Autumn and winter bring with them a new array of excuses as to why we shouldn’t exercise. But think again – exercising in the rain is actually more effective at burning calories. So grab your coat!
Scientists actually believe that there is no good reason not to go running in the rain. Yes, you’ll get wet – but just think of that lovely hot shower and cup of tea when you get home, not to mention that feel good glow of having gone out rather than remained cooped up in front of the telly.
One particular study by Japanese researchers, published in the International Journal of Sports Medicine, took seven runners in special climate chambers. They were asked to run in cold, rain-like weather conditions and also no rain, for thirty minutes each, measuring their breathing as well as skin temperature, oxygen consumption, muscle exertion and stress levels.
In the rain, the levels of exertion went up and they got much colder, but they also burned off more energy and felt cleaner.
In complete contrast from the heat and humidity of summer, running in the rain won’t be a health risk in the same way that running in unbearably hot conditions would be. There’s little chance of overheating – you won’t lose fluids in the same way, and you’ll be kept fresh and cool right through.
While it is believed that in cold weather athletic performance is affected, this is made up for by an increased level of fat burning.
Many studies have been trialled on the effect of running in various weather conditions, including dousing runners with cold water, or making them pound the treadmill in freezing temperatures.
So now you’re well up for a run in the rain – here are some tips to make it much more bearable.
· If it’s a torrential downpour outside, just wait until it passes – it’s all well and good running in light rain, but it’s pretty miserable battling against 90 degree rain hitting you in the face.
· Invest in a lightweight, breathable jacket that allows air flow so you don’t get too hot while running. Although it might be raining, you still don’t have to actually get wet if you’ve got the right jacket.
· Wear shorts or leggings that don’t flap around your legs. If you try running in the rain in a pair of tracksuit bottoms, your legs will feel like lead, and the water won’t wick away. Cycling shorts or Lycra both dry quickly and cling tight so you won’t feel like you’re dragging another person along for the ride.
· Depending on which sport you’re doing in the rain, think carefully about footwear. If you’re going out for a walk – sturdy hiking boots will do the trick, but if it’s a run, your trainers will most likely be lightweight and breathable – therefore letting in the rain. Focus more on your socks if you’re a runner. There are plenty on the market which can repel water and keep your feet at a happy temperature.
· It’s a given that you’d wear a hat in the summer, but wearing a baseball hat in the rain will save water dripping down your face and into your eyes. You can also wear sunglasses to prevent getting splashed in the eyes (although you might get a few strange looks!)
· On grey days it’s super important that you can be seen. Wear bright clothes and a reflective vest or jacket. Take a head torch if you’re running in the dusk or evening light, and give yourself the best possible chance to be seen by oncoming traffic.
· Hide your devices in a waterproof case. IPods, Garmin watches, headphones – they all need a bit of protection from the rain if you want your equipment to continue working. There are plenty of waterproof cases on the market.
· Try and run, walk or cycle in more sheltered areas, like under trees. It’s unwise to run on the side of a busy road, as you’ll end up being soaked by the first passing truck.
· Thunder and lightning can be really exciting but it’s really best not to go out in it. There’s every chance you might be struck by lightning, and that wouldn’t be a happy end to your exercise session! If the weather is that bad, head down to that local gym you've been meaning to check out all year!
· As with any kind of exercise, if you’re on your own be sure to tell someone where you’re going and roughly how long you’ll be. Try and take a phone with you (in a waterproof case) and above all, stay safe.
So now you’ve had all the tips and you know that exercising in the rain is beneficial, you should be set for the rest of the autumn/winter season. Before you know it, running in adverse weather will be your favourite type of fitness. If it’s not raining? Take it indoors to the gym, of course!
by Kath Webb
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