How to Train for Tropical Climate Races When You Don’t Live in the Tropics
It’s getting dark and cold in the northern states…and what that means is that athletes are starting to think about choosing races in warmer climates. Once you have picked your dream destination for your winter race, you are now ready to start training appropriately and planning for the changes in environment.
The number one issue you need to think about is acclimation.
Acclimation is huge!
Ideally, an athlete should arrive to the race day vicinity approximately two weeks before the race in order to accustom their body to the environment.
Most often, however, this is not feasible. I would LOVE to arrive to a race in Hawaii, two weeks in advance and use the “doctors’ orders” excuse (actually, I would LOVE to just race in Hawaii, but back to the topic at hand).
After 3-6 days of training in the heat and humidity:
The main adaptation that occurs with heat acclimation is an increase in the blood volume that circulates in your body. With this increase in volume, the heart will pump more with each beat and ultimately, will slow down your exercise heart rate.
After 5-10 days of training in the heat and humidity:
The heat and humidity also causes your body to sweat out (or urinate) less sodium. The reason for the excess sodium retained in your body is to normalize the sodium content in the now larger volume of blood circulating in the body.
After 7-14 days of training in the heat and humidity:
The next adaptations that occur with exercising in the heat and humidity are sweating at a lower core temperature and an increase in sweat rate. So, you’re going to sweat sooner and a lot more than you do back in the cooler temperatures!
If you cannot get to the race venue early to acclimate, then you need to be conscious of what your body needs to do (increase blood volume, sweating rate and sweating onset) and take steps to decrease the stress to your body since it won’t have time to adapt.
What this means for you, if you will not be to the tropical environment in time to acclimate:
- Train in a hot and humid environment for a maximum of 100 minutes a day for 10 days. This can be done in a warm recreational facility or an indoor track.
- Drink! Do not allow yourself to get dehydrated. Consume fluids at the same rate as your sweat rate. Use a sports drink that has sodium and carbohydrates to maintain adequate sodium levels.
- Practice drinking while training, because you will need to be drinking more during your race in the heat/humidity.
These are only general guidelines on how to prepare for racing in hot weather. Keep in mind that very serious issues can arise while exercising in the heat and humidity, especially when your body is not prepared properly.
Enjoy that warm weather race! We will be thinking of you on our runs in sub-zero weather.