We posed your question to Mindy Solkin, owner of the The Running Center in New York City. Not only does Solkin coach plenty of athletes training for winter and spring races all over the country, she also does them herself: Just back from a January jaunt to Florida for the Miami-to-Key West Ragnar Relay, Solkin says that while running in the heat can be a challenge, it’s also part of the sport.
“There are people who live in cold climates year-round who travel to warmer places for races, just as their are people who live in flat areas who travel to do hilly races,” she says. And although there’s no way to prepare yourself 100 percent, these tips can still be helpful—both physically and mentally—in facing the heat.
1. Do part of your training indoors. If the temperature outside is borderline freezing, spending some time on a treadmill will give you a better idea of what it’s like to run in the heat. If you have a treadmill at home and can turn up your thermostat or run next to a space heater, even better, says Solkin. “You don’t want to overdo it and put yourself in a precarious situation, but you do want to remind yourself, maybe once or twice a week, what that warmth is going to feel like.”
2. Wear extra layers. On your outdoor runs, wear one more layer than you think is necessary. “You’ll get a little sweatier, but you’ll teach your brain and your body that you can still get through it.” On the treadmill, try running with a hat and gloves on. You’ll warm up quickly, since so much heat escapes through your head and hands, but you can remove them easily if you start to feel like you’re truly overheating.
3. Prep your body. Proper hydration, not just during the race but in the days leading up to it as well, is an important way to make sure you’re in the best shape possible to manage the heat. Eating salty foods—Solkin suggests nuts, chicken soup, and tomato juice—is also smart, since you’re bound to sweat a lot on race day.
4. Know you might be slow. “Sometimes there’s no getting around the fact that you have to take it easy when it’s really hot,” Solkin says. “Make a deal with yourself: If your pace is slower, it’s okay. If you have to take a break and walk, it’s okay. Traveling for a race is supposed to be fun, and the most important thing is to stay safe.”