my scheduled run followed by a 10-20 minute sauna session.  (Initially, work up to a 30-40 minute session if tolerated.)  You can use either a dry heat sauna or a steam room, but choose this based on the anticipated humidity during your race or sport activity.  Utilizing the sauna provides best results if initiated three to four weeks prior to the event.  However, positive effects can occur in as little as one to two weeks before the race.  I recommend tapering down and discontinuing sauna use two or three days prior to the event.  If you’re hard core, try performing light exercise when in the sauna or steam room.  A few rounds of push-ups or squats can be beneficial.  If you own a sauna, you may even consider gently riding a stationary bike.  (If you have a heart condition, please first clear any use of a sauna with your physician.)
  3. Hot Yoga.  Currently, this form of yoga is a “hot” fitness trend.  Preforming hot yoga is an excellent cross training method which allows you to acclimatize to the heat.  I recommend one to two sessions per week as part of your cross training routine.
  4. Increase your Fuel Intake.  You will likely be putting forth a harder effort in the heat to maintain your pace.  I recommend increasing your fuel intake by 100-200 Calories per hour during the race.  This will provide your body with enough energy to push harder than expected.  Experiment with the increased fuel during your training runs or prior to the event.  This will eliminate any potential gastrointestinal (GI) issues from the change in your fueling strategy.
  5. Salt.  It is rarely necessary to supplement with salt tablets during the race.  Muscle cramping can be an issue, but it’s usually due from over exertion and not from a lack of salt.  Heat increases your exertional levels.  If you start to cramp, you can quickly place something salty (such as some pickle juice or a mixture of sea salt and honey) in your mouth.  (You don’t even need to ingest the food or beverage.)  It will trigger a neurological response which can alleviate the cramp.
  6. Colostrum.  Colostrum is the first milk produced by female mammals after giving birth. It contains a host of immunoglobulins, anti-microbial peptides, and other growth factors. It is especially good at strengthening the intestinal lining which prevents and heals conditions associated with a leaky gut. Colostrum can also help a person more effectively exercise in hotter conditions. Over all, it can boost the immune system, assist with intestinal issues, and help the body to recover faster. I recommend CapraColostrum by Mt. Capra, which is a goat based supplement. If you have a goat allergy, I also alternatively recommend a cow (bovine) based supplement known as IgG 2000 CWP. This supplement is an immunoglobulin concentrate made from bovine colostrum.

In general, exercising in warmer weather tends to be more taxing on your body.  It requires more energy to remain cool.  Incorporate these 6 tips on how to quickly and safely become heat acclimatized as you prepare for a race or other outdoor sport.  You will likely experience a successful outcome by maintaining your goal pace while avoiding dehydration and muscle cramping.

What is your preferred weather condition for running or outdoor sports?  Do you have any tips to share that have helped you to acclimatize to warmer than expected conditions?  Please leave your comments below.

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