Running in Bad Weather: 6 Tips to Help You Stay Safe
As winter tries to hold onto its power, the season of rain, wind, hail, and snow might start taking its toll on many runners’ training schedules. Now that the New Year high has worn off, it might be harder to stick to running, especially when the weather takes a turn for the worse. On top of that, many runners are starting new training plans and getting (back) into running. To effectively keep hitting your goals, you’ll have to embrace and prepare for dropping temperatures and adverse weather. Thankfully, there are plenty of ways you can keep running in bad weather.
Written by Lucas Collins
Edited by Pavlína Marek
1. Check your Forecasts
The first thing you should do before you head out is to check what the weather is going to be like. This will tell you just how much you need to prepare for your run. What extra gear should you bring? How many layers should you wear? While 30℉ and 0℉ are both cold, the one extra layer that might work at 30℉ will leave you woefully unprepared for any weather at or below 0℉. Be smart and check what the weather is going to look like at least several hours before your run, and then double-check shortly before you leave so you aren’t surprised if anything has changed.
2. Plan and Share Your Route Ahead of Time
If there’s ever a time not to play your running route by ear, it’s during inclement weather. The unfamiliar terrain can contain hazards you won’t know about. When running in bad weather, you might not even be able to see things like fallen leaves, under-snow streams, or potholes. During these times, it’s best to stick to the pavement, trails, and paths you’re already familiar with to avoid potential hazards and reduce your chances of getting lost. When you generally know what to expect while on your route, it’s a huge step towards staying out of danger.
You should also share your planned route and timing with one or two people you know and trust. This way, if something bad does happen and you get stuck out in the cold, there will be someone who can one, raise an alarm and two, give a good starting point for a potential search and rescue mission. If the people you’re sharing this info with are close to you, you can also choose to share your phone’s location with them.
“Bail,” “turn around,” or “shortcut” points are also a good safety planning tool. Know where they lay along your normal route in case you need to cut your run short and head back early should conditions deteriorate.
3. Try to Schedule your Runs while the Sun is Still Out
Much like checking the weather and sticking to your planned path, choosing to run in the daytime help will keep you safer. Nighttime visibility will be poorer than usual in inclement weather. This greatly decreases the chances for you to spot if something is amiss along your route. It also makes it much harder for someone else to see you should you need help.
In addition to worse visibility, the temperature will most likely plummet without sun, making an already cold run drastically colder–even dangerously so. However, daytime is a precious commodity as days can be extremely short or nonexistent during winter. Therefore, if you absolutely can’t make a daytime run fit into your schedule, prepare for the night with extra layers and visibility gear. Reflective vests or tape, a headlamp, or a flashlight will go a very long way to help you remain safe and seen.
4. Pile on the Layers
While many people (myself included) loathe the idea of squeezing into several layers of clothing and becoming too warm while out on their run, it’s infinitely better than not having enough and suffering from the adverse effects of the cold. A layer can always be shed, but it’s hard to put on something you didn’t bring with you! As for how many layers you need, anywhere from two to four should be used depending on the current weather.
What your layers are made of matters.
For example, merino wool remains one of the favorite materials for its temperature-regulating properties. You should wear moisture-wicking materials right next to your skin. The main warmth-providing layers like puff vests should go next. Lastly, the outer layer should protect you from rain, sleet, and wind.
- Keep your head warm with hats, earmuffs, and face covers.
- For hands, a nice pair of insulated gloves will do. (Bonus points if they close at the wrist to keep the wind out.)
- A pair of shoes that are both insulated and waterproof is vital to keep your feet from freezing. Wet shoes will lead to wet feet. Once your feet get wet, there will be no way to stop the freezing and dangerous cold from seeping inside. (You might also consider adding a pair of micro spikes if you hit icy trails and roads!)
5. Make use of the Indoors Before and After your Run
When you run out in the cold, you should always warm up and cool down in a heated indoor space. Do some light cardio or dynamic stretches inside to prime your body. It’s best to start your run with warm muscles and increased blood flow to help you deal with the first bite of the cold. Equally as useful is going inside to cool down instead of staying outdoors.
Take off the insulating and sweaty layers immediately after a run. Switch to dry, warm clothes so you’re more comfortable while you recover or stretch. It will help your body cool down slowly while preventing the chill from creeping up.
6. Listen to your Body
If the sharp cold air makes it impossible for you to breathe comfortably, you should choose the safe option and cut your run short. When your fingers and toes start to feel cold, tingly, or numb even when you wear appropriate gear, return to a warm environment immediately. Frostbite and hypothermia are serious risks, and you can always get back out there tomorrow.
When running in the cold, you should also be well aware of your hydration. Cold weather can be deceptively dehydrating compared to hot and even temperate conditions. Even if you don’t feel as thirsty as you usually would, make sure to drink enough water to sustain yourself.
The cold weather can turn many people away from their outdoor routines. However, with the right gear and preparation, you can keep enjoying your outdoor runs even when the temperatures drop. Know what conditions you’ll be getting into. Prepare the right gear. Now, you are ready to push through the bitter weather and continue to train outdoors. Enjoy the unique and beautiful landscapes that these seasons bring!