Chi Running and Heart Rate Training in the Heat

Posted by Danny Dreyer on Thu Jul 19th, 2012, 3 comments

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.”

My response:
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.

3 CommentsLeave a comment below

I, too, live in Houston and I do run in the dark morning hours when the air temperature is 78 and the dewpoint is 76.

My question relates to cadence.  I had to reduce my cadence from 174 to 165 because I didn’t feel like that I would be able to get my heart rate reduced enough to run long runs at 174.  At 165, I can consistently run at 70%, 4 days a week.

But once the heat breaks, could I inch up the cadence closer to 170, as my HR allows because it is cooler and the body is able to cool better?  Thanks.

I loved attending the workshop in Austin, 5 months ago.

It is fine to adjust your cadence down to 165 spm, but you should also try to work with the efficiency of your running technique (or your cardio/aerobic conditioning level) so that your heart rate is not at 70% for an extended period of time.

Thanks for the good comment.

My HR does creep up to between 75-80% when I’m running farther than 8 miles.

What are your thoughts?

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