You can’t predict what race day is going to be like. No matter how disciplined you’ve been about putting in the miles, the time in the weight room and the stretching and speed work, unforeseen circumstances — namely, the weather — are entirely out of your control. That’s why it’s essential to opt for outdoor workouts, even when the conditions are less than ideal. Be it snow, below-freezing temperatures, rain, wind or blazing heat, embracing the elements builds mental toughness and character that’ll enable you to keep your edge regardless of what it’s like at the starting line. Here’s what you need to know before venturing out there.
COLD (Below 32°F)
Shorter days and below-freezing temperatures make staying indoors tempting. But there are myriad benefits to exercising in the cold: increased calorie burn (the body uses up to 30% more energy while keeping itself warm), more efficient use of oxygen and a boosted immune system are just a few of the reasons to layer up and head outdoors. You’ll also keep the winter blues at bay with a burst of serotonin from cardio activity.
- Layer up. Start with a base layer with compression. Layer looser-fitting gear on top, with a windbreaker for insulation. Try a tactical hood to warm air before it enters your lungs.
- Fuel, fuel, fuel. Eating not only nourishes your body; it also keeps you warm as it is metabolized through a process called thermogenesis. Stoke the furnace with small, frequent snacks.
- Vitamin D. If you’re in a place where sunshine is scant during winter months, incorporate D-rich foods like egg yolks, fatty fish and fortified dairy products into your diet.
- Dynamic warmups. Increase blood flow to the limbs and promote muscle compliance with active stretching circuits.
- Hydrate. Cold can blunt the thirst mechanism, masking dehydration. Try adding lukewarm water to your bottle to soothe throat irritation from cold, dry air.
Relentless wind can be an athlete’s worst nightmare. On foot or by bike, a speed or hill workout can quickly spiral into a seemingly endless slog into a headwind. Many athletes count wind as the ultimate morale killer, but by braving the gustiest days, you can train your mind to resist quitting even when the gusts can seem like personal affronts to your well-being. You can even leverage the weather’s power: Receive a welcome boost from a tailwind, or build strength with a headwind.
- Streamline your gear. Wear tighter-fitting clothing and slick apparel to reduce drag and increase speed.
- Temper your speed. The faster you run, the greater the air resistance will be.
- Catch a draft. Take a cue from professional cyclists, and opt to run or ride with a group. Take turns “drafting” off one another: Find a pocket of windless air behind a member of your group, where you can fly free from resistance.
- Cool it down. Use the wind as a coolant when your body’s core temperature is at its peak.
The most challenging part about running in the rain is getting yourself out the door. With proper attire and the right attitude, you can increase calorie burn, exercise for a longer duration due to reduced body temperature and access an endorphin rush that’ll make you feel like a kid again.
- Grab your old shoes. Dry out muddy, soggy shoes with crumpled newspaper. Resist the urge to stick them in the dryer to avoid shrinkage.
- Wear a hat. Avoid unnecessary heat loss, and protect your face from stinging drops. Choose a water-resistant hat with a brim.
- Don’t overdress. Wear only what’s necessary to keep you warm; even waterproof layers can become heavy after a downpour.
- Stay visible. With darkening skies and distracted drivers, always choose reflective details and lighter colors.
- Minimize chafing from wet clothing with petroleum jelly.
- Leave electronics at home. Seize the opportunity to unplug — and avoid drowning your iPhone.
- Watch your feet. Wet roots, deep puddles and other obstacles present an increased risk for injury.
- When in doubt, take cover. Head indoors if you hear thunder or spot lightning.
SNOW & ICE
Challenge your strength, balance and technical skill with a run in the snow. You’ll also access a deeper sense of tranquility: Each step requires focus and precision, wiping all other thoughts from your mind. You’ll also experience the peaceful solitude of a nearly empty road.
- Traction is key. Choose a trail shoe (for men or women) with stability and grip. A slip-on traction device may be necessary for extreme or icy conditions.
- Keep your extremities warm. Fleece-lined headgear, gloves and warm socks are vital.
- Shorten your stride. Smaller steps will reduce your risk of slipping or straining muscles.
- Go slow, go short. On snow days, adjust your workout to account for the conditions. You’ll be working a lot harder, and the intensity will be upped from the frictionless terrain. Slow your pace, and consider shortening mileage.
- Look for powder. Choose freshly fallen snow over packed snow or ice for better footing.
- When in doubt, walk. Avoid black ice, and keep your eyes on the ground. Avoid bad falls by erring on the side of caution.
HEAT & SUN
While aqua jogging and swimming aren’t bad options when the temperatures rise, choosing to embrace the heat on the road or the trails can pay off in the form of a performance boost when the weather cools off. When it’s hot, your body attempts to cool itself by sending extra blood and oxygen to the surface of your skin, where the heat dissipates into the air. The result: When the temperatures drop, your muscles will enjoy a surplus of run-fueling oxygen.
- Prioritize hydration. Drink 16–24 ounces of water a few hours before exercising in extremely hot weather. Then, continue to drink 6–8 ounces every 20 minutes during exercise. Maintain your electrolytes with a sports drink if you’re doing more than a moderate workout.
- Don’t overdo it. Avoid heat exhaustion by seeking shade, taking rests and heading indoors if it’s a true scorcher.
- Love your easy runs. Recovery days are essential to any proper training plan. Take advantage of the hot weather, and keep your pace slow and steady.
- Run short. Hit the track or your favorite hill for repeats. Shorter bursts (with recovery laps) are well-suited for hot days.
- Run at night or early in the morning. Just remember to wear light colors and reflective clothing so you stay safe.
- Protect your skin. Choose gear with built-in SPF, and be sure to thoroughly coat yourself in sunblock before you hit the road.
Challenge the elements at UA Run Camp.
UA Run Camp brings together the world’s most passionate runners and pits them against some of the world’s worst conditions. The goal: to push the limits of athletes further than they ever thought possible.