WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - A recent publication from Outside Online cites researchers from the University of Oregon, who say training in the heat can increase an athlete's blood plasma volume, reduce core temperature, and even make a person train better in the cold.
"I've always compared training down here to going to altitude from a difficulty standpoint, but never thought of it from being a physiological adaptation," said Layne Schwier, UNCW head cross country coach. "That was pretty shocking news to me."
With a heat index topping 110 at times this July, another Wilmington summertime poses its challenges for runners throughout the area.
"In terms of the heat, we've seen days where we want to go long, nine or ten miles, but we back in down to seven, because the kids are really suffering," said Justin Fischetti, a coach at New Hanover. "But they might be getting the same benefits, so we at least have that going for us in terms of dealing with that extra pressure and variable. "
Increased oxygen delivery to the muscles and improved heat tolerance through sweating are a few of the other recent findings in the case for heat training. However, there's an established culture among distance runners of rising early to beat the heat - few are clamoring to begin running in the dead of the afternoon.
"Definitely not. I'd try to run before 7:30 a.m. or if I run at night after 8:00," Jamie Witmer said, a junior cross country runner at Hoggard. "It's too hard to run after 9:00 a.m. or before 6:00 p.m. because the sun is still beating down on you."
It's an interesting development for the running community, but one coaches and athletes still hope to learn and observe before implementing any changes.
"I'd like to see some high level coaches comment on their thoughts on that," Schwier said, referring to many of the leaders of elite groups such as the Oregon Project, or Bowerman Track Club, who often train in Colorado, Utah, or even overseas. "Obviously, the elites still go train at altitude. I don't see them going to the desert unless they're training for a race in that environment."
One thing remains certain - the importance of hydration. It is not uncommon to lose around five pounds through sweat on a run of three miles or more.
A link to the Oregon research can be found here.