'Squelch', a wonderful word used to describe the noise of something wet being squashed. Growing up in South West Wales, I got used to the squelching of my shoes as I ran through the inevitable rainstorm encountered on even the shortest of runs.

Now living in Dubai, you get used to the squelching noise around 30-40 minutes into a run, but for a very different reason - my socks and shoes are saturated with sweat rather than rain.

30°C (or 86°F) of temperature difference but the same outcome for your shoes!

Other than the squelch outcome, very little else is the same when going for a run in Dubai compared to the UK (or any other mild climate). Abby did a great article on the effects of extreme heat on your physiology here, and I'm going to discuss the mental shifts athletes must make when moving from cooler to (extremely) hot climates...

Contents:

Early alarm

First up, get used to the early alarm! There's no looking out the window to see if the frost has cleared or the clouds are going to break. It's wake up, drink your coffee (and your PH 1500) and get out before the sun starts to rise.

In the Dubai summer, even before sunrise, it's mid 30's. Once the sun breaks through it won't drop below 40°C (104°F) again until the early hours of the morning. So a 4:30am alarm is not uncommon. Yes, it sucks to start with but you soon get used to it and you feel amazing, especially when it gets to 9am and you've already done your run and two hours of work!

The key to waking up early is an obvious one - go to bed early!

Image Credit: Pexels ©

Removing expectations

There's a big physiological cost to running in extreme heat. You'll make it even worse for yourself by comparing your paces and heart rate data to your efforts in cooler conditions.

We work mainly with RPE (Rating of Perceived Exertion) when summer comes and often it's not even worth taking your watch unless you want the time or distance.

Studies have shown runners perform best in temperatures between 7–15°C (44.6-59°F and the hotter the conditions, the slower the speed. Remembering this is important as it's easy to let the data from your hot runs misinform you when it comes to gauging your level of fitness.

Adapt your mindset

It's different to being in the cold when kit can make a huge difference. In the heat, I've found kit that claims to regulate temperature does very little for you. Everyone is in the same boat when it's hot.

Mentally if you crack and start to complain, I've found that during our group runs and rides no one will have sympathy because they're in it too. Unless you're about to hit the deck, stay quiet, and remember, no one cares...

This may seem a tough approach, and it is, but once again the research shows that developing ‘hardiness’ will benefit you in the heat. Crews (1992) suggests developing a sense of commitment and control when faced with the challenge of a hot environment. This means adopting an adaptive mindset.

Examples of this could be when feeling anxious of how slow you're running, you instead feel excited to simply be running! Or if distracted by the sound of your squelching shoes, focus on your run form and breathing instead. All this combines to make you more in control of your emotions and much nicer to be around.

Smile and relax. This also goes for when it's raining too which actually happened here a few days ago! 38 degrees and raining, it was beautiful.

When you feel you cannot get any hotter and your lungs, legs, arms, eyes are burning, just smile and relax. There's very little you can do other than to stop and head indoors. I used to often do the same when I was hit with sideways rain and numb hands in Wales, you cannot teleport yourself into the warm so just embrace what you're in.

There's also scientific research to back this up. Researchers found training psychological skills such as imagery, arousal regulation, self-talk and goal setting can help runners perform up to 8% better in hot conditions. Practicing one or a combination of these can help you to relax, and of course smiling is a great way to trick your mind into happiness and even lowering heart rate.

But as with all things hard, moving to hotter conditions can be one of the best things you ever do, thanks in large part to the lessons you learn. Don't be afraid of the extreme heat, but prepare for it, understand it and then go have fun with it.

Further reading