How to Heat Train and It’s Potential Benefits:
I’ve had a few people ask me about using saunas for heat training. I’ve always been pretty good at running in the heat and last year running a Lean Horse 100 miler I did a lot of specific heat training for that event with a lot of success. I ran a 100 Mile PR of 15:59:57. Well that’s enough bragging. Lean Horse is a flat and fast course known for fast times and for its dry and high temps. In order to prep for the heat I did a few things.
Tried to Determine a Baseline:
I was in pretty good shape coming off of a spring marathon training program so I had a good idea of what type of shape I was in but I didn’t really know at what temps my body could handle running at my goal pace of 9 minute per mile. Thankfully in July we had several really hot weeks and I was able to do a lot of running in the heat of the day. I would purposely only bring water and salt(plenty of both) and I wouldn’t do anything special to try and manage the heat. I was go for long runs at different temps at my goal pace. I found that I could maintain that pace without any additional cooling techniques up to about 90 degrees fahrenheit. Of course that was in MN with a lot of humidity too, Lean Horse is in SD with much drier heat. Now I had determined that any temps above 90 degrees I would not be able to maintain my goal pace and of course the cooler I could manage to keep myself the better.
I basically relied on tactics that runner use to prep for the Badwater 135 race across Death Valley with temps in the 100-130 range. I choose to follow this training plan from Arthor Webb an eight time finisher. I figured that if I followed the plan that runner use to run 135 miles in 100-130 temps I could survive Lean Horse. Basically the plan has you sit in the sauna for 30 days straight leading up to about 2-3 days before the race. You won’t lose any heat adapted tolerance within those few days. Slowly building up your heat tolerance to 30-45 min sessions. Webb also recommends drinking a lot of liquid while in the sauna. Not only to keep hydrated but also to get your body used to consuming a lot of liquids, which you will do during a hot race.
I found that drinking very cold ice water allows you to stay in the sauna longer and also keeps you cooler while running. Tips of the day back those handhelds full of ice. I basically would start out doing 15-20 min sessions in the sauna at my gym, which was around 115-130 degrees. I’d actually started out sitting on a lower step of the sauna which was noticeably cooler. This allowed me to stay in the sauna longer initially.
The nice thing about having a black car with black interior is that in the summer after sitting outside all day you basically have your own sauna. If it not quite hot enough for you you can always crank the heat. I have about a 25 minute drive home from work each day and I would use this time to get in some heat training. I would recommend changing out of your work clothes and putting a towel down on your car seat if you are going to car sauna it. This worked great for me and other than a few strange looks at the stoplights from other cars I basically got my heat training session in on my way home from work.
Potential Bonus Benefits of Sauna Training:
I have just been reading about some further benefits that heat training can provide endurance athletes but haven’t really dove into all of the info yet so here you go see for yourself. MORE INFO