Experienced ultra-distance runners know that performance is improved by a reduction in body temperature. Or, cooling your body with water in the heat will make you run better. This practice has become a priority for long-distance runners.
Science has proved: that heat hurts endurance performance, even when it’s not very hot.
There are many studies on major marathons*. The findings agree that rising temperatures hurt performance – much earlier in a run than we realise. Reducing body temperature improves speed and is likely to reduce the effects on your health from ultra running.
How do we cool our bodies? Some of the following will give you an immediate advantage in your next race.
Keep your body wet, ideally with cold water. Don’t just drink at water stations. Spray yourself with the water. Focus on your head, neck, core and hamstrings. Male runners should tape their nipples securely. It may be loosened by water and become a bloody mess. When you wear compression socks, keep water away from them as they may pool water at your feet.
Light, reflective clothing keeps your skin surface temperature cool in extreme heat. Running vests are generally much better than shirts under extreme conditions.
Apply ice or water to your body using your clothing. Grab some ice at a water station and use your cap, buff, sleeves or pants to keep it near your skin. Stuff it wherever possible. You may have pockets you don’t use at some point. I use my buff to hold a broken water sachet on my head.
Apply cold water to your skin and head before the race on hot days. If core temperature increases in hot conditions, it is difficult to lower.
Remember to test the above in training to see what works for you.
* Studies were sourced from PLoS One, the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, Sports Medicine and the British Journal of Sports Medicine – from 2010 to 2019