Warm weather training, once the prerogative of elite athletes, is now becoming more and more popular with club and recreational runners of all abilities. A week or two away from the cold temperatures and grey skies of winter to run in the sun can be a real boost to training. We have been lucky, for the past few winters, to be able to take advantage of a short trip (or two) to sunnier climates. Valencia is one of our favourite destinations in this regard. We have written before about this self-styled ‘City of Running’ as both a marathon city and place to train. In April we travelled out to Valencia once again – this time to taper for the Rotterdam Marathon. Although not a hard week’s training this time, being away gave us plenty of time to reflect, relax and generally prepare ourselves for the weekend ahead.
Here are some of the advantages, we find, of getting away.
Boosting Vitamin D levels
Vitamin D is needed for healthy bones and muscles and therefore essential for runners. Sunlight is our main source of vitamin D but, according to the NHS website, during the British autumn and winter the sun isn’t strong enough for the body to make sufficient quantities, leaving most people deficient. It is difficult to get enough vitamin D from diet alone so a week or two of extra sunshine, at this time, can be a real boost to the system.
Warm weather – motivation to train
For most of us it is much easier to go out to train when it is not cold or wet or windy or even just grey. A warm, sunny climate not only gets us out more but the sunshine itself can be a real mood enhancer. Some people suffer badly from SAD (seasonal affective disorder) and respond positively to being in sunlight but most of us feel happier when the sun is shining.
Change of scene
Variety is good for motivation. It is easy to get bored doing the same runs day after day. A change of scene (scenery) can add a bit of zest to training, as too can trying different training practices. A change in scene can also help to break any bad habits that have developed at home. For example, no longer having certain foods (chocolate!) readily available to snack on.
Longer daylight hours
More hours of daylight means more chance to train. Cross training, double runs perhaps? (Thanks to Mark Raddan for suggesting this article).
Muscles are more pliable when warm, and more pliable muscles means less chance of injury. It is probably true that we are less inclined to warm-up (or spend sufficient time warming-up) before exercise when we most need to i.e. when we are cold. Being in a warmer climate means that there is more possibility of carrying out a rigorous training programme without injury.
Psychological/mental well being
In today’s world, with mobile phones and email, it is hard to really get away. However, being somewhat removed from the regular responsibilities and routines of home means that there is more chance to relax and mentally recover from the stresses and strains of every-day life. Psychological health is every bit as important as physiological health when it comes to performance.
A week or two dedicated to training without any interruptions and responsibilities means that there is plenty of time for your body to train well and recover. With time for proper meals, relaxation and sleep, your body won’t know what’s hit it!
Be prepared for the unexpected
This seems to happen so often, so maybe ‘unexpected’ is the wrong word. You train all through the winter in the cold and rain then race day comes around and suddenly it’s hot (London Marathon last year for example). Hopefully a week or two running in warmer weather will mean that a sudden rise in temperature won’t be such a shock to your system.
Bonding with others
If you go on an official training camp you will probably be with other runners and coaches – but even if you just take off with a few friends on your own trip, one big advantage is that there is plenty of time for running talk. Whether it’s sharing training tips, discussing schedules, reflecting on the past or thinking about future goals, being in the company of like-minded people is always enjoyable and even better when there is no one around to get bored!
We really enjoyed our time in Valencia. Why not give it a go?
We are currently at the airport on the way to Rotterdam and our next adventure. Good luck to everyone preparing for spring marathons. If you have any questions about this post give us a shout.