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Slow Down

Quick Tip: Heart Rate Training in the Summer Heat


I’m of the belief that heart rate training is the best way to make sure that your easy runs stay easy and that your hard runs are truly hard.

Slow Down

If you remember back to my conversation with Matt Fitzgerald where we talked about 80/20 Running, we the talked in depth about the importance of making sure that our easy runs are truly easy and our hard runs are truly hard. We also talked about how difficult it can be to determine our effort level in an objective manner, and that is where monitoring your heart rate comes into play.

To be clear, monitoring your heart rate doesn’t always paint a perfect picture regarding the amount of effort you are exerting, but it is typically a more objective measure than pace or perceived exertion.

Heart Rate Training in the Heat/Humidity

When you’re training in the heat and humidity of summer, or pretty much year round here in Central Florida, heart rate training can be really frustrating because it spikes quickly!

The reason for that is pretty straight forward and entirely physiological: you body is trying to cool itself by sending as much blood to the surface as possible to enable perspiration, meanwhile your muscles are needing extra blood to deliver the nutrients it needs for running.

The only way your body can get more blood to both places is to pump more, and that causes the increase in heart rate.

What Should You Do?

Heart Rate Training in the Heat? Slow Down!

Heart Rate Training in the Heat? Slow Down!

If your training plan calls for you to keep your heart rate in a certain zone/range, training in the summer months basically leaves you with two options:

  • Adjust Your Pace aka Slow Down
  • Run Indoors

Which option you choose certainly depends on your personal preference, and I’m pretty sure you all know which route I choose.

Both options are equally effective, I promise. 

What is the Purpose of Heart Rate Training?

If you subscribe to the idea behind heart rate training, it makes literally zero difference how fast you run.

I don’t care if you’re trying to qualify for Boston, aiming to run your first 5k, or anything in between. All that matters is keeping your heart rate within a certain range for an extended period of time.

Say your target heart rate zone for easy training is 147 beats per minute.

In the summer heat, you may be running 10 minute miles to keep your heart rate in the 145 to 147 bpm range. But if you come indoors and run on the treadmill in the air conditioning, you may be able to run 8:30 pace while keeping your heart rate in the same zone.

So the treadmill is the better option, right?

Heart Rate Training in the Summer

In both cases, you’re working your heart at the appropriate level to achieve the gains you are going for.

Speed is irrelevant in heart rate training; it is basically nothing but a vanity metric.

And for the record, the treadmill is never the better option

Are You a Fan of Heart Rate Training? How Much of a Difference Does the Summer Heat/Humidity Have on Your Heart Rate?

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Running in the Summer Heat? Totally Worth It!

Quick Tip: Run Intelligently in the Summer Heat


Running in the summer heat and humidity is one of those things that you’re not sure whether to love or hate.

On one hand, there are physiological benefits to pushing yourself during the hottest months of the year.

On the other hand, it kind of sucks.

The Summer Heat is Intense!

The Summer Heat is Intense!

But, depending on what your fall racing plans look like, logging some serious miles in the summer heat may not be optional if you want to be ready for your race.

A Few Things to Remember About Running in the Summer:

Read more

Tips & Tricks for Summer Running (with Video)

When it comes to summer running, it seems like there are two camps of runners: those of us that don’t mind sweating and those that take their workouts indoors and jump on a treadmill.

Honestly, I don’t understand why anyone would be pro-treadmill, but that’s a topic for another day.

If you’re planning to do your summer running outdoors, whether you’re training for a fall race or just getting some miles in, make sure you’re being smart and making wise decisions.

As I’ve talked about before, heat injuries can go from annoying to life threatening in a blink of the eye, so keep the signs and symptoms top of mind at all times. But as long as you’re not doing anything foolish, hard training in the summer can lead to huge gains in the fall!

Which Camp of Summer Runner are You? Why?

Running in the Summer Heat

Quick Tip-The Benefits of Running in the Summer Heat

Don’t look now, but fall race season is coming quick and many of the runners that I follow on social media are already getting started with their training.

