Sunday, 28 July 2013

Acclimatizing to the heat in Spain

During my recent Spanish holiday I was lucky enough to be able to get to run almost every day, at the start of the two weeks I ran just at sunrise and the hours that followed.  I would follow local Cami roads (small lanes) and stony trails for an hour, covering little more than six miles.
Local quarry at sunrise

View from Cami road up to Castle above Alfuir
Stony trails require nibble footwork
I celebrated my 44th birthday and my parents took us all out for a great meal at Javea (pronounced "Have e a"), even the tourist spots like this were a real visual treat too.

Meal overlooking the bay and sunset at Javea.
Having explored most of the local trails and Cami roads immediately around Alfuir I started mapping out longer morning runs, the first took up over a mountain pass and took around 1hr 40 minutes. The trail on the pass was very broken and provide lots of practice of running lightly on my feet as the my new F-Lite 232's are pretty minimal, so you feel all the terrain underfoot - they feel little like a light slipper but with supper grip.

The views were stunning, all while the rest of the family were still sleeping.  

When the family were up we'd go to the beach and shopping and all the traditional tourist stuff, but my morning runs were by contrast like a secrete world that few but local mountain goats will enjoy.

By the second week I start to run in the heat of afternoon.  Normally I suffer really badly in the heat, but amazed myself at just how comfortably I could run in temperature in heading towards the mid thirties Celsius.   By the second week I start to run in the heat of afternoon. 

View from hill above Alfuir
Cool shade amongst trees

View back towards hill above Alfuir

After following small trails for 40 minutes amongst tree  it's a relief to pop out to sign post and big trails, La Safor in distance
After taking it easy with runs in the heat of the day and not having any problems I headed out at the hottest time of day for short tempo run just to explore what point my body was unable to get rid of the heat, running in 33 degree C at 6:40 pace I coped just fine.  Whilst running in the sun I stayed dry and seemingly sweat free as all the sweat was evaporating as fast as I was producing it, it was only when I stopped and took off my T-Shirt in the cool and still air of the house that suddenly was I aware of just how much my body was working to keep me cool - I was almost instantly covered in sweat.  I find this adaptation to exercising in the heat quite extraordinary, something that is pretty special about humans.

Another aspect of my heat adaptation, beyond sweating profusely, was reduced salt loses.  Previously when running in hot conditions I'd find myself caked in salt, if any sweat dripped down into my eyes it would sting like crazy.  Instead I now found that my sweat was far less salty and more like plain water - my sweat glands had adapted to preserve salt. For all the heat and fatigue I attempted to induce I never once had a cramp, my body just adapted.

For all my adaptation to running comfortably in the heat of the day, at night I struggled to sleep.  Our bedroom would be 27 degrees at 11pm, I found that I would sweat but unless there was a breeze over my skin it wouldn't evaporate so I struggled to keep cool and had rather restless nights for the first week.  Leaving a fan on all night cured the problem, the room was still just as warm but my sweat could be wicked away and heat with it. 

By 10 days into the holiday I considered myself extremely well adapted to the heat, handling it far better than I ever expected to be able to.  So for all who dread running in the heat, just give it time, let your body adapt by challenging it to the heat progressively and you'll be amazed about just what gift our evolutionary past provided for.


  1. I noticed the same heat adaptations when running the 10in10 in 30 degrees; usually I get a salty taste in my mouth from my own sweat when running in heat, that completely went away.

    The body adapts amazingly quickly. Before the 10in10 I would not have thought I would be able to cope if the temperature reached crazy figures like that, but when it happened I was almost comfortable.

    Nice trails, btw.

    1. One question I have left is just how long I will remain "heat adapted" now I'm back in cooler Scottish temperatures. Been back almost two weeks now, but only hard hot days for a few days on my return and now it back to high teens. It doesn't look the Devil O'Highlands this Saturday will be too hot so probably won't have to call on being "heat adapted", more likely I'll need to be "squelch adapted" :-)