I recently received this question from Melanie, a runner facing a very common winter running problem:
I'm training for a half marathon in Florida this March, but I live in Massachusetts. How do I prepare myself for the warm weather racing conditions when my training runs are always in the cold?
Escaping the cold weather and running a race in a warm climate during the winter sounds appealing (especially with the winter we've been having in the northeast U.S.), but it does present some training challenges. The key to being ready to race in warmer weather when you're training in the cold weather is to get acclimatized to warm weather.
What are the benefits of being acclimatized? You'll start sweating earlier and more intensely than runners who aren't acclimatized. That means your body will cool itself more efficiently, which keeps your heart rate and skin temperature lower. You'll be able to run faster and with less effort than a runner at the same fitness level who's not acclimatized. You'll also be at reduced risk for heat-related illnesses, such as dehydration.
It takes about two weeks to get acclimatized to a warmer environment. While we'd all love to arrive two weeks early at our warm weather racing destination, that's not always possible. So how can you adjust to warm weather when it's still freezing in your training location? First, you need access to a treadmill. To get the most out of acclimatization, your indoor runs should be as close as possible to your race because you do lose the benefits you gain if you don't maintain the heat exposure. So, it's not necessary to do all your training on the treadmill. Here's what to do:
- About three weeks before your race, move indoors for at least three of your runs. If you're training for a half marathon or marathon, make sure at least one of those runs is your long run.
- Repeat the same routine two weeks before your race, and do one of your shorter runs at your goal race pace. The week before your race, do three short runs indoors.
- Make sure you're well-hydrated during the week leading up to the race, especially on route to your race destination and once you get there. The day (or days, if you're there earlier) before your race, walk around or go for an easy run outdoors so you're exposed to the change in temperature and humidity.