Formula for effective speed work in the heat

We all know the heat sucks and that it is hot, but thanks, everyone, for posting pics of your car thermometer on Facebook, just so we all know for sure.

It is a challenge to incorporate quality running during a hot season. We have a few choices when it comes to speed work and tempo runs including:

1. Don’t do it. That’s it — many runners just stop doing hard outdoor workouts at all, and that’s not a terrible idea. Sometimes you just need to have fun and rest up for the fall season (unfortunately, when the fall season starts here, it’s still in the 90s).

2. Die trying. Try to do your slated speed workout and make yourself sick. You won’t be able to do this on a regular basis or very many times. I know. I’ve tried it.

3. Join team insomniac. I know several people who hit the road/track at 4 a.m. or even earlier, in order to take advantage of the crisp 82-degree air. I’ve joined them (and anyone who comes in contact with me later on those days regrets it). I think they might be putting a little something extra in their coffee (meth?) but I have no proof.

OR (these are my picks):

4. Adjust your workout. There is no shame in this, guys. It is proven by doctor-scientists that heat, even temps just above 55 F, can start decreasing performance. 106 F? Fagitaboutit!

Here is a very helpful calculator for determining heat-adjustments that works for speed and tempo training runs. For example, if your training calls for mile repeats, you plug in the temp of 104 F, and you see that a 7 minute mile is equivalent to a little under a 6:30 minute mile pace effort. A 4-mile tempo run at an 8 minute mile pace in 100 F would be equivalent to about a 7:28 pace in sub-60 degree temps. And so on.

5. There is also the treadmill option, which I don’t hate (I know many of you do). I find masochistic entertainment on the treadmill by using it for grueling 400 or 800 meter repeats, or ladders (where you increase then decrease the distance on each repeat: 400, 800, 1200, mile, 1200, 800, 400 … ).

You don’t have to think too much about the pace, and you don’t have to worry about the weather. And with this awesome treadmill pace conversion chart, you can make sure you aren’t making things too easy on yourself. Just pray —god, please no— that your gym staff doesn’t decide to tune all channels to E!, where you’ll be forced to run to Kardashians or Sex in the City. That’s just sick.

About Christina Hughes Babb

I live in Dallas and work as the managing editor at Advocate magazines, where we cover city news, happenings and human interest stories across the Dallas area. I also love to run, and maybe even more than that, I love to talk about running. My family members and co-workers might call that an understatement. OK, so I am bit preoccupied with the topic. I love the term, kick. It represents finishing power in racing, and quitting power when it comes to destructive habits. That's why I named the blog Kick. Follow @chughesbabb onTwitter View all posts by Christina Hughes Babb

2 responses to “Formula for effective speed work in the heat

  • Kerry Slaughter

    Thanks for this. I am a newbie runner. A bunch of LH Moms and I started the Couch to 5K program nine weeks ago. In the beginning, 60 seconds of jogging just about did us in. This morning, we ran 30 minutes straight.

    We’re all wondering how much of an impact the heat is having – or rather if we’ll improve timewise once the weather gets cooler. There’s not too much complaining about the heat though – so far, it’s all we’ve known…

    Most of your points in the article are advanced for us, but the idea of a time conversion calculator to adjust for the temp is at least validating – even for us newbies. If you see us at the lake, try not to laugh as you go flying past us…

  • Christina Hughes Babb

    When the heat lets up, you will feel a huge difference! As for the advanced points, a couple years ago all I knew was ‘put on your shoes and run’. Once you get started, though, you start trying to figure out ways to get faster, hence the repeats, speed work, tempos, et. al. The first way is just getting used to running regularly! Just keep moving :)

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