Racing in the heat isn’t something we are faced with all that often, but when it does hit, it can be a shock to the system. We spend so much of the time moaning about training and racing in the freezing cold, that we forget how to cope when it gets very hot. We forget being too hot is even a thing!
Training in the heat isn’t something that can always be avoided. If we have training every day and racing multiple times a month, it is very unlikely that we will always be able to avoid training in the heat.
How do I deal with the heat?
When it is hot, I am not one to shy away. If anything, I prefer to run in the heat compared to the cold. As time as gone on, I have learnt how important it is to hydrate myself well on hot days if I have a big session to do or a race later in the day. It can be difficult to take on enough water during a session, and you don’t want to have to drink during a race if possible, therefore I try and drink a lot throughout the day, before and after.
Additionally, if I am away on holiday somewhere hot, I tend to wake up slightly earlier and get my training done before the sun comes out and gets too powerful. Whilst I appreciate this can’t always be done, as we don’t want to wake up at 4am on holiday, I try to do it as early as is reasonably possible. When abroad, the sun can tend to rise very early, doing it as early as possible is far better than training in the midday heat.
I also do my upmost to avoid training on the road and opt for grass. Concrete tends to retain heat and therefore feels even hotter and can make you feel even hotter. The grass can be a lot cooler, making it much more pleasant to train on. Another tip, which tends to only be possible on holiday, or if you are lucky enough to have a pool, jump into the water as soon as you get back from a run. This helps cool you down! Unfortunately, I have to opt for a cool shower instead. (not cold, as I can’t face a cold shower even if I’m boiling!!)
However, I have found it beneficial to get some of my sessions done in the heat. This way, my body can get used to running fast in the heat, and it doesn’t come as a complete surprise if I am faced with a scorching day on race day. Yesterday was a prime example. It was hotter than ideal for a fast track session, but I got it done and it was good to expose my body to those sorts of conditions.
When it comes to racing in the heat, I try and warm up in a shaded area and not for longer than necessary. It is important for me to only spend essential time in the heat in the build-up to a race. I try and save my energy for coping with the heat during the race.
Oh, and wear as little as possible, whilst still being decent! A crop top and shorts are perfect for keeping cool, without having sweaty material rubbing on your stomach or under your armpits. Men, don’t shy away from going without a top, you’ll be thankful for it mid-session when it’s boiling!
I personally feel it is crucial to have a good pair of trainers on your feet when you are running. No matter what sort of run you are doing, be it track, road, or trail, you need to be well supported. Considering the amount of running we do; our feet and legs get put through their paces. Therefore, we need a good pair of trainers to help reduce the shock and impact going through our feet and legs with every stride. The right pair of trainers differs for every individual. We all have a different gait and need different levels of cushioning and support. The trainers I wear, suit me, but they may not suit you. It is so important to go to a shop and get a gait analysis, to ensure your trainers are right for you.
What do I wear for what?
In training I tend to wear the same trainers for everything I do. This is because the shoe I use is so versatile. I wear the Mizuno Wave Ride 22 as it is so comfortable and caters for all distances and terrains! It’s light enough to be worn for speed, comfortable and cushioned enough to wear on long runs, and robust enough to wear off road. I also tend to have a pair I don’t mind getting muddy, which I wear for my grass sessions, and a fresher pair which gets used on the road and track. It depends what works for you, but some people find it helpful to have a few pairs in rotation to avoid wearing them out too quickly.
The shoes I wear for cross country, road, and track are very important. These are the shoes that put you in your race mindset. I know, as soon as I put on my racing shoes, whatever the race, I automatically feel more focused and raring to go. This is because these shoes don’t tend to get worn outside of races. My lightweight racing shoes may occasionally be worn for strides, so I get used to them, but outside of this, they are exclusively for race day. It’s like putting on your racing vest, it gets you in the zone.
On the road…
On the road I wear the Mizuno Wave Hitogami 4. You can’t get this model anymore, but the Wave Emperor is a similarly light shoe that I am transitioning towards. These shoes are incredibly light, that they allow you to be light on your feet and pick the pace up an extra notch. The shoe’s lightweight is also why I enjoy training in the regular wave rider, because as soon as I put on my light racing flats I feel as though a weight has been lifted and I can run so much faster than I can in training! Although they are very light, they still have some cushioning in them- perfect for protecting your feet from the harsh impact the road creates. I don’t train in these, as I prefer to have the extra cushioning provided by the wave rider for day to day training to provide a little bit more protection from the impact of sessions.
Off the road…
Off the road, on come the spikes. Whether it be on the track or for cross country, spikes are always the way forward. On the track they offer you that little bit of extra grip to allow you to push yourself to the limit, whilst the offer you the extra stability and grip you need to get through the thick, slippery mud in cross country. Spikes are also incredibly lightweight, so they don’t weigh you down. I have recently switched my spikes to the Mizuno Geo splash 7. I wasn’t sure how I would get on with these, but they are fabulous! They are incredibly lightweight and surprisingly comfortable, so much so, I even ran a PB in them last weekend!
This truly shoes, you can never have too many pairs of trainers! They all have a different purpose and you will never regret buying them! What are your favourite trainers?
A lot of people ask about the sacrifices you have to make if you want to pursue a sport seriously. They frequently say, ‘You must have to give up so much for your running’. It is believed you have to sacrifice time with your friends, time with family, your other interests, and more noticeable among the younger generation, your social life. But, this just isn’t the case. There is only so much training you can do, and it can always be fitted in around other things. Also, the amount you sacrifice is up to you. If I want to make time to do other things around running, I will. I wouldn’t want to forgo seeing my family or my close friends because of training. I can always fit in time to see them, I may just have to adjust when/where I do my training in order to make time for all my plans.
