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There are two types of people in this world: those who love running and those who would literally rather do any other form of exercise. Add a downpour to the mix, and a lol no, thanks is often in order. Waterlogged clothes, soggy shoes, and chafing (oh, the chafing) don’t make for the most enjoyable 5k.
However, in some places, you’d rarely ever get to run outside if rain were the main roadblock in your workout routine. There’s only so much time you can spend inside running on a treadmill watching “The Great British Baking Show.” (Who needs a reminder that cupcakes exist when you’re trying to be healthy?).
We chatted with the experts to get their best tips on running in the rain without it *totally* sucking.
“Running in the rain is a different experience — it’s something new, and the variety alone makes it more exciting,” Aaron Forrest, a Boston Marathon finisher and certified coach at Gixo, says. “It’s nothing to be afraid of, and with a little preparedness, you might even look forward to the raindrops.”
Plus, there’s an awesome benefit to running in the rain: It keeps you cool. “I actually ran faster in the crazy rain/wind storm this year compared to last year’s marathon, likely because my heart rate was lower throughout the workout. The heart has to work harder to cool the body in hot temperatures,” Forrest explains.
“Sure, you need a little more mental toughness, and it feels hardcore — but who doesn’t want to feel a little more hardcore?”
Accurate. Ready to get hardcore with your runs? Here’s how you can turn a run in the rain into something you’ll actually enjoy.
1. Embrace the fact that you’re going to get wet — and avoid overdressing
Wrap your head around it: You’re not commuting to your office with an umbrella and rain boots. So, yeah, you’re going to get wet if you go for a run outside when it’s raining. “I run in the rain quite often,” says Shaun Bohnsack, director of product for the Nature’s Gym category at Merrell.
“Living in Michigan, we have great fall weather and that leads to some fun rainy (and sometimes snowy) runs. If I’m going out for a short run on the trail and it’s not too cold, a lot of times I will just embrace the rain. Run in a long-sleeve, lightweight shirt, shorts, and shoes that drain well.”
Paul Ronto, content director at RunRepeat, says that you should skip the rain jacket on your run — contrary to what you might think.
“When you head out for a run in the rain, you are going to get wet — own it. All a rain jacket is going to do is help you overheat, and odds are, you’ll be carrying it or tying it around your waist before the end of your run,” he says. “Instead, layer correctly to ensure you are warm enough but not trapping in heat.”
2. Never wear cotton
Cotton absorbs water, which means that when you get wet (which you will) your cotton clothes will hang onto all that water and create a generally soggy experience. “Anyone who’s ever gotten wet in cotton knows that it doesn’t feel good,” says Gillian Goerzen, personal trainer and health coach who lives on the “Wet Coast.”
“Not only will you be more prone to chafing because the wet, cold fabric sticks to your skin — you’ll be more likely to chill. It sounds funny, but technical wool is actually fantastic because it doesn’t feel cold and soggy when wet.”
Ronto adds that materials like merino wool or polyester have thermal properties (even when soaked), making them a warmer, all-around better fabric choice for running in the rain. We especially love this shirt from Smartwool for cooler, rainy fall runs.
“As the saying goes, there’s no bad weather, only bad gear,” adds Mirna Valerio, ultra-runner and Merrell ambassador. “If you have the right gear for running in rougher weather, you and rain can be friends.” #Bezzies
3. Put on a baseball cap
It’s especially important to put a lid on your head if you wear contacts. “I’m a contact lens wearer, and there is pretty much nothing worse than rain in the eyes and irritated contacts,” Goerzen says.
“Hats rock in the rain — contact lenses or not,” Ronto says. “It won’t keep your head dry, but it will keep some of the rain out of your eyes, making it easier to see.” The cap should be wool or polyester, as a regular baseball cap will get soggy and hold water.
4. The right socks will save your life (or at least reduce the squelch factor)
Those cotton ankle socks you bought in a 12-pack were a great bargain, but they are absolutely not coming on your run in the rain.
