Running can be pure joy on those perfect days when the weather is cool and comfortable, and the sun warms your back. But once you start running regularly, you’ll soon face a day, week or even an entire season that challenges you.
For some, it’s the summer heat and humidity. For others, it’s the bone-chilling cold, wind and snow.
Running in different conditions helps you become stronger, in body and mind. But there are some extreme conditions, like very hot or cold environments, that could pose some dangers to your whole health.
Runners should be aware of heat-related illness that can range from mild heat cramps to severe heat stroke. If running in the cold it’s important to know if you have any lung conditions because breathing in cold weather makes your respiratory tubes constrict, making it harder to breathe.
While lightning or dangerous wind and snow are reasons to hit the treadmill instead, most of your runs can happen outdoors if you know how to plan appropriately. Here are some tips to protect yourself in more extreme hot and cold weather conditions.
Tips for Running in the Cold and Snow
Cool fall mornings are often a welcome break from the summer heat. But as fall turns into winter, those brisk mornings can turn downright chilly. During the winter, running in the midafternoon can help you get the most sunlight and warmer temperatures. For those with busy daytime schedules, however, your run time may need to be during the colder, darker hours.
Winter running is best tackled with layers of clothing. You’re likely to be cold as you head out the door, and then warm up over the first mile or two. If you overdresses, you’ll soon end up sweaty and then chilled. It’s best to either start your run a little on the chilly side, or, begin with a removable top layer that’s easy to carry or tie around your waist.
Your base layer may be your most important piece of clothing in cold weather, so it’s worthwhile to invest in a quality material that will wick but also keep you warm if it’s wet. Wool is ideal for this and newer varieties are warm, non-itchy and washer/dryer friendly.
In addition to your base layer, invest in a quality shell that is wind and water-resistant. For all but the coldest climates, a base layer and a jacket may be all you need for most of your winter runs, aside from protecting your extremities.
When you’re running in the cold, allow yourself a longer warmup for harder workouts. Also pay attention to hydration, as it’s easier to forget to drink when the weather isn’t as hot. You may find you burn more calories to stay warm, so adjust your fueling frequency as needed. For some general nutrition tips while training, read our blog on how to fuel up on nutrition to boost your performance.
Tips for Running in the Summer Heat & Humidity
While the warmth of summer is ideal for vacations and beach time, it doesn’t always make running enjoyable. Heat and humidity can make every run feel like a challenge, especially at longer distances, and fueling and hydrating can become trickier as well.
While the mornings bring higher humidity, this is often the coolest time of day. Getting out in the pre-dawn hours can be worth the effort to escape the highest temperatures.
Trails also provide more shade and can be a cooler option. If your route is in direct sunlight, use a hat or visor and sunscreen to protect your skin. Ice is always your friend in the heat, whether it’s in your hydration source, under your hat or on your neck and body.
Although you can try to avoid the heat by running early or even resorting to the treadmill, sometimes it’s worthwhile to embrace it. If an upcoming race such as a half or full marathon could fall on a hot day, it’s essential to give yourself time to acclimate to the weather. Two weeks is typically long enough for your body to make some of the necessary adaptations, and not every run has to be done at the hottest time of the day.
One of your best tools to adapt to the heat is simply slowing down. This is especially true for long runs in the early heat of summer, when your body is less prepared to deal with it.
Tips for Running in the Rain
While rain can be a challenge in any season, a warm summer rain is far more enjoyable than a cold, sleety one in the late fall. As with any cold or wet running, a quality base layer and water-resistant shell will give you the best protection. Use a vest or jacket that is both water resistant and offers some breathability, or you could end up warm and sweaty.
If you’re heading out in the rain, a hat is essential to keep the rain drops off your face and out of your eyes. If you plan to be out for more than an hour, wear shoes that drain well and socks that will keep your feet warm if they get wet.
Wool is a great option for your feet, and some also find that toe socks help reduce foot irritation when your feet are wet for an extended period of time.
Tips for Dealing with Spring and Fall Allergies
The most beautiful weather for running may be during the fall and spring, but it’s also prime allergy season. Early mornings often have the highest pollen count for local allergens, so running later in the day may help. Rain can reduce pollen levels in the air, so getting out right after a spring shower can be ideal.
If you head out during high allergy times, you may benefit from an over-the-counter allergy medication (as recommended by your doctor). Use sunglasses for eye protection to help reduce irritation, and shower immediately after you run to get any residual allergens off your skin. If you suffer from a more serious issue like asthma, it may be safer to use the treadmill instead.
No matter the season, there are ways to embrace and adapt to weather-related challenges. But listen to your body and protect your whole health over putting yourself at risk in too extreme of weather while on your way to that next PR.
And regardless of the weather, we want to help you keep running fun, challenging and injury-free.
If you need some help achieving your health, wellness and fitness goals, turn to us for help. Our trained physical therapists at AdventHealth Sports Med & Rehab are here to guide anyone in achieving their goals — from serious runner to weekend warrior.