But too many of them are doing so on their treadmills, and in doing so, are missing out on some of the physiological benefits of running in the summer heat.

Running in the Summer Heat

Me Running in the Summer Heat

Yes, you heard correctly, there are benefits to running in the summer heat.

How Your Body Reacts to Running in the Summer Heat

We all know that our body sweats to help us stay cool on a hot day. (If you need a refresher, here ya go.) Read more

Running in the Summer Heat

Running in the Summer Heat Has Positive Physiological Impact

Living in Central FL, I am forced to take the good with the bad.

The good, of course, is running in the months of November, December, January, and February.

The bad, is running in the summer heat AKA the other 8 months of the year.

One thing I’ve noticed in the past few years, and something that I’ve been quick to point out to others that complain about running in the summer heat, is that I notice a big improvement each fall after sweating it out on my training runs in the summer.

And I’m not the only one that has seen the positive results.

Running in the Summer Heat

Does Running in the Summer Heat Help or Hurt?

My Rationale for Running in the Summer Heat

When I first noticed this dramatic fall improvement in myself, I didn’t know what caused it.

Was it the cumulation of training finally paying off? Was it the cooler temps? Was it just a fluke?

But as I talked with fellow runners who saw similar spikes after several months of running in the summer heat, I started to think about what might be causing the improvement.

I chalked it up to the fact that when it’s hot, your body needs to cool itself by sending blood to the skin which results in perspiration. If more blood is being sent to the surface of your body, there is less blood going to the muscles which means they aren’t able to work as hard or as long.

Following this logic, as the weather cooled there isn’t a need to send as much blood to the skin for sweating so more blood was going to the muscles, and bingo-bango you’re able to run faster.

Turns out, there is a bit more of a physiological response that is responsible for you running faster after training in the summer heat.

The Doctor’s Take on Heat Training

Dr. William O. Roberts talks about your body’s response to running in the summer heat in Runner’s World recently:

Victor asks: I like to run at lunchtime during the summer. My friend told me that running in the heat increases your red blood cells, and that this is akin to blood doping, and as a result my PRs don’t count. I know he’s joking about doping, but wanted to know how running in the heat impacts blood cells.

Yes, your PRs do count. Heat acclimatization is quite different than blood doping. Blood doping is withdrawing your own blood and giving it back to yourself before a race to increase red blood cell mass. It is not legal in the sports world.

But running at noon in the heat of the day will induce heat acclimatization, a natural response to training. Running in the heat stimulates your body to produce more oxygen-rich red blood cells. And that will improve your ability to perform well in warm or hot conditions. That is, of course, the purpose of training—and is legal.

If you plan to race in hot conditions, it is critical to have near daily heat exposure while you are training to get your body ready to perform in hot conditions. If you feel it is too hot for you when you arrive at the race site, it may be best not to start or to start at a slow pace and drop out if you do not feel well during the run. It is always better to not start, not finish, or finish slow than to end up in the medical tent or emergency department with exertional heat stroke.

I hope this helps.

I Think I Was On to Something

When it comes down to it, I’ll take the doctor’s explanation of the benefits of running in the summer heat over mine any day. But I still feel that my reasoning is sound.

If your body is making more red blood cells, it is naturally increasing blood volume to deliver more oxygen to your muscles during training while simultaneously allowing ample blood to go to the surface of your body for perspiration and cooling.

And then in the fall, when less sweating is required, there is more blood in total (for a little while at least) to deliver more oxygen to the muscles so they are really able to work at a higher level.

Maybe I’m reading between the lines, but I’m going to say I was at least on the right track.

Keep Running This Summer

Keep Running in the Summer Heat

Keep Running in the Summer Heat

So this summer, keep running and training at a high level, and you’ll see some serious results for your fall races.

Just make sure you stay safe while you’re training, and remember to be on the lookout (in yourself and in others) for the signs and symptoms of heat injuries, and make sure you take the proper steps to try and limit those risks while still maximizing the training benefits of running in the summer heat.

What’s Your Take on Summer Running? Love It? Hate It? Let Me Know in the Comments!