A few days before she ran her 200th marathon this fall, I asked Leslie Miller if it was hard to stay active in the outdoors during fall and spring.
I expected the typical outdoor lover’s refrain: “There’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad gear.”
Instead, the 33-year-old Seattleite was much more concise: “No.”
She sees the Pacific Northwest’s cold and rain this time of year as a blessing, because the climate is hardly ever as harsh as many other areas.
“I prefer nice days, but I’m not going to stop running if it’s rainy,” said Miller, who has run a Washington marathon in each month. “We have a great climate here for running year round.”
Just because you can see your breath when you step outside this time of year, doesn’t mean you have to go running for the gym when you want to exercise.
Here are some tips for keeping your workouts outside during the winter and fall:
1. Don’t overthink it: Outdoor stores are packed with technical gear, much of it quite expensive, designed to keep you comfy and dry in unpleasant weather.
“I just grab a jacket and maybe a hat if it’s raining,” Miller said. “I don’t wear Gore-Tex because you’re going to sweat and get wet on the inside, under your clothes. You don’t need a bunch of those things out there. I think people sometimes overthink it.”
2. A simple list: You don’t necessarily need the most expensive, cutting edge gear in the latest colors to exercise outside, but there are some good items to have:
• Head cover: A hat to keep rain out of your face or a helmet cover, skull cap or cycling beanie to stay warm on your bike. (Important style note: Unless you’re a bike mechanic, cycling beanies should only be worn while you’re riding.)
• Glasses: Eye protection is good any time of year to keep rain and road debris out of your eyes.
• Layers: A jacket, pants and base layers are good to have on hand to allow you to layer up on cold days.
• Good footwear: Sure, maybe your usual running shoes are fine for a 5-mile run in the rain, especially if you’re not wearing cotton socks – try merino wool – but what about a two-hour bike ride? Shoe covers can help keep your feet warm when you ride.
3. Take care of your gear: Rain and road debris can shorten the life of a bike chain if you don’t take care of it. You can get de-greaser, lube and a chain cleaning tool for about $35. Adding a fender can keep you and the person riding behind you a little drier.
4. Be safe: If your outdoor exercise takes you to the road to walk, run or bike, make sure you are visible. It can be difficult for motorists to see you on dark, gray days, so dress accordingly. Colorful clothes, reflective fabrics, and lights (don’t forget the rear lights) make you easier to spot.
And if your workouts take you on to the trails, keep in mind the days are short and getting shorter. Plan to be done before dark and take a light in case you aren’t.
Give yourself a little extra time in poor weather and remember grates and painted markings on the road can be slippery when wet.
Paul Morrison, owner of Fleet Sports, once gave me some good safety advice that is often overlooked: “Dogs need to be safe too.” If you run with a dog, make sure it, too, is wearing something reflective.
5. Stretch: Don’t dash straight from your outdoor workout to the steaming shower. It’s important to stretch after your workout, no matter how tempted you are to skip it in favor of getting warm.
6. Have a partner: For many people, the hardest part about exercising in nasty weather is getting out the door. The idea of leaving the comfort of home or a gym to splash through puddles can be intimidating. A workout buddy can be just the motivator to get you out there.
7. Feel good about it: Most people aren’t biking, walking and running outside when the weather gets poor. If you are, you must be tougher than most. Maybe that’s not really true, but if you believe it, then it should be a little easier to convince yourself to exercise outside in the rain and cold.