How to Run In Extreme Weather Conditions

If you stick with a running routine throughout months—or years—you’ll run into the many changes in temperatures and weather conditions. This is especially the case if you live in an area with cold winters and super hot summers.

Extreme weather conditions, like freezing temperature, snow, or scorching heat, can scare away even the most motivated runners.

Nonetheless, don’t let the weather spell end of your running routine. I know how hard it is to brave the outdoors when it’s super cold or hot outside. But that’s no excuse to stop training altogether. In fact, as a runner, learning how to deal with weather extremities is a part of your job.

In today’s post, I’m sharing with you an easy-to-follow guide on how to deal with some of Mother Nature’s nastiest weather conditions, so you can enjoy running all the year round.

Note: Running should be safe for everyone, even in extreme weather. However, if you have a heart condition, Raynaud’s diseases, asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, be careful. Consult with your doctor and review any special precautions you should take based on your condition or medication before braving the extreme cold or heat.

Running In the Cold

Running in the cold can be quite challenging. Cold-induced illnesses, as well as strains, sprains, fractures, and dislocation,  are quite common among hardcore winter runners.

Here’s how to stay safe out there.

The Right Fabrics

It’s vital to have the right equipment for winter running.

As a cardinal rule, keep your body well covered with the right fabrics and layers.

The best running clothing is made with high-performance fabrics that warm easily and pulls sweat and moisture away from the skin to the surface.

The Layering

The best hack, in one word, for cold weather running, is “layers.” That means wearing multiple layers of clothing instead of one or two thick layers. Not only smart layering helps retain body heat, but it also allows moisture to move through the clothing more efficiently as it’s pulled away from the first layer to the outer layer, where it evaporates.

The First Layer

Make sure the base layer is made of synthetic materials,so you don’t stay wet during your workout as that can make you feel even colder.  Suitable fabrics include lightweight polypropylene or polyester.

I recommend opting for a lightweight base layer shirt with a high neckline. This will not only keep you warm, but also keep out the wind while you’re running.

The Second Layer

A second layer is a must for subfreezing temperatures. It should fit loosely and be of a material that helps insulate and traps heat. This helps transfer moisture from the base layer away from the skin. Think wool or polyester fleece.

The Third Layer

The final outer layer should be waterproof and wind-resistant, like a shell jacket, to protect you from rain, wind, and snow.

Cover Your Head

Cover your head while running in the cold as we can lose up to 50 percent of body heat from the head and neck.

For extra protection, in freezing and windy conditions, wear a face mask, a balaclava, or a scarf for more insulation and protection.

Protect Your Skin

Apply a sweat-resistant sports moisture, preferably Vaseline, on any exposed body parts prone to chapping or chaffing—mainly the hands, lips, cheeks, and nose.

Just keep in mind that Vaseline may not allow your body to sweat efficiently so don’t lather it on your neck or head.

Know the Signs

Frostbite and hypothermia are the two major obstacles to extreme cold running. For starters, frostbite is a cold-induced injury to the body tissue (usually skin) caused by prolonged exposure to freezing cold. The condition is most common on exposed skin, such as the ears, nose, and cheeks. It can also afflict the feet and the hands.

Early red flags of frostbite include:

  • Numbness
  • Loss of feeling
  • Stinging or burning sensation in the affected limb.

If you’re experiencing any of these, stop running, return home, and warm the affected area by wrapping in a warm blanket or running it under lukewarm water. Whatever you do, never rub the afflicted spot as doing so can damage your skin. Head to a hospital if numbness doesn’t go away.

Although most cases of superficial frostbites can be treated at home, hypothermia, which is abnormally low body temperature, may require s immediate medical attention. It’s the biggest danger for running in the cold.

The condition occurs, usually, when your body begins to lose more heat than it can generate while being exposed to freezing temperatures for an extended period of time.

Some of the warning signs include:

  • Slurred speech
  • Intense shivering
  • Loss of coordination

If you notice any of these symptoms, head to a dry, warm place. Then warm yourself up with blankets or extra dry clothing. Seek medical help ASAP if symptoms persist.

Running In the Rain

Run regularly and you’ll inevitably, no matter where you live, en up running in the rain.

I love running in the rain. I wish there was a way to stay completely dry and comfortable. But there ain’t. Sometimes, you just have to prepare for the worst and hope for the best.

As for the prep part, here are a few guidelines to help you stay comfortable as long as possible.

Get A Good Outer Layer

As I’ve already explained, it all comes to down to layering. Start with a base layer that’s well fitted, technical, and moisture wicking.

The most important layer, though, is the outer shell—usually the third layer. To stay comfortabe in the rain, you’d need a wind- and water-resistant running jacket that’s also breathable. This can help keep out the rain while also moving the sweat and moisture away from your body.

If the outer layer isn’t breathable, especially if the seams are sealed, sweating and the build-up of moisture will make it wet inside, and that’s the last thing you’d want while braving the rain.

