Should you train in bad weather?

Should you train in bad weather?

Do you go out running even if it's bad weather or are you quick to throw in the towel and stay inside instead?

It can be tough to know whether it's best to brave the elements and persist with your planned run, or if this time it's more sensible to take a rain check.

A recent running experience made me question where to draw the line...

The Pentlands

I've been trying to incorporate more hill runs into my training, and so last week I set off up the Pentlands (fairly sizeable hills just outside Edinburgh). I had already ran a similar route a couple weeks previous, and was surprised at the snow and drop in temperature while ascending the hills.

So this time, I went prepared: Skins compression tights, thermal UnderArmour compression top, running top windbreaker, trail shorts, Injinji trail socks, VJ Sport IRocks trainers, beanie, gloves and an OCR wrag for covering my face. As well as a running backpack with Gatorade and some snacks.

My wife, Harriet, also decided to join me, eager to try out her new trail shoes; and was also suitably geared out for a cold hilly run.

Pentland Hills - foothills

The start of the trail, snowing gently but not too bad.

However, despite feeling prepared, we were both in for a bit of a surprise once we got to the hills...

Climate [Un]Control

5 miles away in Edinburgh where we had came from, it was cold but clear skies and sunny. Parking the car near the start of the trail at the bottom of the Pentlands, it had already started to lightly snow.

As we started our run into the foothills, the climate seemed to completely change almost instantly. The falling snow became heavier, the skies became overcast, and there was suddenly a foot of snow everywhere. Initially we didn't think much of it, actually finding it quite funny.

Pentland Hills - foothills snow

The amount of snow in the foothills was surprising though we were still in good spirits.

Another 1km into the run, and a bit higher up, the visibility had dropped dramatically and it was difficult to see any further than about 10m. It was a strange sight, a complete "white out". Something I've never experienced before, and made me think how easy it could be for someone to loose their way in similar conditions on a larger scale hill or mountain range.

Harriet seemed to be showing signs of regretting coming along (like explicitly telling me this was a stupid idea haha), but we continued on, steadily ascending the hills.

Pentland Hills - losing visibility

The visibility quickly decreased as we ascended the hill


Unfortunately, as we neared the peak of the first hill, the weather took another sharp turn for the worse. Before we knew it, we were in the middle of a blizzard.

It was freezing cold, and the strong winds punished any exposed skin with ice and snow. There were no visible signs of any trail to follow and the visibility was next to nothing. Only because I had completed the same route a couple weeks before did I know roughly which way to go.

Harriet was not impressed at this point to say the least, and suggested we turn round and head back. I was beginning to doubt continuing myself, but I kept telling myself that this was a training run; and you don't get to control the weather on race days.

Pentland Hills - blizzard

The blizzard was interesting to say the least...

So still, we continued on, along the ridge line and then back again, 12km in total. At several points, slowed to a walk due to the biting winds and being more concerned with shielding our faces and eyes from the driving snow and ice.

On the home straight, back in the foothills, we did get briefly lost to the lack of visibility. Though persevering in roughly the correct direction we found the correct trail again.

Finally back at the car, we changed into warmer dry clothes, took on some post-run nutrition, and sat in the car with the heating on full for about 15mins. With us both still shivering, Harriet declared that next time, she probably won't tag along haha.

In Hindsight

In hindsight, the weather was possibly a bit ridiculous to be running in, and maybe borderline just stupid. If it wasn't just the Pentlands and a route I was recently familiar with, then the consequences of not being able to see where you were going and getting lost would've been a lot greater.

However, on the other hand, it was undeniably a great training run. I pushed myself, it was a great workout, and I did strangely enjoy it.  I was even able to smash my 10km time this week by an entire minute, pretty sure in part due to pushing myself during this hill run.

Being prepared for this run proved invaluable. The thermal compression gear I had on kept my core body temperature up, and the beanie and OCR wrag did a great job of reducing the sting of the wind. The only negative was that I could've done with thicker gloves, as my fingers ended up pretty numb.

If I hadn't been as prepared then this run could've been an entirely different story.

Pentland Hills - suitable clothing

The beanie and OCR wrag proved invaluable, protecting against the driving snow and ice.

So how bad is too bad?

In short, if it's dangerous at all or you're not prepared, really think about whether it's worth it. You can always substitute your run with some indoor cardio like the treadmill, rowing, cross trainer, or mix it up entirely and try something like bouldering.

If you are prepared (both in terms of attire and supplies/equipment for any eventuality), then don't be afraid to push yourself outside of your comfort zone. As long as you are safe, training in bad weather can actually be good for you and provide your body with an additional boost in energy.

In terms of obstacle course racing, some of the races do push your body to extremes. For example Winter Tough Guy and Winter Nuts Challenge, where combating the risk of hypothermia during the race is a real concern.

I'm by no means suggesting heading out for a run trying to replicate the risk of getting hypothermia! However if you can safely, under your own terms, push yourself to train in more adverse weather and conditions than you're used to, then by all means. After all, you don't get to pick the weather on race day.