Several years ago I had a business meeting with the then
mayor of Tempe, Ariz., Hugh Hallman. At the time we met,
he was training to run a marathon and was leading a charity
organization that had raised a lot of money through a race.
He had only been running for five years but had come to
fully embrace the essence of running and the freedom, clarity
of thought, and daily satisfaction of accomplishment it
brought to his life.
As we concluded our meeting, he told me he was going to
meet his wife for an evening run together. I was amazed
that he still had plans to run after what had surely been
an exhausting day, but it was a good example of how he found
balance in his life. He shared that he absolutely had to
run, not only for his sanity but also because it was his
time to connect with his wife and talk about their days.
After they ran, he would go home and eat, shower and work
a few more hours before going to bed.
What’s the point of that story?
As long as you schedule for it and make it a priority, running
can fit into any schedule. Sure, plenty of things will get
in the way—the biggest variables for most runners,
regardless of ability or experience level, are weather,
illness, travel, and family or work commitments—the
key is knowing how to manage those situations. Sometimes
compromise is in order. The key question you have to ask
yourself is whether the workout or run will set you back.
You may have heard that running in harsh weather conditions
makes you tougher. But does it? While there are times when
you can gain a psychological edge by proving to yourself
that you are mentally strong enough to run on a windy day
or that you’re not going to curtail a workout because
of drizzle, trying to combat the elements often just breaks
you down mentally and can lead to lingering ailments or
even injuries. Your training, if prescribed correctly, should
be challenging enough without having to fight the weather.
That doesn’t mean that you can’t run if the
weather isn’t ideal. But you don’t always need
to go head-to-head with it either. Mother Nature is a powerful
and often relentless force. Yes, there is satisfaction in
running in cold weather, completing a good workout on a
windy day, or refusing to back down when the weather changes
unexpectedly. But there is a big difference between dealing
with the weather and fighting it. Dealing with it is empowering;
fighting with it is draining.
Fighting it: You’ve planned a long
run with a training partner on a standard loop in which
you know the mile markers. But when the time comes to do
the run, you find that the wind is blowing at 25 mph and
gusting even higher. Instead of changing your plans, you
head out with your partners and hope it won’t be as
bad as it seems. You get battered by the wind for two hours,
and worse, you don’t feel as strong as your training
partner, which undermines your confidence and leaves you
emotionally down in the dumps.
Dealing with it: Instead of starting a
long run in miserably windy conditions, you and your training
partner opt to either take a new route that is sheltered
from the wind or delay the run for a few hours to see if
conditions improve. This doesn’t mean you are weak
or lack toughness; it means you’re smart and want
to get the benefits of the long run without the detrimental
Fighting it: You have a tempo run planned
that you normally run at lunchtime, but the weather ends
up much warmer than expected. Defiantly, you head out in
the heat of the day and run the workout as intended. You
wind up cooked from your efforts, and the ensuing dehydration
and fatigue take their toll over the next several days.
Dealing with it: Instead of pushing on
through the heat, you consider pushing your workout back
a day or shifting the session until later that afternoon,
when it is cooler. You get the benefits of running at a
sustained tempo pace without the lingering negative effects
brought on by the heat.
Fighting it: You wake up on a morning
when you have a speed workout planned to find that a few
inches of snow have fallen overnight. Trying to prove to
yourself that you’re tough enough to run in wintry
weather, you forge ahead with the workout on your normal
loop. You find yourself frustrated with the pacing of your
intervals and irritated due to slipping around for an hour.
You also put yourself at greater risk of injury from the
Dealing with it: You decide to either
simulate the workout indoors on an indoor track or on a
treadmill or bump the workout to the next day.
There are times to break from your routine and times to
push onward. If unusual circumstances demand compromise,
be creative with your training. Using a treadmill is a great
alternative when dry ground and safe footing are not an
option or when heavy winds make it impossible to run with
a consistent gait. You will get a better workout on the
treadmill than slipping around on snow-covered trails or
being battered by the wind. What’s the bottom line?
Don’t consider the weather your enemy or an unnecessary
stressor that is impeding all the progress you’re
making toward your ultimate goals. Yes, weather can be an
obstacle and can change unexpectedly. Keep your perspective,
and don’t allow it to be more than a small variable,
a temporary impediment to work around. By adapting your
workouts with small adjustments or schedule changes, you
can still maximize your training efforts, avoid injuries,
and maintain your long-term psychological composure.