Now that the Summer Solstice has passed and it is officially summer here in the Northern Hemisphere, I figured that this would be a great opportunity to talk about embracing real-world conditions in your training.
When temperatures rise and humidity increases, many athletes have a tendency to want to complete their workouts at the cooler times of the day so they can be more comfortable. While this can seem like a good strategy at face value, it can be detrimental in some respects, which is what I’m here to talk about today.
For athletes who have race-based goals, it’s important to try and train in conditions that are as similar as possible to what will be in play on race day. Many times, the time of day when races will actually be taking place is different from the time of day that athletes complete their training workouts.
For instance, long-course triathletes have runs that take place right at the hottest time of the day - midday to afternoon. However, most athletes complete their long runs early in the morning to “beat the heat.” Then, on race day, when the heat is out in full force on the course, these same athletes are not as prepared for this condition as they could have been.
Basically, what I’m suggesting this week is that you consider the time of day when you complete your workouts, as it is not insignificant. How you train is how you race.
If you are going to be running a half marathon or marathon (which takes a relatively longer period of time to complete), you may want to consider starting your training runs an hour or two later so you can run at a similar time of day to when the race will take place, and therefore similar sun and temperature conditions. This is also true for long-course triathletes. The athletes who will struggle the most on race day in hot and/or humid conditions are those who have not trained in those conditions.
My favorite real-world example of this is from IRONMAN 70.3 Augusta in 2019. I was racing at this event along with two of the athletes I was coaching at the time (Christina Barker and Jen Hanson). Anyone who knows the three of us will tell you that we are VERY much northern folks who VERY much like the cooler temperatures. However, all three of us trained in hot conditions (I actually didn’t go out for a training run one day because it was too cold compared to the race that I was training for and I didn’t want to lose my heat training), and we had strong, solid races in Augusta. We were able to do this while people all around us literally cried (yes, that’s right - real tears) because they were so miserable in the 105ºF conditions that day.
Yes, it can be uncomfortable to train in adverse conditions such as heat and humidity. Yes, I understand that this might not be what you WANT to do. However, what you really don’t want to do is feel like absolute crud on race day and know that it could have felt better or gone more smoothly if you had approached your training a little differently.
I encourage you to embrace the real-world conditions that could exist for you on race day. While I focused on running in my examples, this is true for all sports and all events. Be mindful of ALL of the specifics of the event that you are training for (not just the discipline and distance of the event). If your schedule allows for it, train at the same time of day that you will be racing at. You just might just be surprised at how strong and capable you feel come race day.
Coach Laura Henry
Laura Henry is a Syracuse, NY-based coach who is a USA Triathlon Level II Long Course and Level II Paratriathlon Certified Coach, USA Cycling Level 2 Certified Coach, VFS Certified Bike Fitter, and has successfully completed NASM's Certified Personal Trainer course. Coach Laura is passionate about helping athletes of all ability levels reach their goals and has coached many athletes to success.