So you’ve decided to keep running in the Texas heat? With heat indexes soaring into the 90s this weekend, that first hot training run may test your resolve. But take heart–it will get better. However, you must be willing to go slowly and give your body time to adapt.
For the first month or so, running in the Texas heat may seem like starting over. If you’re just coming off a strong racing season, you probably feel strong and confident, able to easily tackle double-digit long runs at a nice clip. You head out for your usual morning or evening training run, and the heat hits you like a brick wall. You’re sweating profusely. Your face feels hot and flushed, and your legs have suddenly turned to lead. Don’t panic, just slow down, take a deep breath (and a drink of water).
Acclimation key to running in the Texas heat
No matter how well you’ve trained, running in the Texas heat will require acclimation. As this article points out, blogs and magazines often make the process seem easy. However, those bloggers may not live in Texas.
Running in the Texas heat doesn’t just feel harder, it is harder. Because running itself generates heat, your heart and lungs have to work harder to both keep you cool and move you forward. According to one article, “Hot, humid weather can easily add 20 beats or more to a runner’s average heart rate.” As a result, you must slow down to compensate. If you don’t, as this author so eloquently puts it, “your body may start to cook from the inside out.”
Heat adaptation rates vary by person
How long it takes to acclimate to running in the Texas heat depends on the person. Sweat rates vary, and lighter runners seem to have an easier time staying cool, according to some studies. Women runners may also have a slight advantage in heat adaptation, according to the same article. In general, the process takes about two weeks, according to most experts. During that time, as this article explains, your sweat rate and cardiovascular function increases.
While your body adapts to running in the Texas heat, take it easy. Start with shorter training runs in the morning or evening when it’s cooler. Slow your pace and listen to your body. If your heart begins to pound and your lungs are screaming, slow down; perhaps take a walk break. Whatever you do, don’t beat yourself up. Just like training for a marathon, training for the heat requires both discipline and patience. And remember to think about the rewards you will reap in the future.
One final note: Once you’ve acclimated to running in the Texas heat, be careful not to lose it. For example, if you’re planning a vacation to some cool locale for a couple of weeks, you will need to re-acclimate upon returning to the blast furnace that is Texas.
Watch this blog for posts on specific strategies for running in the Texas heat, including hydration, pacing, and more.