You should also consider getting rain-pants— make sure to get ones with room to layer underneath.

A Hat and Glasses

I hate running with the rain splashing in my eyes, and I bet you’re the same.

A hat with a brim is your other best ally on a rainy day. It’ll help keep the rain out of your face and eyes, allowing you to focus on the road ahead, even in a downpour. You can also add on a light beanie or headband for more warmth on cold, rainy runs in the 30’s or 40’s.

Prevent Chafing

Chafing can occur during any run, but it can be more serious when you’re dripping from the rain.

That’s why I highly recommend that you spread Vaseline or Body Glide on body parts where you’d normally chafe or get blisters. These may include the underarms, sports bra lines (women), nipples (if you’re a man), inner thighs, and feet.

Another measure to cut the risk of chafing is to wear compression shorts underneath your shorts and pants.

Protect Your Electronics 

To prevent the unfortunate malfunction, store your electronics, such as your smartphone and iPod, in a closeable plastic bag or waterproof carrier. You can also wear running clothing that has inside pockets for your devices.

Better yet, leave them at home and enjoy the sounds of rain.

Running in Snow and Ice

Out of all weather conditions, snow and ice are likely the most common reason trainees shy away from training in the winter. To stay safe, apply the following measures.

Protect Your Extremities

When you’re running in the subfreezing temperatures, blood flow tends to stay concentrated on the core, rendering the extremities more prone to the cold. A fleecy headband or a hat will help keep you warm and protect your ears from the ice. That’s why our feet and hands (especially toes and fingers) may get sorely cold or may even become numb in the cold season.

Moreover, wear Gore-Tex socks to protect your feet from the snow and slush and keep them comfortably dry.

Get the Right Footwear

Use traction devices on your shoes when roads, trails, or sidewalks, have snow or ice cover. These will give better stability and traction in the snow, helping prevent slipping and falling.

You can also make yourself a pair of screw shoes or get some microspikes that slip over your trainers.

Running In The Heat

During summer runs, heat-induced conditions can have dire consequences. The first and the most common condition is heat exhaustion. This occurs when you run too hard and/or too long in scorching temperatures.

The other risk is heat stroke, which is triggered by a sudden failure of the body’s thermoregulatory system. Unlike hypothermia, heat stroke occurs when the body can no longer cool down or lower its core temperature.

The Warning Signs

Early warning signs of heat-induced illnesses include:

  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Nausea
  • Confusion
  • Poor balance
  • Lack of sweating
  • Paleness or redness in the face
  • Loss of consciousness in severe cases.

If you start experiencing any of the above, stop running immediately.

Next, get out of the sun, and cool down with a drink, preferably in an air-conditioned room. If symptoms don’t improve in one hour or so, go to the emergency room.

Remember: heat-induced illnesses can be a life-threatening condition, requiring prompt medical treatment. Dire consequences include serious organ failure, brain damage, even death. Do not take them lightly.

The Right Clothing

Dressing up for summer runs ain’t rocket science.  For starters, avoid  cotton because it holds your sweat and doesn’t dry as quickly, which increases your chance of chafing—and you don’t want that.

Also, stay away from dark colors because they absorb sunlight and retain heat, which increases your risks of overheating.

Instead, go for light-colored, loose-fitting attire that will help your body breathe and cool itself efficiently. These should be made of lightweight, breathable, and sweat-wicking fabrics.  Technical fabrics, such as Dri-Fit and CoolMax, are much more breathable and will pull sweat away from your body so cooling evaporation can occur. This will help keep you cool and running comfortably—and you want that, right?

You can also wear a hat and glass to protect your head and face from the sunlight. Sun protective sleeves for bare arms are also an option.

Run Early or Late

To stay safe in the heat, reassess your running schedule.

On very hot days, you should pick your time of day to avoid the midday, unforgiving, sun. For that, you’ll need to run early or late in the day, when temperatures are at their lowest, the sun isn’t as strong, and humidity isn’t as bad.

Stay Well Hydrated

The best line of defense against heat-related illness is to stay well hydrated. Drink plenty of water so that your urine is light-colored or clear. How can you achieve that?

To stay well hydrated, build the habit of sipping water throughout the day.

Here’s what you need to do:

Drink water before you go to sleep and as soon as you wake up in the morning.

Have at least 16 to 20 ounces of water two hours before your run.

Have 8 to 12 ounces of water during workouts lasting more than 60 to 90 minutes. Sports drinks also help

For more on proper hydration while running, check my post here.

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These tips can help you run safely–and enjoyably– during extreme weather conditions. Yet, here’s the golden rule. As long as you keep listening to your body and train accordingly, you should be safe.

That’s why you should always have the option of shortening your outdoor run or skipping it altogether when it’s no longer safe for you out there. Stay alive to run another day.

Please feel free to leave your comments and suggestions in the section below.

Thank you for dropping by.

Keep Running Strong.

David D.