MMRF Endurance Events

Marathon Training Tips - Week 6

Week #6 – Training in Inclement Weather – Training in the Rain, Cold or In the Heat

We can control many aspects of our race-day except one major one — the weather. The good news is that if we prepare correctly we can help minimize these effects, especially the toll that cold and heat can take on our bodies.

Lance Armstrong supposedly said that when he wakes up during the Tour de France and it's raining outside, he knows he's already beaten half the field before the race has even started. Why? Because he's trained in all types of extreme weather conditions while most others have not.

You never know what the weather will be like on race day, so train in all conditions. Don't skip a run because it's cold or a little rainy or because it is hot. Always be safe, but do not skip a workout simply because you might be slightly uncomfortable. These workouts make you significantly tougher both physically as well as mentally. Come race day, you will look back on some of your toughest runs and know “If I got through that 3 hour run in 15 degree weather (or in 90 degree heat), this is going to be easy.”

Running in Cold Weather

Regardless of the old wives’ tales you may have heard, exercising outside in the cold, even severe cold, is not damaging to your lungs or "bad" for you. While it may be uncomfortable for some, it is indeed healthy. No matter how cold it is outside, by the time the air reaches your lungs, it is body temperature.

A few points about training in inclement weather:

  1. You can train on a treadmill: While you wouldn't want to train exclusively inside, mixing it up and running on a treadmill is perfectly fine. World-class marathoners train on treadmills inside to complement their training. You can even find great treadmill workouts on the internet and play with the speed and incline to get an amazing workout you would not get outside.

  2. Invest in inclement weather gear. What to wear: Since you will occasionally be training in cold and rainy weather, invest in some good technical clothing. Go to a reputable running specialty store and talk to someone who knows their stuff. Think "layers." These days there are great technical clothes that are not bulky, but that can keep you warm and dry. Get some good running tights, and a mid-weight technical shirt. Your jacket should not be so much about keeping you warm – it should be about keeping you dry, and/or keeping the wind off of you. A good 'half zip' shirt can be your most comfortable piece of running apparel. You can use a thin layer underneath in super cold weather, or run with it alone if it is not so cold. There are even socks that are no more bulky than 'normal' socks that are made for cold weather. A good lightweight hat and gloves are a must! Lots of heat can escape your body from your head, and your hands will be uncomfortable if they are too cold. If you heat up, simply stuff them in the back of your tights or in your pocket.

  3. Don't overdress for runs: The rule of thumb is that when you step outside to begin your run, you should feel slightly chilly. Your body will warm up as you run. If you are warm when you begin your run, you are overdressed.

  4. Don't forget to hydrate: Even when it is cold and rainy, you are still sweating and still need to hydrate before, during and after your workouts.

Running in Hot Weather

When we exercise, our working muscles produce heat and our core temperatures rise. Our body's major mechanism for dissipating this heat is by increasing the rate of blood flow to the skin to facilitate the evaporation of sweat. Thus, there is a major "contest" between the blood that needs to go to our working muscles and the blood that is going to the skin. We want as much blood to go to our muscles as possible!

Here are a few ways to minimize the effects of running in the heat. They apply to training as well as to race day.

  1. Be sure to hydrate before, during, and after all workouts.

  2. Wear light-colored loose-fitting clothing made from a performance (wicking) fabric. NO COTTON!

  3. Consider wearing a hat or visor on runs to minimize the sunlight's effect on your face.

  4. Try to do a few "acclimatization" workouts in the heat, preferably within two weeks of the marathon if race day could be a hot one.

  5. When the heat is oppressive, slow your pace down. This goes for training as well for the race day running effort.

  6. We lose electrolytes, especially salt, in our sweat. Excessive sodium loss can lead to muscle cramping. Consider hydrating (pre, during, and post run) with an electrolyte-beverage such as Gatorade.