Coach Tip Tuesday: Take Weather Forecasts with a Grain of Salt
Hello! Can you believe that it’s already time for Coach Tip Tuesday again?
This past weekend, four of the athletes who I work with completed the Lake Effect Half Marathon in Syracuse, NY. This half marathon takes place each February. That’s right: a half marathon right in the middle of winter in the city that receives more annual snowfall than any other city in the contiguous United States.
There are a few things that come along with signing up for such an event. First of all, the athlete must be prepared to train through the winter, a season when motivation is typically lacking and exercise tends to go by the wayside. And perhaps most importantly, signing up for a race like this means that the athlete must be prepared to race in any/all conditions.
Over the years, I’ve worked with my fair share of athletes who pay very close attention to weather forecasts. They will look at forecasts up to two weeks in advance of their race day, and they will monitor weather forecasts all the time as they relate to their training workouts. They don’t want to train in conditions that are adverse. i.e. If a rainstorm is in the forecast, they will seek to avoid training during that time frame. If there is snow in the forecast, they will seek to run at a time when the roads are not snow-covered. If it’s going to be very hot, they will look to avoid training in that heat. And perhaps most importantly: They do not want to race in conditions that are not ideal.
What I’ve learned over the course of my life is that weather forecasts are RARELY correct until the final 24 hours prior to the day in question. And as someone who has resided in the Northeastern United States for her entire life and in Syracuse for the last ten years, I’ve also learned that the weather is very unlikely to be "ideal." If I spend my time seeking ideal weather for all of my workouts and all of my races, I’ll never find it, which will lead me to miss enough training that I would not have any business racing.
As such, it’s my personal practice not to look at weather forecasts. I literally look out the window and see what it is doing, and that’s what I’ve been doing for years now. And although this is what I personally do, I know that not everyone will do this. So I have some advice for the rest (majority) of the population:
Don’t obsess over the weather forecasts. And try not to obsess over the weather itself. Instead, learn to embrace any/all conditions. If you train in anything, you’ll be prepared to race in anything. Now, of course, I am not advocating seeking to train or race in conditions that are legitimately unsafe (and what is legitimately unsafe varies based on the sport of choice). But if it’s windy? Learn how to handle that condition in your sport of choice. If it’s hot, use it as an opportunity to learn how to manage your effort and what works best for your nutrition/hydration in those conditions. If it’s raining, look at that as a chance to learn how to handle your bike in those conditions or how to run through it. And if it’s snowing, get out there and learn what you must do differently to handle snow-covered surfaces. ALL adverse weather conditions will generate a significant mental training deposit into your athlete’s training bank, which you can save up for the future to cash in on. :)
The fact of the matter is this: you very well may encounter adverse weather conditions on race day. For some athletes (such as those who sign up for a half marathon in February in the snowiest city in the contiguous United States), you are practically GUARANTEED to have adverse conditions on race day. You’ve all heard me say it before: don’t try something new on race day. This extends to the weather; ideally, you should not be experiencing a weather condition on race day that you have not trained in.
Many, many of the athletes who I have worked with over the years can testify that I have told them this throughout their training. They will also likely testify that I was NOT their favorite person when I was advocating that they get out and ride in a rainstorm, run on snow-covered streets, or swim in rougher open water conditions. But I also know that ALL of them will also testify that when they encountered adverse conditions in their races, they were confident and able to handle it (all while watching their fellow athletes racing panic over the same conditions). That confidence was earned over time by getting out there and facing adverse weather in their training.
The weather is the only thing in our training and racing that we have absolutely ZERO control over. ZERO. As such, it makes sense to not let it be a stressor. Instead, embrace the opportunities for mental and physical growth that can present, and let it make you stronger. Don’t obsess over the weather; train in anything, and you’ll be prepared to race in anything.
Coach Laura Henry
Laura Henry is a Syracuse, NY-based coach who is a USA Triathlon Level II Long Course and Level II Paratriathlon Certified Coach, USA Cycling Level 2 Certified Coach, VFS Certified Bike Fitter, and has successfully completed NASM's Certified Personal Trainer course. Coach Laura is passionate about helping athletes of all ability levels reach their goals and has coached many athletes to success.