Learn to love running in the rain!

Go ahead, try it. You won’t melt.
I just peeked out the window here at SB HQ, and it’s drizzling steadily. I’m due to head out for a run in about an hour. This prospect would fill many runners with dread, but I’m looking forward to it.

I love running in the rain! Splashing through puddles and getting wet and muddy makes me feel like a kid again. And being out in the elements is just another way to enjoy what the outdoors has to offer.

I’ll head outside for a run in almost any Bay Area weather (except thunderstorms, and if you need to be convinced not to run with lightning in the area, I have a book recommendation for you). Often the hardest part is just getting out the door and taking those first few wet or cold steps. The key to enjoying the elements is being prepared for them.

In so-called bad weather, there are three things that make us uncomfortable: being wet, being cold, and getting blisters or chafing. All three problems are easy to avoid or fix.

Being wet, actually, is not worth fixing at all, in my book. You’re going to get wet, possibly muddy, and definitely dirty, but who cares? Going out for a run is not the time to care about being clean or dry. You can try to stay dry with a rain jacket or pants, but even the most breathable waterproof layer will trap sweat and vapor inside when your body is generating lots of heat. Sometimes a jacket gets as wet inside as it gets outside. Unless the temperatures are very cold or the wind is blowing fiercely, I go without a jacket when I run.

The easiest way to fix being cold is to start running! I follow the 20-degree rule. If it’s 55 degrees out, I dress as I would if I were going to hang out in 75-degree weather. I’ll be cold for the first few minutes, but I like it that way. Once I start running, my body starts cranking out heat and I’m quite comfortable.

Staying well hydrated and fueled is key to keeping your body warm. So for longer runs in cold weather, I’ll pack an extra gel or two in my pocket and carry a bottle of water to fend off dehydration.

A lightweight way to stay warm is to cover just your hands and ears. Have you ever watched a big-city marathon on TV and wondered why the elite runners are dressed in nothing but teeny tiny shorts and a wisp of a  tank top, plus gloves and a knit cap? When your hands and ears are warm, the rest of you feels warmer, that’s why. Even just an earband makes a big difference. Just remember to follow the no-cotton rule, as wet cotton gloves are worse than no gloves.

In temperatures below about 55 degrees F, I throw on a long-sleeved shirt over what I’m wearing. It’ll keep me warm if I need it, or it can be peeled off when I warm up. I don’t reach for a jacket until it’s below 40. I am a warm runner, so your mileage may vary.

Most blisters can be avoided simply by following good footwear practices: make sure you’re wearing well-fitting running shoes and good, non-cotton running socks. Good running socks are thin and made of wicking material (synthetic or wool) that will reduce friction and keep moisture away from your skin. A shoe specialist here at Sports Basement or at any specialty running store can help you make sure you’re in the right shoe and guide you toward appropriate socks.

In addition to wearing good shoes and socks, you can add another layer of protection in blister-prone areas in the form of sports lubricants. We sell a few different products, and most of them will work not just on feet, but also on thighs, underarms, the spot right under your heart-rate sensor, and anywhere else you may chafe.

  • BodyGlide: Comes in a stick like a solid deodorant, safe to use with wetsuits, comes in SPF and non-SPF flavors.
  • Sport Shield: Comes in liquid form in a roll-on bottle, wetsuit safe.
  • Blister Shield: A silky powder, comes in a bag with a scoop for dumping into socks before you put them on. Good for feet but might be hard to apply to other areas.
  • BodyGlide Liquified Powder: Comes in a tube; you apply it like a lotion and it dries to a silky powder.
  • Vaseline (or Aquaphor): Vaseline is the most economical option out there, and the easiest to find at any drug store the night before a race in an unfamiliar town. It works very well but is NOT safe for wetsuits and may leave greasy stains on clothing.

    Some races stock their goody bags with tiny tubes of Aquaphor the size of a lip balm. I hoard these when I find them because they’re perfect for stashing in running-short key pockets for emergency anti-chafe protection.

Just like with socks, avoid chafing on your other body parts by wearing synthetics. Wet cotton will rub you raw. And finally, a hat with a brim will keep rain out of your eyes, which can be annoying.

So now you have no excuses for staying inside when the sky is falling outside. I’m heading out for a run, and I hope you’ll be inspired to get wet yourself!

Posted on 10/22/2010 in Running | Comments (0)


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