Effective Tips for Running in the Rain

Effective Tips for Running in the Rain

Running is an outdoor sport – which means at some point, you will likely face running in the rain. Rain occurs in virtually every climate (although more often in some than others). While it may initially seem unpleasant to get wet while running, a rainy run does not have to be an awful experience. These tips for running in the rain will help you get your run done – and make it as pleasant an experience as possible.

Do exercise caution when running in the rain. If there is thunder, lightning, freezing rain/ice, severe winds, or risk of flash flooding, run on the treadmill or take an unplanned rest day. One single run is not worth the risks! 

Adjust Your Expectations (And Your Run, If Necessary)

A run in a downpour may not be the best run ever. But that does not mean it will automatically be the worst runs, especially if you adjust your expectations. Do not expect to set PRs and feel amazing the whole time. Know that your paces may be slower and you may need more mental grit – and there’s nothing wrong with that.

Depending on your scheduled workout, you may need to adjust your workout as well. Very fast, short efforts such as strides and short hill repeats may not be a great ideal when the ground is wet. You could risk straining a muscle on the slick ground. Intervals and tempo runs are likely okay, so long as you focus on effort (more below). However, you may find that a shorter cooldown is better; a long cooldown could make you feel too cold in a cool rain.

Focus on RPE, Not Pace

Rain’s effects on oxygen consumption and energy expenditure will vary based on the temperature. Cold rain and warm rain have different effects on the body during exercise. Based on these effects, your normal paces will feel different than in normal conditions.

According to a 2019 study in the Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness, cold rain increases the metabolic strain of running. The result of increased metabolic strain is decreased performance. You will run at slower paces with more effort. The researchers found that runners had higher oxygen uptakes, produced more lactate (a proxy measure for fatigue), and reported higher rates of perceived exertion when running at a moderate intensity in cold rain compared to no rain. Heat loss due to the cold rain and wet clothes and skin increased energy expenditure.

If you are running in a cold rain, anticipate that your normal paces will be slower than normal. Instead, focus on your rate of perceived exertion (RPE) to assess your intensity. Additionally, be sure to dress appropriately (more below) to minimize heat loss.

Conversely, rain in hot temperatures offsets the metabolic strain of running in the heat. In a 2015 study in Journal of Sports Sciences, researchers found that rain lowered heart rate compared to equal-intensity runs in equally (90 degrees Fahrenheit) hot weather without rain. While you may not feel as speedy as in optimal weather, you may feel better on rainy summer runs. As with the cold rain, RPE or heart rate will be your best guides for pacing.

Dress Appropriately

Runners often express concern about feeling weighed down by soaked clothes when running in the rain. However, if it is a cold rain, staying warm is a priority. If your core temperature drops too low, you risk hypothermia.

A rain jacket designed specifically for running is a worthwhile investment (such as one of these top-rated jackets). Many of these jackets are typically water-resistant, not waterproof. They keep most of the rain out, while also allowing some sweat to evaporate. For very heavy rains, you can get water-proof running jackets. No matter which type you choose, be sure to treat it regularly with Nixwax to maintain waterproofing.

In addition to a jacket, a few key gear choices can help you stay warm and relatively dry. A visored running hat keeps the rain off your face. Gloves will prevent clammy hands and maintain dexterity. Merino socks or similar fabrics can prevent blisters, even as your shoes get soaked.

In a summer rain, you may not need a rain jacket. If the temperatures are hot, a rain jacket can prevent necessary thermoregulation. Pick lightweight, wicking fabrics.

Avoid Sitting in Wet Clothes

Whether you ran in warm or cold rain, wet clothes can be a recipe for disaster once you stop running. When you stop running, your body stops producing as much metabolic heat. Without that metabolic heat, wet clothes can lower your skin temperature and cause you to chill. The solution is simple: change out of wet clothes as soon as you finish running in the rain.

If you ran a race in the rain or drove to your route, bring a change of warm clothes if there is any chance of rain. Most races have gear checks that allow you to quickly access dry clothes after you finish.

Use Anti-Chafing Balms Liberally

Chafing and blisters occur when excessive friction from skin or fabric irritates the skin. Any runner knows that chafing and blisters can be uncomfortable enough to want to quit a run. Fortunately, chafing and blisters can be prevented. Anti-chafing balms such as Bodyglide or Vaseline reduce friction on the skin. When you run in the rain, apply anti-chafing balm liberally to any sensitive areas: feet, Achilles, thighs, sports bra line, etc.

Have a Positive Mindset

Yes, running in the rain does not feel as great as a run on a clear, mild day. However, a negative mindset will make a rainy run feel worse. Focus on the positives of the run, such as being able to run, fresh air, etc. When negative thoughts creep in (such as “this is awful), acknowledge them and replace them with an alternative (“this is good practice if it rain on race day”).

If a negative attitude is too difficult to overcome, practice some dissociative thinking. Be deliberate in distracting yourself from the fact that it is raining. Listen to a podcast or audiobook, meet up with a friend to run, or plan a scenic route.

(If you are racing in the rain, read this full article with mental tips and more.)

With the right preparation and mindset, running in the rain does not have to be a miserable experience. Even if it is not your favorite condition for running, you can still have a decent run in the rain!

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16 Responses

  1. I have yet to figure out a way to prevent my hair from getting tangled when I run in the rain, especially when its humid. Braids don’t work for me, any kind of bun falls out when I run. The only thing that helps is if I comb out my hair before i shower; somehow that seems a little easier but I usually need to spray it with some kind of detangler.

    1. I resorted to cutting all my hair off last winter because my hair was always tangled from layers of clothing around my neck.

    1. Lake effect rain is always rough rain to run in! The wind off Lake Michigan makes the rain go sideways. I hope you can run soon though (and in sunny weather 🙂 )

    1. Hi Beth! I wear wicking socks such as the Smartwool Elite or the C9 Champion for Target DuoDry to keep my feet dry. These socks wick away sweat or any water from precipitation/puddles to prevent blisters. Hope this helps 🙂

  2. Might be heading out into the rain for training today. I’ll just have to invest in waterproof headphones for next time!

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