Chi Running and Heart Rate Training in the Heat
I just received an email from a couple living in Houston, Texas. It’s a very timely question given the searing heat in most of the country this summer.
“I have a question...we live outside of Houston Tx and our evening temperatures, when we run, are around 95º+ with high humidity. We are trying to run within our heart rate zone and find that our heart rate goes up very quickly and we are forced to walk or run very, very slowly. Do we make adjustments for the heat or do we keep to the recommended heart and just walk if our heart rate goes too high? We are 55 and 60 years old, which gives our heart rate zones at 130bpm and 120bpm.”
I would first suggest, if at all possible, to switch your training time to early mornings, when the temperatures are at their lowest and your body is at its most rested state. Evenings are guaranteed to be hotter than mornings.
Secondly, I suggest Body Sense how you feel when running in normal temperatures in your ideal heart rate zone. What is your perceived rate of exertion (PRE) in more normal temperatures? Build a physical memory of that PRE and, when you’re running in particularly hot weather, match that effort level, but don’t lower your distance. If you’re running intervals, run your normal number of intervals, but run at the same PRE you would feel in cooler weather.
If you run with an HR monitor, ditch the device in hot weather and go by feel and you'll do much better. Running in the heat is hard enough, and worrying about staying within your heart rate zone just adds unnecessary mental work on top of an already uncomfortable situation. Your body always knows what is best. It’s your mind that complicates things.