Question: I love to run outdoors, but I live in the Midwest where the forecast is constantly changing—especially in autumn. It might be 80 degrees one day and sleeting the next! How can I hit the streets safely no matter what the day brings? –Sara, Women’s Running magazine reader
Erratic weather can throw even the most experienced runner for a loop. Your body performs differently depending on the conditions, so you must manage your expectations accordingly. Creating a weather-ready game plan will help prevent you from bonking on hot days or missing runs when it’s cold and nasty out. Try these strategies to run like a mail carrier—in rain, shine, snow or sleet.
Unseasonably hot fall weather is great for sneaking in that final beach day—but it’s one of the most challenging conditions a runner can face. As your body begins to adapt to chillier autumn temps, it loses the ability to cool itself as efficiently as it could throughout the summer. When the temperature unexpectedly spikes, forget your planned pace for the day and run by effort instead. Add walking intervals as needed to keep your core temperature and heart rate under control. Pushing the pace on a hot day causes unnecessary fatigue and requires additional recovery time, which means your next workout could suffer.
Running in the rain is fun and refreshing, so make like a duck and embrace wet weather. Remember that even though rain feels cold at first, your body temperature will rise as you run. Dress as if it were 15 to 20 degrees warmer. You may be chilly for the first few minutes, but you’ll feel comfortable as soon as you get going. Very heavy rain impairs visibility, so check the radar and try to time your run when the downpour is at its lightest. During more serious storms, run short loops close to home so you can make it back safely without being stranded. And never train outdoors if there’s lightning!
Icy rain is a completely different animal than its warmer-weather counterpart. Sleet causes slick sidewalks and potentially dangerous footing. Consider taking your run indoors. A solid treadmill workout trumps sliding through an outdoor run and risking injury. If you’re dead set on running in the sleet, wear a wide-brimmed hat to guard your face and stick to tree-lined streets or trails for additional protection.
Blowing gusts can make you feel like you’re running on a hamster wheel. On a windy day, the trick is to get the hard work over early. Always start your workout into the wind, so it will be blowing at your back during the second half of the run. Wear a windproof jacket and pay little heed to your watch. The energy you expend battling the breeze won’t be reflected in your GPS-tracked pace.
Freezing temperatures and snow aren’t the friendliest running buddies, but they are manageable if you dress appropriately. Start with running tights and a wicking, long-sleeve shirt, then layer with a weather-resistant jacket and wind-proof pants. Be mindful of your extremities and finish your look with gloves, a hat and high-socks or gators to ensure you’re covered from head to toe. If you still struggle to stay warm, try taking a pre-run hot shower. Avoid getting your hair wet and dry off completely before you step outdoors.