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Summer Training: Heat and Bad Air Quality

Updated: Jun 16, 2023

By Kevin Shields

Wix Media

In this second short article on “Summer Training,” I will first discuss the importance of managing your training during the summer heat. Air pollution or poor air quality is associated with sunny hot summer days in many parts of Canada, and as we have seen this spring, wildfire smoke can quickly cause poor air quality. These climatic conditions necessitate modifications to training plans and athletes making decisions for guarding their health. After discussing heat and air quality, I provide some sample summer workouts.

During the summer, extreme heat days are added stress for athletes. Poor air quality is frequently associated with extreme heat, so you may need to modify your training schedule to avoid poor air quality and heat exposure. Early morning training is an option to avoid the heat and usually poor air quality, as pollutants typically increase throughout the day due to industrial and transportation pollutants and sunlight. However, air quality can occasionally remain poor overnight and early morning. Wildfires can be a source of high overnight and morning air quality readings. Check with online real-time air quality reports. (see links below)

A further link is an article from a recent SIRC Blog, “Air Pollution and Safe Sport.” This is also a valuable read and guide for training. Outdoor aerobic activity with high breathing rates should be moderated or avoided when heat or air quality gets poor. You may need to change your planned training schedule in a heat wave with moderately poor air quality. To guard your lung health, dropping a hard-intensity session to an easy workout or taking that day as an extra rest day will be best for your long-term athlete development.

Air Quality: SIRC Blog: Air Pollution and Safe Sport

Air Quality reporting from Environment Canada: HERE

Air Quality, current reading and 1-day forecast: Ontario Quebec

Québec Ministry of the Environment: HERE

Québec: Gatineau Region: HERE

Workouts: Intermediate to Advanced endurance athletes

In last week’s article, I discussed the elements of an endurance athlete’s summer training program and provided a sample training week. Today I offer some summer workouts. When coaching an athlete or team, I like to give a range in time or distance within each workout. This allows the individual athlete to decide with a better understanding of their specific training context. Importantly, the athlete should be guided in their decision based on many factors; as discussed last week, they should first consider their current training capacity. Other factors to consider are life stresses, available time, commitments to family and friends, nutrition, sleep and weather. (As highlighted above - summer heat and poor air quality.)

Below I have provided sample workout ranges for easy training sessions. The first series is at an intermediate level, and the second is advanced. In both the intermediate and advanced, I have provided a wide range of times. Individuals must find/determine what their current training capacity is by seeing what is comfortable for them. Through consistency in training at your current capacity, improvements/changes will happen - increased fitness, speed, and strength.


1. These sample workouts assume athletes are already training regularly and have a decent base level of fitness.

2. Next week, I will provide sample intensity sessions.


I would appreciate hearing your thoughts and opinions on this matter. What has been your experience? What have you seen? Please comment.


The First Lap Coaching offers year-round coaching for cross-country skiers. In addition, we offer individual and group coaching programs through monthly programs, clinics and lessons. See our Programs and Fees page:


About the Author:

Meet Kevin Shields, an experienced coach with 28 years of experience in cross-country skiing and running. He has coached for Lappe Nordic and Nakkertok Nordic and is currently the Head Coach of the Carleton University ski team. As a University of Waterloo Cross Country and Track Alumnus, Kevin continues to train and compete in master’s athletics. He holds a BSc degree from Waterloo and a BEd from Nipissing University. He is in his final year of a Master of Coaching from the University of Alberta. Kevin’s research and practicum focus on coach education and holistic practice design.

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