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Running in Bad Weather


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 A few people might live in a paradise with nice weather year around, but most of us live with changing weather. During hot summers and cold winters, we must decide if we want to run outside or stay inside on a track, a treadmill, or a couch. We all have our own preferences about this. If you're a die-hard like me, then read on, because it's possible to safely run in bad, even extreme, weather and enjoy it!

Summer Running

Running in hot weather can be a real challenge. In fact, it can be deadly; more than one runner has died from heat during a race. It's critical that you get rid of the heat generated by your running. This can be done in several ways.

bullet Drink extra water. In order to remove heat, your body evaporates water in the form of sweat, and that water must be replaced. If it isn't replaced, your internal temperature will climb, and that can lead to serious complications. When I run in heat, I use a fuel belt with small bottles of water and Gatorade. Some runners cache water bottles in bushes.

Use the urine test to see if you are drinking enough fluids. A slight yellow color is ok. Anything very dark means you are dehydrated. The darker the color, the more the dehydration.

bullet Slow down so the perceived effort of your run is about the same as it is when you run in cooler temperatures. When I run during really hot weather, I run to survive. All thoughts of extra distance or speed are gone. I do mostly jogging and walking.
bullet Run in the cooler parts of the day. When I lived in Phoenix, I would see people on the golf greens and tennis courts at 5 in the morning, the coolest part of the day. Running at nights can be effective in combating the heat, but, because of the crime element, it can be more dangerous than during daylight hours.
bullet Use trails or roads that have shade. My present route is along the Jordan River Parkway that is adjacent to the Jordan River. There are bunches of trees along the road that give shade, and when I reach those spots, I walk for the few seconds that it takes me to pass through the shade. When possible, I run in the early morning or late evening when the shade is greatest. In Massachusetts, the back roads have lots of shade due to the forests that populate the area, and I would zig zag across the road to pick up the shade (those roads had little traffic; I would never do that on a busy street, of course). The extra heat I generated by zig zagging instead of going in a straight line was probably more than the heat I lost by being in shade for a second or two, but the zig zagging to get shade had a good psychological effect.
bullet When running in heat, be especially sensitive to your body and look for signs of heat exhaustion or heat stroke. Usually, a person will experience heat exhaustion first and then, if the person continues, heat stroke, and then death!
bullet Heat Exhaustion. heavy sweating, fatigue, weakness, nausea, vomiting, headache, dizziness, muscle cramps.
bullet Heatstroke. any of the symptoms of heat exhaustion, reduced or no sweating, dysfunction of the central nervous system resulting in bizarre behavior, hallucinations, confusion, disorientation, coma.

Dr. Gabe Mirkin has described treatment for heat stroke.

Heatstroke is a sudden uncontrolled rise in body temperature that affects the brain so that it can't function properly. It should never happen to you because you get plenty of warning. First your muscles are affected, then your circulation and then your brain. As your temperature starts to rise, your muscles feel like a hot poker is pressing against them. As it rises further, the air that you breathe feels like it's coming from a furnace and no matter how rapidly and deeply you try to breathe, you won't be able to get enough air. When this happens, stop exercising and cool off by moving into the shade or pouring water over your head. If you continue to exercise, your body temperature will rise further and affect your brain. Your head will start to hurt, you'll hear a ringing in your ears, you may feel dizzy, you may have difficulty seeing and then you will end up unconscious on the ground.

When a person passes out from heatstroke, his brain is being cooked just as the colorless part of an egg turns white when it hits the frying pan. Get medical help immediately. Usually, the victim should be carried into the shade and placed on his back with his head down and his feet up. He should be cooled by any possible means. Liquid should be poured on him, and it doesn't matter whether it's from a hose, a water bottle or a cup. It could be water, soda, beer, milk or whatever you have. After he is revived, he should be watched for more than an hour as his temperature can start to rise to high levels again.

bulletI had always thought that caffeine should be avoided in extreme weather, because caffeine is a mild diuretic and causes the loss of body fluids, and it may raise blood pressure. However, according to Dr. Gabe Mirkin, that loss of fluid is when a person is not exercising. Caffeine, used in moderation increases the endurance of athletes. Dr. Mirkin recommends that consumption of coffee be limited to 6 cups per day and that it be filtered and decaffeinated.

Winter Running

Winter running has its own challenges, and it can be just as deadly as summer running. It can also be just as enjoyable and rewarding as summer running!

bulletWear layers. Rather than wear a heavy overcoat that might be appropriate if you were walking, wear several relatively thin layers. You can add or remove layers to control the heat buildup in your body. In addition there may be trapped air between the layers, and this might increase the insulation.
The layer next to your skin should be tight-fitting and made of synthetic material that doesn't absorb water. "Long johns" made of a polyester material are great. This layer will remove or "wick" the moisture away from your skin, allowing the moisture to be more quickly evaporated. If this layer is loose, it will not wick moisture as well as a tight-fitting garment. Of course, you don't want this layer to be so tight that it restricts your blood flow. Except for the last layer, the other layers can
Allen wearing 3 layers  with the temp 19F
be what you have. I use old T-shirts and old dress shirts. If you have a choice of material for these layers, choose synthetics that wick your sweat away from your body.

The last layer should be something that will stop the wind but still allow your body to breathe. I use a nylon jacket, with no insulation, for my "wind breaker".

