In these early days of summer, with temperatures rising and humidity reaching its highest points, running becomes very tiring and it is good to always do it in the best conditions: having drunk a couple of glasses of water before going out, trying not to go running in the sun at lunch break, do it on trails where you can meet someone else in case you need a hand. These are, after all, expedients that come naturally and that also seem superfluous to repeat, but really indispensable if one wants to training in hot weather. And the word train is in this case the most appropriate, because running in hot weather has exactly this effect on our body: it trains it and contributes significantly to making it stronger and faster, or, in one word , efficient.
WHAT THE RESEARCH SAYS
There are numerous studies that consider the increase in environmental temperature and variation in performance, and among the most interesting are some that relate clothing to real and perceived temperature and the changes that occur on athletes’ bodies. In particular, the variation in body temperature, the combination of heart rate and heart pressure, the levels of hemoglobin in the blood, and the resulting oxygen-carrying capacity in athletes of all ages have been carefully studied – runners and cyclists – undergoing training regimens in hot climates, with or without the use of thermal clothing.
In one of the trials the groups of athletes were asked to exert themselves for about an hour in a thermal chamber with constant temperature and light clothing, and then tried the same type of workout with thermal clothing and lower chamber temperature but designed so that the athlete’s sensation was the same as running in hot weather. In a further third test, then, the athletes repeated the training in thermal clothing to soak in a hot bath for thirty minutes immediately after finishing it. The study lasted ten days, each athlete performed three trials of each type, and the results showed significant similarities in adaptation by all athletes, with a performance increase at the third and final trial, the one in which, in addition to training, the athletes were also asked to bathe in hot water.
In another study, conducted to show differences in heat acclimatization between younger and older people, the adaptive performance of a group of athletes in their early twenties was compared with that of athletes in their early seventies, who were required to do muscle warm-up, running and exercise bike activities, which were followed by half an hour in which each athlete was required to rest under a temperature-controlled thermal blanket. Regardless of age and uniformly by group, the adaptive capacities recorded were similar, with positive increases in all aspects assessed and in tissue oxygenation capacity in particular, confirming how a training protocol designed specifically for hot conditions can assist in increasing performance.
Along the same lines, studies have been conducted on various cross-country distances or bike rides in the heat, and a picture has emerged that rather clearly defines that the human body-if trained in the right way-is able to adapt to the stimuli imposed by high temperatures, and that it is able to do so similarly in all subjects in a homogeneous group (as athletes trained at more or less the same level can be considered), whether the outside temperature is high or the clothing used is of the thermal type, that is, it retains as much heat as possible that the body itself generates.
WHAT DOES IT MEAN FOR ME AS AN AMATEUR?
What all this means for us amateurs is that there are two rules to always follow, and even more so when temperatures rise and it becomes complex to do any activity, let alone train:
- Step by step
- don’t improvise
Each of us is and should be our own first physician, of course not in the sense of self-curing or self-diagnosing him/herself, but in that of being critical and trying to understand what the actual condition of our body is. Forcing ourselves to run in the August sun in a thermal and then take a half-hour sauna because then we will have a 0.1% increase on our VO2max capabilities , is not a clever thing to do.. Training in hot weather should be something well thought out and studied, if possible with our coach and always – always – with both eyes on safety. They are enough in the end a few expedients and you can have fun even in summer.
Improvements are building blocks, bricks that are arranged one on one and not ten at a time, just as steps are made during a run.
Bibliografia parziale A comparison of heat acclimation by post-exercise hot water immersion and exercise in the heat, di McIntyre et al., 2021 Training wearing thermal clothing and training in hot ambient conditions are equally effective methods of heat acclimation, di Lundby et al., 2021 Exercise heat acclimation and post-exercise hot water immersion improve resting and exercise responses to heat stress in the elderly, di Waldock et al., 2021 Intermittent exercise-heat exposures and intense physical activity sustain heat acclimation adaptations, di Pryor et al., 2021