This is a topic I’ve grappled with for some time now. It’s not what you think though. No, I don’t struggle with running in different weather scenarios. What I struggle with is the self imposed limitations I experience from my own inner demons as well as the ones I see frequently plaguing others. Let me explain. I love running. I love to push myself to the brink. I love to see what my body can do. I love the feeling of exhaustion and muscles who’ve output as much as they can and then were asked to do more. I don’t achieve this state on every run but every once in a while, I walk away feeling spent and proud. And I chase that feeling. A lot.
I love to run!!
So when thinking about things that might prevent me from engaging in my sport of choice, “bad” weather isn’t one of those things that I really want to employ as a reason. What is bad weather anyway? Is it rain? How much rain? A drizzle or a downpour? What about cold? I get chilled even on semi warm days so is a 50 degree day too cold? Heat and humidity. How much is too much? My outlook on this is fairly straightforward: in my experience, the majority of the time I set out running, the first mile is uncomfortable. (Never judge a run by the first mile they say.) My body isn’t used to the foreign sensation of foot landing on asphalt, or of hips swaying to avoid a fallen tree on the trail. My body rebels and rejects these feelings. It tells me that this isn’t right, it’s not natural. I often look down at my legs and think “get with the program legs, get your shit together!”, and usually, in time, they do.
Self imposed limitations. Those are the niggling thoughts that prevent me from achieving my best, most authentic self. I think that is a topic for another post so I’d rather focus on a few tips to cope with the mental game associated with bad weather (or any weather) running. And spoiler alert, this list isn’t going to be your typical “bring a hat and gloves” type of list.
- Ask yourself some questions. Why am I running? Is it for me? Is it for someone else? Am I running to achieve some goal or for the sheer fun of it? This question is designed to bring you back down to why you began in the first place. Sometimes I find that my goal gets lost in the day to day shuffle of balancing life and a training plan. Boil it back down to the why and I can usually muster up the motivation I need.
Epic snowy day!
- Apply a mantra. Here is one I use frequently and please feel free to borrow: the only way through is through. I heard this phrase several years ago and began to apply it early on. In fact, I remember the first time I used this while running: I was training for my first marathon and I was out doing my first over 13.1 mile run. I started early so it was dark and I was alone on a typically popular but currently empty flat running trail. This phrase popped in my head and brought me a little measure of comfort as I set out on what felt like a very long run. I continue to use this mantra today and it often gets me through tough miles and moments.
Never ending road of snow. 6 weeks later this was all melted.
- Suck it the f**k up and practice some acceptance. OK here is where I get a little annoyed. It’s just rain/snow/sleet/heat/insert various weather phenomenon here, and it’s not going to hurt you*. Yes, running at -10 can be quite uncomfortable for a few minutes but it doesn’t last and because of the cold, I have seen the most incredible, breathtaking sunrises that make it well worth it. That is, if you are the type to enjoy beautiful sunrises. If not then this may not apply. During the long and cold NE Ohio winters, I continue with my 5am runs (for the most part-every now and then I move my run indoors because lets face it; waking up in March for the 89th day in a row of sub zero running can get a tad old). It’s definitely not easy to maintain this routine when you have to layer up and face sometimes howling wind and icy roads but the rewards are tremendous. Here are but a few: maintaining my summer fitness through winter allows an easier transition to spring marathon training. I get to continue to enjoy the camaraderie built upon the repetition of meeting friends to join me in this cold endeavor. And last (but not least), the views: the views in a crystal clear sky with sub zero temps are typically breathtaking.
- *sometimes weather can hurt you (see: lightening, hail). In that case, use your best judgment and don’t let this blog be your only reference.
- Know you aren’t alone out there. Are you familiar with the term “Run Streaker?” It’s used to describe someone who runs at least one mile per day, every day. For two years, I have done a streak from Thanksgiving Day to New Years Day and have found it really enjoyable and a fun challenge. There are some people who do it year round. My Uncle Bruce is one of those people. On September 14, 2016, he hit day 14,000 of consecutive running which is the number 1 streak in Ohio, and number 22 in the world. He runs a minimum of 3.5 miles per day with a weekly average no less than 40 miles. And he does it outside. So yes, even in the worst weather I can think of (January 2014 anyone???), he’s out there, getting it done.
After dodging an epic thunderstorm
- You can’t control the weather on race day so you should train for ALL variables. This one seems SOOOOO obvious to me. Why would one choose to avoid bad weather in training when you absolutely cannot make that choice on race day. There are some things you can’t plan for (such as the shit show that was the Cleveland Marathon 2016) but if you live in an area where the temperature can vary 30 degrees in one day, it’s a good idea to try to be acclimated to what’s going on outside of the safety of the treadmill. In this area, you really could face quite a few weather scenarios so I’d rather find out my socks don’t really absorb water all that well before the actual race day then the big day itself. How many times does one need to hear that adage “nothing new on race day” before they finally realize that testing out water logged socks on race day counts as new!
I think it’s important to be clear that some of my absolute best running memories involve ridiculous weather. Included above are some of my favorite funky weather running experiences