Can't Stand the Heat
Posted on 15th September 2020 at 16:58
Novice training errors on a hot day, from someone who should know better!
As I drove home a couple of weeks ago I felt a wave of nausea travel upwards from my lower core. I tried to resist, but eventually I had to grab a sick bag from the back seat (usually reserved for my youngest son) and get it to my mouth just in time as my abs violently contracted and my stomach launched its contents out of my mouth.
This happened three more times on the way home, when I finally arrived back, my wife took a horrified look at me and it was clear that I looked as bad as I felt. She said that training for this run was stupid and I shouldn’t do it. She had a good point.
That day started of easy, alarm went off at five for an early start, I did some stretches, walked the dog, drank a coffee and ate some jam on toast, cereal and about ½ litre of water. At this point I was in a bit of a rush so I jumped in the car and set of to Flixton Wolds where I’d be meeting the other two. I got there for 7am, ten minutes later Paul and Matt rocked up in an A team van and we drove to Thixendale village for the start of a twenty-six mile run along a section of the Wolds way. A very hilly section. On the hottest day of the year.
Paul and Matt are both taking part in the Hardmoors 80 which I ran last year, so this was a useful jog out for them both, I had only seen this route at night time whilst knackered so was looking forward to taking in the scenic landscape. The first fifteen miles or so went fine, lots of hills, one particularly steep climb, and plenty of stunning countryside to gaze upon whilst we navigated our way round.
As the day wore on, the sun became hotter, and started to take its toll. The temperature around that area rose to about 34, which for some people probably isn’t that hot, in many countries this might even be considered a cool day, but in England this year we’ve mostly been used to temps in the late teens or lower twenties these last few weeks, and the sudden change in temp was a bit of a shock compared to the conditions I usually ran in.
In order to stay cool in hot weather, your body has to pump blood to the skin in order to help with circulation and evaporation, this means there is less blood going to the muscles, which means the muscles have to work much harder than usual to do their job. As a result, we were all running at a slower pace than normal, not a big issue, we weren’t out to break any records, the real problem came with my personal hydration and nutrition tactics.
The point of me doing this run was to prepare for the Hardmoors 110 just a few days from now. I’ll be running from Filey on the North Yorkshire coast all the way long the tip of the cost and then turning inland and heading across country towards Helmsley along roaming hills. This last section will most likely be done at night-time and early morning hours (if I get my timing right). I’ll have thirty six hours to complete all one hundred and ten miles of this route, to help improve my chances of success I’ve been training quite hard these last few months, the Marathon across the Wolds was an opportunity to experiment with different nutrition and hydration strategies. I’m glad I had the opportunity to do this, because I spectacularly messed it up.
For a start, I should have drank more in the morning, I had intended to, but being in a rush I only downed ½ a litre instead of the full litre and a half I intended to drink. Then whilst running I had taken the decision to only carry one and a half litres, something I should really have known better than, because I’m fully aware that in these kind of conditions I lose about two litres an hour.
My reasons for not carrying much water came from an old 2006 paper I’ve been reading by Prof Tim Noakes. For those not familiar with Noakes he’s kind of a genius, and kind of a dick. Much of his work is brilliant, his early work on the Central Governor theory is brilliant, if you want to understand the concepts of how you adapt and improve with exercise or any activity which is on the boundary of your comfort zone then you should look this up. He has unfortunately fell in with the keto crowed in recent years, throwing himself full zealously at the low carb dogma as the end all to all disease and the only way to live optimally.
His work on hydration is interesting however, it goes against the grain of many in the field and there are a few experts I have a lot of respect for who told me that this piece of work was worth looking into.
The essential crux of his argument is that many athletes are over hydrated, sports drink manufacturers have doctored studies to give appearances of improvements in performance through buying their products and maintain optimum hydration. He points out anecdotally that existing tribal populations don’t carry water on their thirty plus mile hunts as it will just slow them down, and that athletes who finish marathons in medal places are often experiencing dehydration without any impact on overall time.
So these are all seemingly sound arguments, there are other studies showing that when participants had no cognitive bias input (e.g they had no idea their hydration status was being studied) they managed to perform well with up to 3% levels of dehydration.
All this is very well, carrying extra water means more weight, and even just a little extra weight can impact on speed, some studies by Lieberman found that when just a little bit of extra weight was inserted into a shoe it slowed mile times significantly.
All of this is a long roundabout way of me saying that I probably didn’t drink as much as I should have done first thing, and I probably didn’t carry enough water with me.
So dehydration is the first reason I suffered so badly, the second reason is my trial of a sports drink. When you start running your body will burn more of your glycogen stores, at some point these will start to deplete and you’ll have to convert fat stores into glycogen, which can be costly, and will inevitably slow you down. By taking on carbohydrates whilst running long distance you can keep going at a faster pace, the maximum amount most people can absorb is about ninety grams per hour. Most gels are about 20g, meaning you have to take them every twenty minutes to get the most out of them, and this is a massive pain in the arse.
So I wanted to try having a full 90g of carbs in one go, I knew we’d be out for a few hours so I put 180g in a sports bottle and figured that if I drank half when I wanted it and the second half later I’d be OK. I turns out I was massively wrong, my gut hasn’t had a chance to get used to this, and the result was I felt nauseous which combined with dehydration and the heat led to me having a not very nice day at the office.
I eventually managed to get to work that afternoon, I couldn’t eat or drink anything for a while so just had to carry on suffering, but after a few hours I managed to get some water down me and then I got to the shops and bought some ginger beer, chilli nuts, chocolate flapjack and slowly managed to consume it. I felt much better, took the dog for a walk and began wondering about the best way to deal with running in hot climates.
This is what I discovered.
What to wear
Certain colours reflect light more, and certain colours absorb light more. There is some debate about which colour is the best for running in hot weather, it seems to come down to a choice of either white or black.
