How To Run in All Seasons

Full length shot of a young woman running in the rain

AJ_Watt / Getty Images

If you're a runner, you may particularly enjoy running outside especially when your only other option is a treadmill. While treadmills are a convenient option in bad weather, they are hard to use if you need to log long miles or work on pacing.

The good news is that treadmills are not your only option in bad weather. With the appropriate precautions, you can run any time of year. Here are some tips that allow you to run safely and comfortably in all types of weather and in every season.

Tips for Running in Cold Weather

Just because temperatures drop doesn't mean you can't lace up your running shoes. Sometimes the biggest challenge about running in cold weather is getting motivated to get out there in the first place. Once you take the plunge, you'll keep running all winter long.

Plus, running throughout the winter is an excellent way to keep up your fitness levels and improve your mental health when the days get dark and dreary. In order to get the most out of your winter runs, there are few things to know.

First off, because your muscles are extra tight in the cold, be sure to get in a good warm up before taking off. This will prevent injuries and soreness the next day. Next, you'll want to plan the time of day you will run and ensure you have the proper equipment.

If you are used to 6 a.m. runs in the summer, you may want to consider a different time in the winter. Not only is early morning much colder in the winter, it will also be dark. Also make sure you have the proper safety equipment including reflective gear and even a headlamp for safety on your run, if you still plan to run when it's dark.

You will also want to dress strategically to avoid being too cold or overheating during your run. Think about how you feel after 1 mile in and dress for that temperature.

Some good ideas are a warm base layer, such as a polyester or nylon blend long-sleeve shirt, a sweatshirt, and a breathable jacket. You want to dress in layers so that you can take things off if you get too warm. Also consider a warm hat or headband to cover your ears and gloves to keep your hands warm.

Take your first few winter runs slower as your body adjusts to the colder temperatures and focus on having good form, as always. It is also important to note that it will be harder to run at a faster pace when it's cold, so recognize that your times may be slower. This fact does not mean you cannot work on your pacing or do some occasional speed work in the winter, though. You just need to know that cold weather will limit you somewhat.

Just watch out for icy or snowy spots which can lead to falls if you are not careful. And, make sure you know the signs of hypothermia. Also, your body may not feel thirsty in the cold, but remember that you still need to hydrate during runs of 45 minutes or longer. After your run, change out of your sweaty clothes right away if you are able, drink warm liquids, and do some light stretching. You also may want to consider showering as well.

Tips for Running in Hot Weather

Running in hot weather certainly has its advantages—no worrying about slipping on ice or snow and longer days make it easier to get runs in before or after work. With some planning, you can protect yourself from heat-related injuries and illnesses and safely run in high temperatures.

During the summer and in hot weather, it is better to plan to run in the early mornings or evenings when the temperature is a bit cooler and the sun isn't strong. Wear as light of clothing as possible, focusing on light colors and materials. Be sure to apply sunscreen and wear a hat to protect yourself from the sun's rays.

Naturally, you will sweat much more in order to cool your body down, so make sure you are hydrating adequately during your run—about 6 to 8 ounces very 15 to 20 minutes. If you are running longer than 45 minutes, you'll want to have an electrolyte drink or chew with you in addition to water.

When fueling for your run, try to get about 30 to 60 grams of carbohydrates per hour of running. You may need more or less depending on your distance and fueling adequately is extra important when running in hot weather.

You may notice your pace slows down significantly or you aren't able to run as far when it's extremely hot. Adjust your expectations and embrace the slower paces, knowing you will likely speed up when it cools down.

Keep in mind, too, that a large part of training is related to your heart rate during training. Even though your pace may be slower, your heart will still work as hard or maybe even harder in the heat, so you are still benefitting from your run even if it is at a slower pace.

That said, if running in hot temperatures sounds like it will be miserable, train inside. There is no shame in running on the treadmill or doing some cross training instead.

Tips for Running in Humid Weather

Running in humidity brings on added challenges to already hot weather. When we sweat, the droplets bring body heat to the surface of the skin where it evaporates to cool us down.

Humidity prevents the sweat from evaporating, keeping your core body temperature hotter for longer. This can become dangerous when your blood flow is reserved for essential organs, and your mental and physical abilities decline.

It's not all bad news though. Some people handle humidity better than others and there are many ways to stay safe while running in hot and humid weather. Start by checking the weather report and look beyond just the temperature outside.

Check out the heat index, which combines temperature and humidity to give you a better idea of how it actually feels outside. If the heat index is above 40%, it could have a negative impact on your run.

