3 mental tricks for handling hot long runs

Getty Images

Please tell me I’m going to be ready for my fall races. I’ve been training through a very hot and humid season and with every long or hard run, I feel my performance is suffering. I’m in desperate need for a pick-me-up! Much appreciated. - Nigel

I feel your pain, Nigel, both in my own training as well as through my running readers who write me about the very same concern. The heat and humidity have a way of sucking the life force out of a positive running spirit, especially on your longer runs. However, the fact that you’re training through the discomfort instead of letting the heat defeat you means you’ll be prepared to race this fall, whatever the weather. Here are some strategies to help you survive the remainder of summer:

Celebrate the little wins

Look back and reflect on how far you’ve come this season. When the heat challenges your spirit, it’s easy to get bogged down with worries and forget the little wins along the way. You’re likely doing longer long runs and covering more weekly miles than you were a few months ago. Ground yourself in these achievements. They mean that you’re going into your race prepared.

Know that slowing down isn’t all bad

One of the core purposes of a long run is to spend time on your feet in an aerobic effort to develop the stamina to go the distance without running so hard that you’re wiped out for more than a few days. With every run that takes you a little longer than normal, you are banking more time on your feet and building a foundation of endurance for race day. Running more slowly than usual is a blessing in disguise - the longer you’re out there, the more your endurance improves.

When you hit the sizzling streets or trails for your next long run, remember to pace yourself according to your body, run at a conversational effort (able to talk easily), and put your worries about how slowly you’re going on the back burner until fall. Slow down to keep your engine cool, add walk breaks if needed, and remember that the extra time will help you on race day.

What doesn't kill you makes you stronger

To quote Nietzsche, although runners love to curse the heat, it does make you a stronger runner. What does this mean for you? Simply put, all those hot, humbling runs are teaching your body how to push and perform in much harder conditions than what you’ll hopefully face on race day. In most cases, the temperatures will be cooler come race day, and like the benefits of altitude training, the heat training will have a similar “superhero” effect on your performance. You’ll know this is true when the temperatures break, you hit the road for a normal run, and you feel like you’re wearing a cape!

Running in the heat can bring out the best and worst in our performance. The key is to make lemonade from lemons and ground yourself in your progress along the way.