Whether you've relocated to a new area or are simply on an extended vacation, major changes in temperature, humidity, altitude, and weather conditions will affect how your body responds to exertion. It's not as simple as chugging extra water and heading out. That can be frustrating when you’re training for personal goals, a race, or a competition.
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Expect your body to take about two weeks to acclimate. You'll adjust to heat a bit quicker than you do to the cold. Use the tips below to help avoid cardiovascular stress and injury, based on your new climate.
Hot, Humid, and Dry Climates
Training in the heat can bring surprising benefits such as increased skeletal muscle force and better cardiovascular fitness. Heat acclimation is more effective than altitude acclimation if your goal is to improve aerobic performance.
1. Focus more on effort than pace. In other words, slow down. It’s okay if you can do only easy runs at first.
2. Increase the intensity and length of your training gradually.
3. Remain flexible. If the heat is too much, don't force yourself to train in it. Cut a run in half (even if it's already an "easy" run), swim, or lift weights.
4. Make shade your friend. This is easier said than done in treeless areas, but exercise in the shade when you can.
5. Avoid pavement since it absorbs heat. Opt for park trails.
6. Run at sunrise. If that is not possible, aim for evening runs. They are not as cool as sunrise runs but are more tolerable than daytime runs when the heat is worse.
7. Check the weather forecast to identify hotter or cooler days. You can plan run days and rest days.
8. Wear moisture-wicking and light-colored fabrics. Clothes that are vented or loose-fitting also allow air to cool your skin. Accessorize with sunglasses for UV protection and a hat, headband, or visor to absorb sweat and keep your head cool.
9. Listen to your body. Stop if you experience headaches, are dizzy, faint, or extremely fatigued.
10. Drink 16 to 20 ounces of water or a sports drink before. After the activity, drink at least 8 to 12 ounces. During exercise, drink about 4 ounces every 30 minutes.
Cold climates are the trickiest. Running may feel like a slog amid low temperatures, snow, sleet, freezing rain, and ice. Don’t give up. Training gets easier, but do exercise inside when it is too brutal outside.
1. Warm up and cool down thoroughly. A 15-minute warm-up inside gets you sweating and means the cold won't feel as bracing when you step into it. Your muscles will already be loose.
2. Avoid staying outside too long. Thirty to 60 minutes are ideal, while more than 90 minutes crosses into risky territory.
3. Opt for shoes with traction due to snow, ice, and slick areas. Wear thick socks that won't get your feet wet.
4. Cover your head with earmuffs or a thick beanie, and always wear gloves.
5. Wear a base layer and add layers based on how cold it is. There's no need to wear thick, bulky coats.
6. Dress as if it is about 20 degrees warmer to reduce the undressing you might have to do as your body heats up. So, if it is 20 degrees outside, dress as if it is 40. If it's too cold for this sort of guideline, you should exercise inside.
7. Focus on overall conditioning and muscle strengthening versus speed.
8. Plan for warmth after you finish. If your run takes you right back home, perfect. If you're driving out to a trail, a winter jacket and hot tea in your car can keep you warm until you get home.
9. Get out of wet clothes as soon as possible and hop into a hot shower. It helps with blood flow, muscle soreness, and body warmth.
10. Focus on hydration. Drink before, during, and after training.
It's tempting to train inside in a rainy climate, but that could backfire. For example, races usually don't get canceled due to rain. Training in the rain can also develop your resilience as a runner. Of course, don’t run during lightning or thunder!
1. Wear a hat with a brim to keep the rain off your face. For cold, rainy (and windy) weather, choose thicker hats with a fleece headband over them. For warm and rainy days, opt for breathable hats.
2. Dress in layers if the weather is rainy and cold. Wear polypropylene or CoolMax fabrics closest to your body. Go with wind- and water-resistant outer layers. Carry extra socks if space allows.
3. Wear compression shorts to prevent chafing.
4. Stay visible with bright clothing or reflective strips.
5. Take small steps on slippery paths and wear shoes with good traction/treading.
6. Focus on distance, not speed. You don’t want to fall and injure yourself. If you must have a speed workout, do it on a treadmill indoors. Watch out for puddles, as they can be deeper than you expect.
7. Change out of wet clothes right away. That includes your shoes. Stuff them with crumpled balls of paper (newspaper works well). The paper absorbs water and helps the shoes retain their shape. Shoes can warp if you put them in front of a heater or in the dryer.
When the weather has changed drastically, or you’re in a different climate, be patient. Dress smart, and give your body at least two weeks to adjust. And remember: focus more on effort than other metrics while you're acclimating.