There are plenty of things that impact our workouts – we’re talking everything from pre-exercise fuel to the color of your surroundings – but one thing that could be changing the outcome of your fitness routine without you even knowing it is the weather. Specifically, the rain. And, no, we’re not just talking about the fact that rain can sometimes feel like a totally reasonable excuse to move your workout indoors (which isn’t half as bad as the times it feels like a reasonable excuse to skip the workout altogether). On the contrary, it turns out that rain might actually improve your workout.
Here’s the deal: during a run, rain can work to cool working muscle, which leads to reduced muscular contractions and calls for more motor units in your body to get to work in order to meet the necessary energy output during your run. Put a little (or, a lot) more simply, rain can basically drive your body to use up more energy while you’re running. More energy output, more calorie burn. Simple as that.
That being said, there is a pretty big catch: most research on the effects of rain on a workout tend to revolve around rain’s impact on energy expenditure in colder environments. And it makes sense since lower temperatures further contribute to higher energy output through things like shivering or the stimulation of brown fat metabolism, both of which your body does in an effort to warm itself up when it’s feeling a little cold.
The good news is that even if rain isn’t necessarily going to boost your calorie burn in the approaching spring and summer months as it would in the dead of winter, there are some other payoffs that come from a damp run. For example, rain can take the place of sweat as a cooling system for your body, which means that your body can focus less energy on regulating your body temperature and more on keeping your blood flowing to your working muscles. That might then help you run longer and faster. Another payoff? Having to deal with obstacles like slippery roads and trails helps your body learn to react better during a workout.