How many layers should you wear? As many as you need. I lived in Massachusetts for 17 years, and it was cold! (My personal best for winter running, set while I was in Massachusetts, is -18F) The most layers I ever wore during that time was 5. Now, I'm in a warmer area, and I don't wear more than 3 layers.

bulletTry to avoid sweating while you run. Sweat is caused by excess heat buildup in your body, and excess heat buildup means you are burning more calories than you need to. Conserve energy by running slower or by removing layers, such that you don't sweat. You might be thinking, "No need to worry about sweating; it's too cold to sweat." Sorry, but many times when running in sub zero (F) temperatures, I've returned home with sweatcicles hanging down the back of my neck.

bullet If you do sweat while running in the winter, avoid staying out for long periods of time. Your under garments may become damp from the sweat, and wearing damp clothes in cold weather increases your loss of body heat.

bullet Drink lots of water. Your body needs water to function properly, and if you are dehydrated, you'll get cold sooner.

bullet If the road or trail is icy, slow down to avoid slipping and falling. If the snow isn't very deep, run along the edge of the road or trail where vehicles and other persons haven't been. Loose snow isn't slippery. Packed snow is slippery.

bullet Wear a wind breaker as your last layer.

bullet Don't be alarmed if you notice that when you start running, your hands get cold and may hurt a bit. Your body is diverting blood from your extremities into your internal organs to keep the organs warm. After you've gone a mile or two and your organs are warm, your body will put more blood back into your hands and feet, and they will warm up.

bullet Keep in mind that if there is a wind, the chill factor will be significantly lower than the thermometer reading. For example, a temperature of 17F and a wind of 15 MPH gives a chill factor of -8.46F.

bulletRunning in cool temperatures, say in the vicinity of 50F, can be dangerous, due to hypothermia, if your T-shirt is damp. Hypothermia is a lowering of ones body temperature, frequently caused by damp or wet clothing, wind, and cold air temperatures. Be prepared by knowing the symptoms and treatment for hypothermia.

bullet If the person's body temperature falls below about 95F, the person will begin to shiver and won't be able to control the shivering
bullet If the body temperature continues to decrease, the person will experience slurred speech, confusion, and distorted thinking.

bullet If the body temperature goes still lower, the person may go into a coma, and death may occur.

To treat hypothermia, heat must be put into the person. Do the following.

bullet Get the person out of the wind or water and into a shelter.

bullet Get the person into dry clothing and into blankets or a sleeping bag to conserve body heat.

bullet Share body heat with the person by getting into the blankets or sleeping bag with the person. This will help get heat into the person.

bullet If the person is awake, give food and hot drinks as a way of getting heat into the person.

bullet Do not rub the person's skin because skin damage can occur. Rubbing skin does not put heat into the person. Do not give coffee or alcohol to the person.

bullet Get the person to medial aid as soon as possible. Hypothermia is very serious and can cause death.

bullet A person can go into hypothermia in just a matter of minutes, so always be alert to the symptoms.


Running into a strong headwind can quickly sap your reservoir of energy. Even a minor headwind can sap your energy if it exists over a significant portion of your route. Here are my suggestions for handling a headwind.

First, if the headwind is strong, consider aborting your run and saving your energy for another day. If you continue running and try to maintain your planned pace, you are using your store of energy to fight the wind instead of covering your planned distance. If your run was to be a rest run, you will have converted it to a stressful run. If your run was to be a heavy run, you have significantly increased the stress of the run, and you have a risk of overextending yourself and subjecting your body to high stress. If you decide to continue your run despite the high wind, treat the wind as you would an unending, serious hill. Reduce your pace, take smaller steps, lean forward slightly to offset the effect of the wind pushing you back, such that your body remains vertical, and, if needed, take more frequent or larger breaths to get more oxygen.

If the headwind is not very strong, consider it as a small, unending hill and make appropriate adjustments to your distance and/or pace. If you're running on a hot day, a small headwind can help cool you off.

Here is a short but good article about running with wind. The author gives numbers to characterize the increased effort to run against a headwind. He also suggests drafting if you're with a group of runners.




I enjoy running in warm, summer rains. Rain means the temperature will be moderate, and I enjoy getting wet while I run -- like being a kid again and playing in the rain. However, if there is a wind blowing during the storm, or if it is a cold rain, I'm concerned about hypothermia and will wear a rain jacket. I spray my breaker with silicone once or twice a year to keep it water resistant.

If I hear thunder while I run, I count seconds from a lightning flash to the thunder clap to see how far away the lightning strikes occurred (5 seconds is approximately a mile). If the time is more than 5 seconds, I continue running. If the time is less than 5 seconds, I abort my run and head for home. If the time is only a couple of seconds, I head for the nearest house and ask the people if I can sit on their porch steps and wait out the storm.  For my own protection, I don't go inside strange houses, even when invited to "come in out of the storm". Caution: Don't sit on wet porch steps, because lightning can follow water on the ground and up the wet steps.

You don't want to mess with lightning! I was on a fathers & son's campout in Arizona, one time, and the night before we arrived at the camp site, lightning hit a ponderosa pine tree that was about three feet in diameter at the base and about 50 feet tall, The tree trunk split from the top down to the mid point and then exploded due to the tree sap being converted to steam. When we saw the tree the next day, the 25 foot section that split was lying on the ground. Don't take chances! When lightning comes, you get indoors (and fast).

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