I opened my Google Reader this morning to find the headline: “Will Training in the Heat Improve Your Performance in the Cold?” from the New York Times. It promised counter-intuitive results and informed me that my intuition was supposed to tell me that the answer is “No,” but I was pretty sure the answer would be “Yes.” And I was excited about it. During this summer I had sensed that each run I completed in the sweltering heat was going to make me fast like a gazelle this winter. But when Micah and I took the boys out for a run yesterday morning we were slightly disappointed by our perceived pace. It was coldish, and although I expected to feel invigorated we both felt slow, like our muscles were taking too long to warm up. So news that the summer running might have done my body good would have at least given me some sort of psychological boost for the next chilly run.
But by the time I finished the article I was slightly disappointed. Yes, there does seem to be a significant improvement in performance for cyclists who have trained in the heat and performed in cool weather. But the authors of the study were quick to discount any thoughts anyone may have of extrapolating the results beyond cycling, beyond elite athletes, beyond the specific controlled temperatures they rigged up in their fancy-schmancy training rooms. Apparently there was some fear that people would start running around in garbage sacks to mimic a more hot, humid environment with the hope that when they took off the sack, they’d be fast and sleek. Or something like that.
It could still be true that running in the hot summer sun — properly hydrated, of course — will improve your body’s capacity beyond running in normal temperatures (after all, your body is working hard to adjust to the heat), but scientific observation is not quite ready to decree the validity of that assumption. It’s a shame because I’m pretty sure it’s true and I could really use the vote of confidence to get me out the door when it is below freezing in a few weeks.