What do you do when you have planned a run and the weather does not cooperate? Opting to run in different types of weather will ultimately be a personal decision, weighing a variety of factors. Below are some factors to consider and suggestions to implement for different weather conditions. Keeping these in mind will help your planning, keep you comfortable and safe in different types of weather, and also ultimately limit the number of canceled runs due to weather conditions. Note that the mental factor is a crucial element in running in different weather conditions, and knowledge and preparation are the best ways to ensure your mental state is en pointe.
Running in Hot Weather
Recent studies indicate that heat training may provide athletic benefits similar to those offered by altitude training. While you may have little control on the type of weather in which you run, these studies may help provide additional motivation to lace up your running shoes even on the hottest days of summer. However, it is important to prepare adequately in order to stay safe. Always keep in mind that doctors recommend staying indoors on days when the heat index reaches 103ºF. On those days, consider adjusting the time of your run so you can complete it early or late, during the coolest times of the day. If that’s not possible, it may be best to consider different cross training options.
Wear sunscreen and hydrate
If you are going to run in hot weather, you will need to take steps to protect your body. Ensure you wear a sweat resistant sunscreen, and implement a plan to stay hydrated. It is important to wear sunscreen for any outdoor activity regardless of the weather, but for hot weather you will especially need a sunscreen that is resistant to sweat. It is important to always hydrate. Although there is no definitive amount of water each person should drink, there are steps you can take to determine your personal hydration needs. In hot weather, you will likely require more water than usual to stay hydrated. For a run longer than about one hour, depending on your chosen water carrying method (hydration pack, handheld water bottle, waist belt with water bottles, etc.), you may need to plan a route that takes you past a water fountain where you can refill your bottles. You can get creative in other ways as well. For example, I have planned long runs in a loop that brought me back around my house every three miles, and left water bottles lined up outside where I could grab them at each three-mile mark.
Wear breathable clothing
For running in hot weather, you will want to select breathable clothing. Synthetic fabrics will be best for their sweat-wicking abilities. Don’t forget about your socks! Socks made out of synthetic materials will also usually be best to wear in hot weather. Many companies also make hats out of the same material, which can help keep the sun out of your eyes and keep you cool--I have a favorite one I have worn for years and it has come in handy in other hot weather situations, such as gardening or even a summer trip to Disney World. The other reason I personally prefer to wear a hat in hot weather is because it negates the need for sunglasses, which I find often slide down my nose if I sweat a lot. However, if you prefer to wear sunglasses, you may want to try sunglasses made specifically to limit slippage. Keep in mind that wearing lighter colors will generally keep you cooler because they reflect the sun’s rays rather than absorbing them.
Beware of dehydration and heat-related illness
Paying attention to your body and being attuned to any potential issues that may arise is important anytime you run. Specifically when running in hot weather, you want to pay special attention to potential signs of dehydration or heat-related illness.
Running in the Rain
I love running in the rain. Experiencing nature in all its forms has very meditative qualities, When you plan for it, there is something very soothing, calming, and rejuvenating about running in the rain.
Wear breathable clothing
The types of clothing that work best in rainy weather are similar to what works in hot weather. You will want to wear synthetic, breathable, dry-wick fabrics. Cotton is very absorbent, and will thus hold water, making it very heavy and uncomfortable to wear wet. Again, the same applies to socks. Cotton socks will feel squishy and wet under your feet, making you uncomfortable and potentially leading to blisters. While lighter fabrics are best in hot, sunny weather, keep in mind that lighter clothing colors may become see-through when wet.
Waterproof vs. breathable
You may opt to wear a raincoat or perhaps waterproof shoes for running in the rain. Prior to wearing waterproof items on a long run, you should try them out on a much shorter run to make sure that they work for you. There is a trade-off between breathability and waterproofness that science has not yet fully found a way around. The selection of waterproof vs. breathable outer layers is a personal one; you will need to test the options and decide what you prefer. Personally I prefer breathability. I find that when I sweat under waterproof outer garments, it keeps my sweat in so I end up wet from sweat if not from the rain. I prefer to wear breathable, quick dry garments, which will wick all types of moisture away from my skin.