It’s time to bust out your heavy-duty socks because if your feet ain’t happy… well, you know the saying. “Good socks are worth the investment!” Goerzen says. She’s partial to wool running socks (like these) and says that the no-cotton tip above is especially important when it comes to socks. (Say socks again. Socks!)
5. You don’t always need waterproof shoes
Waterproof shoes seem like an obvious choice for a rain run, but Goerzen says that’s not always the case.
“If you’re a roadrunner, a waterproof shoe can go a long way in keeping your feet dry,” she says. “But if you’re a trail runner, I’d personally recommend skipping the waterproof shoes. You’ll more than likely come upon giant puddles you can’t always avoid or small creeks. Consider that once the water is in, it needs a route out.”
Bohnsack runs in the Agility Synthesis Flex. “I find that the tighter mesh handles mud and wetness really well. Though it’s not waterproof, it works to keep debris out,” he says.
6. Get thee some Vaseline
Chafing is the most unfair thing that can happen when you’re out being a total badass running in the rain. Congrats, you motivated yourself to work out in the rain. Your reward: raw, burning flesh.
“Think about adding some petroleum jelly like Vaseline to areas like where your socks end on your ankles, under your armpits, and on your bra straps. Nothing ends a run quicker than hot spots and raw skin,” Ronto says. It’s available at your local pharmacy or online.
You can also pick up an anti-friction stick like Megababe Thigh Rescue for $22, which protects skin from chafing with a blend of aloe, vitamin E, and grapeseed oil.
7. Change up your mindset
Instead of being all, “Ugh, rain,” try to be more like: “Hey rain isn’t ideal, but guess what? My body is capable of cool things, and I’m not the Wicked Witch of the West, so some sky water isn’t going to melt me.“
You’re being active in less than perfect conditions, and that makes you stronger.
“Your focus should be on your run, how you feel, and the results,” says Andrew Nuñez, LA-based Barry’s Bootcamp and running coach. “See the rain as a tool and focus on how it can help you during your run by cooling you down as you clock in the pace you’re striving for.”
We know, we know. It’s pounding on the windows outside, and your central heating is *so* cozy. But what are the benefits of running outdoors? Well…
- Your blood pressure may return to normal quicker after a run outside than one inside, according to a 2013 research review.
- The same research review suggested that running in nature can reduce tension, anger, and depression.
- Running outside can help you develop more of a connection with nature, and that could work as a motivational factor for getting out of the house for exercise.
- A small study compared the bone metabolism of 68 long-distance runners with a control group of 40 peeps. They concluded that the long-distance runners showed markers of more efficient bone metabolism without harmful effects on the bone.
But a different research review of 28 studies concluded that a lot of the research is low quality when it comes to comparing running outside with indoor exercise. The general consensus is that outdoor exercise can be more enjoyable, but they can’t conclusively prove any benefits beyond that.
Try an experiment where you just run in the rain and see how it feels for you. If you find it does feel good, then keep it up. But the more consistently you exercise, the more benefits you’ll get from it. So, if puddles float your boat, don’t shy away from pounding the pavement.
Plus, if running in the rain becomes second nature to you, a run in pleasant climes will be a piece of cake, right? (Mmm, cake… seriously, stop it, “The Great British Baking Show.”) Being able, willing, and hyped up to run in the rain takes another excuse out of the deck.
Bear in mind, though, that running in the rain risks slippy ground and injury, especially if you’re running somewhere remote in extreme weather. Check out our favorite running shoes to find yourself a suitably grippy option. Also, make sure that you’re being cautious about manhole coverings and icy conditions, as these can increase your risk of slipping and falling.
Running in the rain can be tricky at first.
But if you’re prepped with the right clothes (including absolutely no cotton) and a winning mentality, it’s just another way to be a badass while working toward your fitness goals. The chafing can suck, so make sure you apply Vaseline to the more sensitive areas.
Nothing is taking you out of this lap. You’ve got this.
Allie Flinn is an LA-based beauty, fitness, and wellness writer. She’s passionate about working out, neutral colors, young adult novels, and her rescue dogs. Follow her fitness journey on Instagram @allieflinn.