In very humid conditions, try to run the morning or in the evening, find a shaded path, or run close to the water if possible. Wear light clothes and stay hydrated. This may even mean wearing a hydration pack or planning hydration points along your run.

Keep in mind, your heart rate may be higher, which will make your perceived effort feel greater, so you may need to slow down or decrease your distance. Naturally, this will impact your pace as well. But the more often you run in hot and humid conditions, the more efficiently your body adapts. Come cooler, fall weather, your runs may feel like a breeze.

Tips for Running in the Rain

Rain is frequently a good excuse to stay inside, but some runners enjoy a wet and refreshing run. Depending on the temperature, you'll definitely want to dress accordingly. Choose quick-drying fabrics such as nylon or polyester blend that won't soak up a lot of moisture leaving you freezing by the end of your run.

In cooler rain, you may want to wear a lightweight rain jacket that will keep you dry and comfortable underneath. Choose socks that will dry quickly as well in case they get wet during your run. It's also a good idea to warm-up before a run, particularly in cold and wet weather.

Don't skip some dynamic stretches and movements and start with a relaxed jog. Ideally, pick a route you know well so there are so surprises during a rainy run. Watch for any uneven road and puddles that will soak your socks and shoes.

After your run, wipe off any mud and change out of your wet clothes as soon as possible. As with any run, don't forget to hydrate and cool down with some light stretching and foam rolling. Sometimes soreness after a cold run can really kick in the next day!

When To Skip A Run or Stay Inside

While "too cold" or "too hot" usually comes down to personal preference, there are some conditions where it is advisable to head to the treadmill or skip the run completely. The risk of frostbite increases below negative 18 degrees Fahrenheit, so you'll want to stay inside if temperatures reach this extreme cold. And it is considered too hot to run if the the temperature is above 98.6 degrees and the humidity is above 70% to 80%.

A Word From Verywell

If you love running outside, there is no reason you can't do it all year long. With careful planning, you can enjoy running in hot, cold, humid, and rainy weather. It is essential to ensure you are dressed smartly and have adequate fuel and hydration, even if your body isn't telling you it is thirsty.

Keep in mind that running in extreme weather adds both a physical and mental challenge. Listen to your body and adjust pace and distance when necessary. There is no shame in needing to slow down or cutting a run short if you aren't feeling well.

Also, be aware of the warning signs for heat exhaustion and hypothermia. Heat exhaustion may include fatigue, nausea, dizziness, headaches, and confusion while symptoms of hypothermia make look like excessive shivering, exhaustion, confusion, slurred speech, and memory loss. If you experience any of these symptoms, end your run immediately and get medical attention.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Is running in the cold good for you?

    There are many benefits to running in the cold. Colder weather puts less stress on the body and may make running feel easier compared to running in heat. Plus, running outside helps you stay active in the colder months when its more tempting to stay inside. Because running is also great for mental health, it helps to release hormones that combat depression and seasonal affective disorder.

  • Is it OK to run in 90 degree weather?

    As long as certain precautions are taken and you have adequately planned, it is fine to run in 90 degree weather. You'll want to ensure you are dressed correctly in lightweight clothes and have fueled and hydrated enough. Children and elderly should avoid running in extremely hot weather, though.

  • What weather should you not run in?

    In general, you should stay inside in extremely hot or extremely cold temperatures. The American College of Sports Medicine advises against running outside if the windchill is below negative 18 degrees Fahrenheit. For hot and humidity, when the Heat Index exceeds 105 degrees it is best to take your workout inside.

    You should also assess safety during rainstorms, snowstorms, and very icy conditions. It may not be a good idea to run in these elements due to uneven roads, lack of visibility, and risk of slipping and falling.

5 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Thomas DT, Erdman KA, Burke LM. American College of Sports Medicine Joint Position Statement. Nutrition and Athletic Performance [published correction appears in Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2017 Jan;49(1):222]. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2016;48(3):543-568. doi:10.1249/MSS.0000000000000852

  2. Thomas DT, Erdman KA, Burke LM. American College of Sports Medicine Joint Position Statement. Nutrition and Athletic Performance [published correction appears in Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2017 Jan;49(1):222]. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2016;48(3):543-568

  3. Cheshire WP Jr. Thermoregulatory disorders and illness related to heat and cold stressAuton Neurosci. 2016;196:91-104. doi:10.1016/j.autneu.2016.01.001

  4. National Weather Service. What is the heat index?

  5. American College of Sports Medicine. Exercising in hot and cold environments.

By Rebecca Jaspan, MPH, RD, CDN, CDCES
Rebecca Jaspan is a registered dietitian specializing in anorexia, binge eating disorder, and bulimia, as well as disordered eating and orthorexia.