Beware of slippery surfaces
One of the main pitfalls of running in rainy weather other than getting soaking wet, is the potential to slip and fall. Watch out for slippery surfaces and keep in mind that reflective or painted surfaces may be especially slippery. In fact, personal experience with near disastrous falls has taught me to steer clear of painted lines in the road in all types of weather.
Once you get home, make sure to remove all of your wet clothing immediately, and dry yourself off thoroughly. Pay special attention to your feet, and be careful not to be too rough with the towel. Even after you have dried your feet, you may want to avoid walking barefoot on any rough surfaces while the skin on your toes is still soft to prevent any cuts or blisters. Your wet running shoes will also need special care. While there are many ways to dry them, arguably the best is by removing the insoles and stuffing your shoes with dry crumpled newspaper sheets. Replace the newspapers every so often with fresh, dry newspaper until your shoes are dry.
Running in Cold Weather
I have experienced my best training runs, as well as race days, in cold weather. This is not a coincidence. Studies indicate that the ideal running temperature for a marathon is 43.2ºF. Keep that in mind as you plan a cold-weather run. Also keep in mind that you will warm up as you run, so ideally you will start your run feeling slightly uncomfortably chilly, and quickly warm up as you run. Especially on a shorter run, keeping this in mind may keep you from wearing too many layers you will end up needing to remove during your run.
Dress in layers
Keep your base layers breathable and focus on what to layer over them in order to maintain a good balance of staying warm without overheating while you run. How many layers you wear will depend on just how cold it is outside. Come up with a plan for what you will do with your layers if you need to take them off as you run. I have had good luck with stuffing a beanie and gloves into a waist belt on runs, which works great especially since on longer runs, I have pulled them out and put them back on again if the weather changed or I felt cold again later in my run. I have often found that a long sleeve top tied more securely to my waist belt than around my waist, or I have just carried it in my hand. I have also incorporated the same loops as I mentioned above, passing by my house every three miles and dropping off or picking up a hat, gloves, an extra layer, and even hand warmers, as necessary. In less cold weather, I have gotten good use out of running sleeves, which kept me warm at the starting line and then easily came off and stuffed compactly in my waist belt after I warmed up. If it’s windy, consider wearing a windproof outer layer.
If there is any precipitation (sleet, snow, hail), first consider whether it is safe to run outside. If it is especially icy (read: slippery) or there is a chance of hail large enough that it could hurt you, it may be best to reschedule your run for a different time of the day or consider cross training for the day. If it is safe for you to run outside, read the section on running in rainy weather to incorporate strategies for getting wet while you run into your planning. In cold weather, it is more important to wear some sort of raincoat or waterproof outer garment. Luckily you probably will also find it much easier to wear waterproof outer garments for runs in colder weather.
Beware of slippery surfaces, and hypothermia
Avoid slippery surfaces to prevent potential falls. In addition to reflective or painted surfaces, exercise caution in areas that may freeze, such as bridges. Consider running on grassy or dirt areas instead of on pavement if possible, as these areas do not freeze as quickly.
In any cold weather situation, hypothermia is a concern. Learn to recognize the signs of hypothermia.
The weather is always changing. When you are planning your run, check with a reputable weather service what weather changes are expected throughout the day and plan accordingly. It might not be raining when you start your run, but it may start raining halfway through your run. The weather will also change regularly depending on what time of day it is. If you go for a run in the morning, the weather will likely warm up as you run. If you go for a run in the evening, it could cool off significantly during your run.
Framing your Mentality
The best way to enjoy running in all weather is to inform yourself and be prepared. Wearing appropriate attire can make a big difference. However, equally if not more important is having the right mindset. Adjusting your mindset to embrace whatever the weather may bring as an opportunity, will ensure you are in the right place mentally to face any challenge, and any weather. I know you can do it, and you will discover you are stronger than you think. You might even discover you also love running in the rain.
Stay Safe, Stay Healthy, & StayRunning!