Heat-Savvy Training: Heed the Internal Thermometer

May 2, 2004
Outside Magazine
Outside magazine, June 1995

Heat-Savvy Training: Heed the Internal Thermometer
By Sara Corbett

"You have to plan to suffer out there," says 1995 national Championship Marathon winner Keith Brantly of training in the stifling humidity of his hometown, Fort Lauderdale, Florida. "The heat just isn't going to go away." And yet--whether you're running in the dribbly sweatbath of the East or the blowtorched air of the West--you're not entirely powerless against the swelter. Herewith, Brantly's road-tested strategies for cruising through the dog days.

Run in circles. "Boring, yes, but it's the safest way to do distance without a support crew," says Brantly. Choose a three-mile loop that starts and ends at home, so that each time around you can resupply. Since your system absorbs cold liquids more quickly, keep full water bottles in a cooler on your porch. (Going inside is a sure way to prematurely end a run.) Sample an energy bar if you need to, and then push on, knowing that if exhaustion hits, you won't be far from home.

Carry a sponge. Help the body's natural cooling process by swabbing away perspiration--particularly from the forehead and back of the neck--with a bath sponge. Says Brantly, "This clears a path for more perspiration to escape through your skin, carrying the heat away."

Avoid asphalt. When you see steam rising from the pavement, look for an alternative route. "Asphalt doesn't even cool off overnight," says Brantly. "Seek shade, and run on grass or trails, which don't hold a lot of heat."

Adjust your expectations. Running in high temperatures calls for some healthy conservatism. "Regardless of your mileage, if your body's telling you that you've gone far enough, listen to it," advises Brantly. Stop as soon as you notice any sign of distress: dizziness, chills, a crusty salt buildup on your skin, or worst of all, that you've stopped sweating. Brantly cuts his mileage back by 20 percent on days that make him feel steamy in his singlet. He adds, "Just don't expect to set any records."

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