How Weather Affects your Running

We’re coming into a season that is really hard for me in terms of my running performance. The cold always seems to zap my speed. So I thought that this would be a good time to write about how you can expect different weather to affect your run. That said every runner can expect these things to happen and if they happen to you, you’re totally normal but you might find yourself a bit different than the norm too. All of this applies to me for example but I’m way less effected by the heat and the humidity than your average runner. That’s probably because summer is my favorite time to run. Another runner I know loves winter running and normally schedules her annual half in February, on purpose! No time of year is the right time of year for everyone but if you find yourself struggling in certain conditions you’re not alone so go easy on yourself! Better weather is always around the corner!

Spoiler alert I’m not great at effect vs affect, I tried! Also I’ve done whole posts about some of these topics so stay tuned for links if you want to learn more!

Wind

I live in a windy spot and of all the weather conditions I probably like wind the least. I actually wrote a post all about running in the wind and tips and tricks for dealing with it here. But today we’re going to talk about how to expect it to effect you. There is a running saying “up beats down and head beats tail.” The idea is that going uphill or into a headwind will zap more speed than is returned on the downhill or tailwind. It’s totally true. So running in the wind will slow you down a bit but that’s not all. The noise and sensation of the wind also makes you more mentally and physically tiered since you’re dealing with more inputs. Your out outfit also might be totally wrong for your return run as a stiff wind to the face can make it feel a lot colder than a nice push from behind. So overall expect to be slower, more tiered and have dry lips when you return home.

Rain

Running in the rain is actually mostly harder on the head than physically at least at certain temperatures and in the absence of other weather complications. If it’s warm enough and calm enough the rain can even make you a bit faster if you can manage to make it out the door. If it’s a warm day the rain cools you off and means you can push harder. Plus you get a super hero feeling that gives you that extra something. However when the mercury drops closer to freezing rain is actually a bit dangerous. Being wet in the rain can increase the chances of hypothermia which obviously can slow you down. If you’re going out in those conditions keep your run short and make sure you have all the gear to keep your core warm and dry.

Heat

Heat is a major, major issue when you’re running. Even if you can go as fast as normal you shouldn’t! We will often give up a run before we get in to trouble when it’s too cold but the same is not true when the weather is too hot. For me as long as I hydrate and wear just a sports bra I’m pretty much good to 27 C (81 f). Up to 34 C (93 f) I have to take it really, really easy and even stop by every beach and cool down. After that it’s just too hot to run for me. Hot weather running season is particularly dangerous because it precedes race season which means a lot of us are training during the hottest time of the year. It’s a really good idea to have an idea of your temperature ceilings for things like hard training, taking some walk breaks and running at all. Know the signs of heat exhaustion monitor yourself for them and make a plan to stay safe!

Humidity

Humidity is the least favorite thing of most runners out there. It is of course made so much worse by accompanying hot weather. However, some runners are effected no matter the temperature. Humidity is more of a concern on the warm end of things than the cooler end however it still is the difference between a relatively comfortable ‘dry cold’ and a bone chilling ‘wet cold’ I guess it’s called. That is what we have here on the coast! Usually humidity is hated by runners even more than heat. Technically humidity itself doesn’t make running harder but it does make it harder to cool off at a given temperature. Humidity is what adds into the ‘feels like’ temperature and does in fact make it harder to run. Personally, humidity doesn’t affect me as much as most. Humidity will slow your performance and make getting a breath, cooling down and running in general so much harder. So give yourself a break and let your perceived effort dictate your pace when it’s a soggy warm day!

Cold

I’ve been saying that heat and humidity don’t really seem to bother me too much but… boy does the cold get my goat! Lots of runners love a colder temperature because it lets them go just a little bit harder but for me that’s not the case! We have a saying in Canada there is no such thing as bad weather just bad outfits” but the runner in me has to disagree. Even when it’s just close to freezing and the route is totally clear and dry I can expect my time per km to be off by about 15-25 seconds. Cold weather really can go either way for runners and of course it’s too a point. There are lots of funny winter running memes such as “ Heavy snowfall warning issued: Stay off the roads, prepare for power outages, runners wear a hat,” or “still shorts weather.” Under certain slippery conditions we’re all going to lose time to the ice shuffle. Even though you might not find your self parched it’s important to hydrate just as you would in the shoulder seasons. Overall the cold might make you faster or slower, it’s a personal thing!

Goldilocks running weather

There is well studied perfect running conditions which are 10 c (50 f) but that’s for elites to run a marathon. If we’re ordering perfect weather we might as well ask for the slightest of breezes and a light cloud cover while we’re at it! However most of our runs aren’t all out or that long! You’re prefect running weather might be slightly different than that, mine is but I’m still not turning that down! You might even ask for something different for an easy training run compared to race day. As runners we like to think everything that happens out on the road is due to us but the weather on the day matters a whole lot! Whatever your perfect running conditions are when you get them you feel unstoppable, fast and like you could go forever. Whenever you get that personal goldilocks weather enjoy it!

How the conditions outside affect your running is both universal and specific to you. Add some of the possibilities together for a run and it gets complicated. Unfortunately no one has invented a climate controlled mobile weather bubble for running yet. If they did it might take away a lot of the fun! Do you think that we as runners (and athletes) just have to accept that the conditions we perspire in effect the outcome? What weather condition makes the biggest or almost no impact for you? Leave it in the comments below!

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