White reflects all light, so should probably stop heating being absorbed too, there is however one issue, whilst keeping heat coming in, white may prevent heat from leaving the body.
Black lets all light colours through, but it also allows them to leave, physics professors seem to believe that for this reason it’s a better choice to run in, however I should point out that if you do choose a black running top you should probably have sun cream underneath your t.shirt.
An important factor seems to be how baggy it is, looser clothes allow air to flow more freely, and most modern materials, particularly those designed for hot weather training, tend to be light and have breathable material that allows for escaping sweat and heat.
For most people the important part of hydration starts before the race, there is a formula I like to use with my athletes, but it takes a knowing certain facts about them to get right. As a general rule anywhere from ½ a litre to a full litre will be fine for most people. In my case it should really be a full litre, hence I suffered later on.
I found some research on something called hyper hydration, in which athletes take glycerol at a certain dose per kg of body weight mixed with a certain amount of fluid per kg of body weight. The research showed that athletes who did this didn’t need to take on as much fluid in the race and delayed becoming dehydrated.
The reason I’m not sharing the formula with you on how to do this is because I tried this recently and it went disastrously wrong!
I ran a ½ marathon in under 90 minutes, which was all fine, but then the rest of the day was a write off! At one point I thought I’d need to install seat-belts on my toilet! It turns out the Glycerol is also used to treat constipation, something that would have been handy to know before I tried it! The important lesson here is to try things in training first before you try them on race day.
Whilst running, try to drink regularly, I recommend a camel back to help with this if you’re doing any kind of distance without any support. If your running for more than 90 minutes then you’ll also need to take on board electrolytes as well as fluid, most carb gels will cater for this.
Glucose and sodium help to stimulate fluid absorption, so a sports drink will hydrate you better than just plain water, however anything you add to water means it’ll sit in your stomach longer, which might potentially make you feel a bit queasy on a long run. I like to drink both water and sports drinks on a long run.
It’s fairly straight forward to work out your sweat rate, just weigh yourself before and after a run, whatever the difference is in weight in kg is roughly how much water you’ve lost ml, make sure you add on the weight of any water you drank whilst running, and ideally don’t go for a piss unless you’re willing to weigh that and include it in the equation!
So if before running you weight 70kg, then after running on a hot day for ninety minutes you weight 68kg, you’ve lost about 2 litres in water, if you drank 500mls of water whilst running then you’ve lost 2.5 litres of water. Now take that number (2500 seat-belts) and divide it by the time you run, in this case 90 minutes.
2500 divided by 90 is 27.7, this gives you the weight lost per minute, now times that by sixty to get your hourly rate.
27.7 x 60 is 1666 seat-belts per hr. It’s useful info to know if you’re out running often on hot days for extended periods.
I personally lose about 2 litres an hour in hot weather, about ½ to a full litre in cool weather.
After running a hilly marathon on the Wolds way on a hot day, which took about five hours, I weighed 5kg less afterwards, about 6% of my body weight, given that I drank about two litres whilst running I lost 7kg in total from that run. No wonder I looked like a train wreck! (and felt like one)
Whilst out running long distance for time one of the best indications of your hydration status is pee colour. The two guys I ran with had to stop for a pee a few times during the run, I only stopped once and that was right at the end, when a thick orange drizzle came out of my body (probably should have had some kind of warning before that sentence)
Various athletes competing in hot countries such as those in the 2004 Olympics Marathon in Athens, have employed cooling techniques to help them achieve their best performances in conditions they’re not well adapted too.
For a mere £130 odd pounds you can purchase a cooling vest, which you leave in the fridge/ freezer over night to help keep your core body temperature cool before you start your run. Another perhaps more affordable option might be to just wet a tea towel and freeze that overnight and apply to your body at that start of a race/ run on a hot day. You can also try frozen bracelets, hats etc.
Filling a water bottle or body weight filter with ice cubes is another simple option, the highlight of my run on the Wolds was the one thing I did do right. The night before our run I put three water bottles in the freezer, when we finally got to the end they were still cool in my car and they tasted absolutely divine.
The more often you run in hot weather, the more your body adapts, and providing you don’t push it too far (like I did) you can also adapt to being a little dehydrated and still perform a good running time.
Lest I be accused of giving dangerous advice on this, a study by Fleming and James (2014) showed that athletes trained to adapt to being dehydrated became faster in a dehydrated state and reported lower levels of perceived exertion.
Obviously, this is a fine line, don’t blur it, be sensible.
If you go running on a hot day and your unfamiliar with running in heat then you need to slow down your pace, if you don’t do it deliberately, your body will just do it for you. Take your time, go steady, pace yourself and enjoy.
I wrote this article for the specific niche of runners who occasionally check out my musings, if you have found this article helpful then I hope you’ll consider sponsoring me on my next Ultra run challenge this Saturday (22nd August 2020)
I’ll be running 110 miles across the Cleveland way in support of two incredible charities, Humber Rescue and The Royal Marines Charity.
Thanks in advance for any donations you give, it really is much appreciated.
Although I really suffered on the run, it was actually really useful, should this weekends run happen to be under very hot conditions, I’m a lot better prepared now than I would have been. It’s better to make mistakes in training that in competition!
Final note: I avoided mentioning heat stroke or heat exhaustion in this article, because they are both very serious conditions which would merit a long word count to do them justice, this link gives some basic advice on what to watch out for an how to treat, essentially be on the lookout for symptoms such as headache, dizzyness, excess sweating or complete lack of sweating. If you notice any of these just stop, get to the nearest shade, take a rest and drink and regoup.
Tagged as: Diet hull, Personal Trainer Hull, Personal Trainer North Ferriby, Weight loss, Weight loss Hull
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