The biggest thing most people fear when committing to a sport is sacrificing their social life. Most importantly, the drinking and the clubbing. But, to be honest, to me, this isn’t a sacrifice. I have so many people asking me if I wish I didn’t have training to do, so I could go clubbing and not worry about being tired in the morning. Quite frankly, I don’t. Even if I didn’t run, I still wouldn’t go clubbing. It just isn’t for me. I’ve never been someone to enjoy going out, I don’t know if that is because I have always run and always had training to do the next day, so I never went in full force trying to enjoy it, or because it just genuinely isn’t my idea of fun. I would much rather have a cozy movie night in, and conveniently this lends itself towards training a lot more.
Additionally, running is something I love, therefore not being able to go out clubbing every week isn’t something I miss. It’s not a sacrifice, it’s a choice I have made. I always tell people, if I wanted to go clubbing, I would. As bizarre as it may sound to some people, running is something that makes me happy, not clubbing, so I make running my priority. No one is forcing me not to go out, no one is telling me I can’t go out and enjoy myself because it will detriment my training, it is completely a choice I have made myself. If I wanted to go out, I would.
I am also a very strong-minded individual and won’t do something I don’t want to do. Whilst some people may believe I also sacrifice drinking for running, they couldn’t be more wrong. I have never really been a proper drinker, and I stopped drinking before I decided running was something I wanted to pursue seriously. I have never once felt as though I’m missing out. I would always much rather be running, so if I don’t do something in order to run, it’s more of a joy than a sacrifice. If I wanted to drink every now and then, I would, it wouldn’t destroy my running career. It is just all about balance.
Another common misconception about dedicating yourself to a sport, is the food you have to give up. ‘Oh, I couldn’t be a runner, I couldn’t eat healthily all the time’. Whilst I believe it is important to have a healthy diet the majority of the time, I still allow myself treats every now and then. I also listen to my body when it is craving different foods and give it what it wants. Running isn’t torture, I am allowed to eat what I want, just in moderation, the same as every other person in the world. There are no foods you ‘can’t have’ as a runner. We are still human, we can eat everything, just in moderation.
How does being a woman affect my running.
Being a woman is an incredible thing, and something all of us women should be proud of, but sometimes, it can be an absolute pain. There is no denying it would be great to be able to train consistently week in, week out, without our hormones affecting us, but this just isn’t possible. At least, not if you’re healthy.
There has always been such a stigma surrounding periods. We are all far too shy to talk about them and be honest about the effect they have on us. There is no shame in voicing how your period makes you feel. In the end, all women understand, and men need to as well. Periods can be a complete pain. Quite literally. There is nothing worse than going into a session when you’ve had period pains all day. I am generally quite lucky as I don’t tend to get period pains, but the times I have had them, you just want to curl up in a ball and go to bed. Not ideal, when you are about to start a track session. There should be no embarrassment in being honest to your coach. Put everything into your session, but tell your coach you aren’t feeling 100% because you are on your period. This needs to be the way we all think, but for some reason, it just isn’t spoken about. Not only can period pains affect training, but depending where I am in my cycle I can be left feeling very lethargic and heavy legged.
Why don't we talk about it?
Quite simply, because it is still seen as a taboo topic that shouldn’t be addressed. Nowhere near enough coaches approach the topic of periods. It is avoided as if it’s a bad thing. If my period is affecting my training, I should feel able to voice it. All coaches, both male and female, should be aware of how our cycle impacts our training. We shouldn’t feel embarrassed about it.
Not only do periods affect our bodies, but also our minds. I quite frequently find myself feeling negative and very emotional when it is coming up to my period. It can get frustrating, but again, I know this is only normal. This is my body showing me it is working properly. I should not feel afraid to say why it is I feel emotional, it is only normal!
For some unknown reason, it has come to be believed that it is normal for us long-distance runners not to have periods, but it isn’t. We need them to function properly and to perform to the best of our ability. Period. Without periods our bone health is affected, as is our future fertility and our ability to recover and build muscle. This is quite frequently because our body does not have enough energy to complete the demands we are asking of it, let alone to menstruate. In the past I would go over 5 months without having a period, and I didn’t think anything of it, but this is not a sign of a healthy human, let alone a healthy athlete. Not having a period is not normal in a long-distance runner, not matter what anybody may say.
What did I do?
When I finally realised the need to get my periods back, I had to make some major changes to my diet and training. I had to put enough fuel into my body in order to allow it to sufficiently complete the training I was asking of it, as well as having enough energy to perform natural acts, such as menstruation. This meant fuelling myself properly before and after training, ensuring I wasn’t ever training fasted, and making sure I was giving my body all the nutrients it needed. I also had to temporarily cut back training. I reduced the amount of exercise I was doing significantly, allowing myself time to gain the weight I needed in order to function healthily, without constantly burning off what I was putting in. Finally, I learnt how important it is to allow your body to recover properly. Previously, I would get by on minimal amounts of sleep, always compromising sleep for training. Whilst you may have to get up earlier to fulfil your daily training, I had to ensure I was going to bed at a suitable time. This allowed my body to recover and restore itself, helping keep it healthy.
Having a period is something we should all be proud of. Whilst having periods can be a nuisance, I now shout with joy every month when mine arrives. I bet you are wondering why, but it means I’m happy and healthy. If my body is functioning well, I know I am training and fuelling properly. I would worry if I wasn’t having periods.
Don’t be ashamed of having periods, be proud to be healthy.
I love to run and I love to write, so I write about running!