Running in hot weather

    During high-temperature periods, staying in good condition while running can be difficult. Guillaume Le Normand, member of Team Trail Quechua and winner of the 2009 Libyan Challenge, talks about training to withstand hot weather and starting out in desert racing.

     

    GUILLAUME, WHAT ARE THE FIRST THINGS THAT SOMEONE WHO'S THINKING OF TAKING UP HOT-WEATHER RACING SHOULD KNOW?

    "In hot weather the body loses lots of mineral salts through sweat. Even more than in normal weather. So you have to pay particular attention to this and take measures to compensate. The best thing for this is to take on lots of drinks rich in salts and sugars. Salt tablets can also help you maintain a good balance of mineral salts. As well as this, you obviously need to think about hydration. A few days before the race, you should force yourself to drink more than usual so that you're not short of water when you take to the start line.""

    WATER, YOU OFTEN SEE RUNNERS SPLASHING THEMSELVES WITH WATER WHEN IT'S HOT. WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT THAT?

    "Personally I prefer to drink that water. When the body is very hot, it's not necessarily a good idea to splash water on yourself. Also, it only refreshes you very temporarily. Even worse, it can cause thermal shock which can lead to gastric problems and various other ailments. It's better to get water to your insides than your outside!
    When you're racing in places that are real ovens, where the rocks and the plants reflect the heat from the sun, you have to prepare yourself and take on lots of liquid both before and during the very hot section."

    WHAT EQUIPMENT DO YOU RECOMMEND?

    "The most important thing is to protect yourself from the sun while remaining aerated. The most advisable thing for this is clothing that provides cover but is also loose. Look at the people who live in the desert: they cover themselves from head to toe, and in black, so as to absorb and re-emit the heat better. Loose clothing is useful because it will give you some ventilation and allows the heat to escape the body. Obviously you should never forget to wear a hat that covers the back of your neck."

    HOW DO YOU TRAIN FOR HIGH TEMPERATURES AT LATITUDES LIKE YOURS?

    "You don't necessarily need to plan any particular training, apart from making the effort to get your body used to running whatever the conditions. So you can go running at any time of day. Not just in the morning or evening, or when the weather's more agreeable. The body will adapt little by little in the hot conditions you can find in the middle of the day in summer, for example. And also – why not? – you could consider taking saunas to get your body used to dry heat. Or steam baths for heat and humidity."

    PEOPLE TEND TO THINK OF RACING IN HOT, DRY WEATHER, BUT WHAT ABOUT RACES IN TROPICAL AREAS, LIKE THE GUYAN'TRAIL?

    "Running in tropical conditions, in other words hot and humid, is something I find very difficult. The atmosphere's hard to withstand. The moisture in the air is so great that you sometimes feel like you've got water particles in your lungs! In Guyana, I wasn't expecting that. Acclimatisation for several days before the race is indispensable in my opinion.
    Whatever the case, when the conditions are difficult and very hot, mental preparation is the key. Using poles can also help you to keep pace and to give you energy when you need it."