How to stay cool in hot weather
Make sure you stay cool during hot weather while you burn up the road!
A surprising first step
First of all, let’s get you up to speed with the science. Dr Andrew Drake, British Athletics Talent Hub Manager says:
- Running economy is directly proportional to heat loss.
- Evaporative heat loss from sweat is the number 1 mechanism.
- A relatively larger body surface area to body mass ratio is desirable, i.e. be lean, and small.
- Training in heat (acclimatisation) will - over time - result in more, and more dilute sweat to aid evaporative cooling and impact on perceived exertion and feelings of thermal strain/comfort.
He suggests three simple things you can do:
- Take a hot bath to acclimatise. A 45 minutes, 40-degree bath is highly effective.
- High sodium drinks maintain plasma volume. Competition drinks modified to be hypertonic solutions.
- Pour lots of cold water over yourself too!
Down to earth
Tom Craggs, England Athletics Regional Coaching Lead has these wise words
- Have a dose of realism - You might leave your front door for a session with out an outcome in mind. A finishing time, a goal pace. The reality is you need to respond to the environment and conditions as they are, not as you wish them to be. You might need to ease your pace back and put your ego in a box. You'll be working harder and burning more energy to run the same pace in hotter conditions. Adjusting your effort will be key to still finishing strong at the finish.
- Embrace it - It takes 7-10 day for your body to gradually acclimatise to heat, and there are some real benefits to training in warmer weather that can mimic some of the effects
- Out of sight, out of mind - Whilst wearing a hat or sunglasses won't keep you cool the psychological effects of keeping the direct sunlight out of your eyes can be great.
Dress for success
Chafing is more likely to happen in the heat as you sweat more. Try to run in technical moisture-wicking, breathable fabric as this will wick moisture away from your skin to prevent chafing.
Expect a warm glow
When you’re running your body burns glycogen which raises your body temperature. It is natural to sweat at this point as it is the body’s way of trying to regulate temperature and stop overheating.
Have a plan
In 2019 the Athletics World Champs took place in the cauldron that is Doha. "The main thing to prepare for the heat in Doha was organisation," says Olympic medallist Emily Diamond. "I took a lot of SIS Hydration tablets with me to make sure I stay hydrated both during sessions and in between sessions. I also took with me a water spray bottle (the sort of one Mrs Hinch uses for cleaning) so that I could cool myself down during sessions. Ice cold towels were crucial for training in the extreme heat."
It's not all doom and gloom
Research suggests that done right, training in hot weather will improve your VO2 max. Successful adaption to heat allows more effective delivery of oxygen-rich blood to your muscles with less effort. Which may sound surprising, but think about it; all the major champs all take place in the summer in warmer conditions. The key is clearly about getting heat management right and you too can reap the benefits…
Don’t forget your dog gets hot too
Andrew and England Athletics National Endurance Lead Spencer Duval both recommend ice vests for elite athletes in extreme conditions to cool down before events, but Spencer also reminds us the same kit is avaliable for faithful friends. Click here to find out more.