Wherever you are in the world, running involves coping with whatever the weather throws at you. Let’s face it, if you only run in ideal conditions, how much running will you actually get done? And in the northern hemisphere, the dominant weather right now is wintery. That can mean wet. Or cold. Or both at the same time.
We recently had the chance to catch up with Nicklas Fenger, Head of Marketing for Danish running brand SAYSKY. Based just 1,200km from the Arctic Circle, Nicklas and his colleagues know a thing or two about dealing with inclement conditions. For Nicklas’ take on getting the most out of running when the temperatures drop, read on.
Like the Wind: You are based in Copenhagen and the weather in the north of Europe can be a bit challenging at times – do you love or hate running when it is not perfect sunny conditions? Why is that?
Nicklas Fenger: It really depends on where I’m at, I’d say. I absolutely love horrible conditions when I hit the trails. But I guess this also comes down to the fact that you’re less focused on pace and it’s more about the flow and being extra focused on the path ahead to avoid slipping in the mud.
As for the city, it’s a different story. Although, if I put my mind to it, I tend to enjoy a run in the heavy rain. The quality of the session might go down, but there’s a mental aspect to it. It’s almost therapeutic. And you can’t beat the grind. Suffer patrol mentality.
Of course there are dreadful rainy days as well. But in general, it seems that rain has a positive mental impact on me, where I’m better able to take my mind off things – even more so, than when running in great conditions.
LtW: What are your strategies for getting motivated to run in the rain?
NF: I’m probably opposite a lot of people here – because I can look out the window and be genuinely excited about going for a run in the rain. It probably comes from my background as a football player, where the rainy days were extra fun. Also, the streets are quite empty and if you dress properly, then you’re usually in for a good one.
So, my motivation comes down to just enjoying sessions like these. Child-like excitement.
LtW: What are your favourite items of apparel for running in the rain?
Except for the few really cold months up here, then I’d always go for the short tights – and then a singlet or longsleeve, depending on the temperature. You’ll get wet pretty quickly, so I tend to choose tops that are a little more fitted and lightweight, so the fabric doesn’t bounce around too much.
When the temperature drops, I’d opt for tights, a mesh or merino base layer and then a protective jacket to keep out the wind and the rain. Normally, I’m OK with a less water-resistant, but more breathable, windbreaker, as I don’t mind getting wet. However, I could also go for a good three-layer water resistant jacket if I want to stay dry on the run. Especially, if I’m going for a longer and slower session.
LtW: Sometimes it’s not just wet, but cold as well – how do you suggest runners stay warm and dry if they are determined to go out in those wintery conditions?
NF: The layering system, as you know it from the outdoor industry – that’s the way to go. If your running wardrobe includes a good mix of base layers, mid-layers and jackets, then you can take on almost any weather out there. There’s no one-size-fits-all solution to this. It comes down to the daily conditions, the specific training session and whether you’re the freezing or overheating kind of runner.
Then just mix and match depending on your temper and the temperature. It’s always worth noting that it’s OK to be slightly cold in the beginning since you’ll quickly warm up as your core temperature rises. If you’re warm from the get-go, then you’ll most likely be too warm mid-session.
My own favourite combo in the winter is a 165gsm merino long-sleeve and a protective windbreaker. If we’re talking sub-zero degrees, then I’ll add an insulating mid-layer in the form of a long-sleeved T-shirt.
LtW: Perhaps cold is better than wet, would you agree and if so, why do you enjoy running in the cold?
NF: Cold is definitely better than wet. If you understand how to nail the layering system, then you won’t really be bothered by cold temperatures. Whereas being wet for prolonged periods of time, is not something most runners enjoy.
Generally, I prefer cold-weather running in the dark – which is pretty much the typical conditions four-to-five months a year up here. There’s just something serene about pounding pavement when it’s dark and cold outside. Plus, you don’t need to worry as much about hydration. Also – you can always dress up for freezing conditions, whereas it’s hard to stay cool on the really warm days, even if you’re almost stripped of all your clothes.
But it’s probably my Nordic upbringing. I’m pretty sure that most runners further south would disagree with me.
LtW: What are your recommendations for clothing to stave off the cold?
NF: Layering – I’d pretty much take the same approach as I have described for wet and cold weather.
LtW: If you could summarise the joy of running when the weather is not ideal, what would you say?
NF: Running is the type of sport where nothing is given. Everything is earned. Nothing happens by luck or miracles. It takes dedication and hard work – and few things symbolised the “everything earned” mantra more than taking on the harshest of conditions out there.
Whether your motivation is race day, mental wellbeing or just the daily grind – then you’re sure to reap the rewards from being consistent, even when the elements are against you.
But to be honest, it is a little bit beyond my understanding why I happen to enjoy the more miserable elements of the sport. I just know that I do – and to me, it’s all about the joy and the capacity it gives me to take on life in general.
Find your drive – and then the weather becomes nothing more than a wardrobe factor.
To find out more about SAYSKY, check out their website here.