Rain, sleet, snow, hail, wind. You name it, this time of year, Mother Nature is sending it your way. But there’s no need to throw in the sweaty, icicle-covered towel on your running routine. After all, training through less-than-ideal conditions arms you with the mental and physical fortitude to deal with any race-day craziness, and research published in Psychological Science suggests that exercising outdoors in the winter, even in 25-degree temps, boosts mental health just as well as getting your sweat on in sunny, 80-degree weather.
Check out these five expert-approved running hacks to keep your runs safe and (slightly more) comfortable all winter long. Plus, some will actually boost your fitness results!
5 All-Weather Running Hacks
1. The Challenge: Cold
The Hack: In a word: “layers,” says Rebecca Shultz, Ph.D., a biomechanist with Lumo BodyTech. “Make sure your first layer wicks away sweat so you don’t stay wet during your run, as that can make you even colder. The middle layer should lock warm temperature in. The final layer should be a waterproof layer, like a shell jacket.” She recommends keeping your ears and fingers covered, too. If gloves aren’t enough to keep your fingers from turning yellow (remember, when running, your bigger muscles tend to get dibs on blood flow), try stuffing a heat pack like HotHands Warmers or Little Hotties into your gloves.
2. The Challenge: Wind
The Hack: Run with the wind for your warm-up to ease into your training session, then once you’re warm, switch-back to run against it, recommends Janet Hamilton, C.S.C.S., an exercise physiologist at Running Strong in Atlanta. The added resistance will build strength and prepare your body for the “final kick” you need to PR on race day.
3. The Challenge: Sleet and Snow
The Hack: To keep prevent slips, falls and compromised biomechanics, Shultz recommends strapping on a pair of winter-weather cleats. They fit right over the soles of your running shoes and give you the traction needed to stay safe and enjoy the winter wonderland outside. Try Yaktrax Pro or Petzl Spiky Plus.
4. The Challenge: Rain
The Hack: A brimmed hat and pair of sports glasses with minimal-to-no tint are musts, Hamilton says. The combination keeps water out of your face and eyes, allowing you to focus on better things. Nike Vision is one brand that offers various running glasses with interchangeable lenses (prescription or non-prescription) that fit any lighting environment.
5. The Challenge: Thunder, Lightning or Hail
The Hack: Make it a treadmill day, Hamilton recommends. After all, according to the National Weather Service, if you can hear thunder, your safest bet is staying indoors. Lightning can easily strike 10 to 15 miles away from the storm. And nothing good comes from being pelted with golf ball-sized hail during your runs. If you’re not a fan of long runs on the treadmill, mix things up with intervals. Try running four to six 30-second sprints, with four minutes and 30 seconds of rest between work bouts. Or, check out this 20-minute treadmill HIIT workout that incorporates strength moves, too. Research published in the Journal of Human Kinetics shows doing so improves body composition as well as both aerobic and anaerobic fitness better than if you were to do 30 to 50 minutes of steady-state cardio.