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How Do I Prepare for a Warm Weather Race When Training in the Cold?

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Updated March 13, 2013

Treadmill running
Photo by Andersen Ross
Question: How Do I Prepare for a Warm Weather Race When Training in the Cold?
"I'm training for a half marathon in Florida this March, but I live in snowy Massachusetts. How do I prepare myself for the warm weather racing conditions when my training runs are always in the cold?"
Answer: Escaping the cold weather and running a race in a warm climate during the winter sounds appealing, 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. Runners who are acclimatized to warm weather start sweating earlier and more intensely than runners who aren't acclimatized. As a result, their bodies cool themselves more efficiently, which keeps their heart rate and skin temperature lower. An acclimatized runner will be able to run faster and with less effort than a runner who's not acclimatized. Runners who are not acclimatized are more at risk for heat-related illnesses.

It takes about two weeks to get acclimatized to a warmer environment. While we'd all love to arrive two weeks early at a 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?

As long as you have access to a treadmill, you can work on getting acclimatized. Treadmill runs are also a good chance to experiment with race outfits, since you'll most likely be wearing different running clothes than you've worn during your chilly training runs.

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. 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.

More: Tips for Racing in Hot Weather

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