The season of fun in the sun is drawing to a close, which means the ideal outdoor running weather we've been enjoying all summer long is slipping behind us. As we move into autumn and closer to winter, it can be difficult to find the motivation to get outside and get in a good run when the cold and rain closes in. And with holiday feasts looming just around the corner, now is the most important time of the year to get in some exercise.

When running outdoors becomes difficult, uncomfortable, or unsafe, the simple solution is to buy a piece of indoor exercise equipment such as a treadmill, elliptical, or stationary bike. For the days when you do feel like striking out into the elements, however, there are a number of things you should do to make your run safer and more comfortable.

  • Dress the part.
    Avoid wearing cotton, which holds in moisture and keeps you wet. Instead, wear a thin layer of synthetic material designed for wicking sweat from your body, such as polypropylene. Cover this up with an outer layer of something breathable like Gore-Tex or nylon, which will keep out the wind while releasing heat and preventing overheating.
  • Cover your head.
    Keep in mind that your body loses the majority of its heat through your heat—about 40%--and while you don't want to overheat, you also don't want to lose so much that you can't keep your circulatory system warm. Wear a hat in cooler weather, and when it's really cold consider a facemask or scarf.
  • Check your tread.
    When everything freezes over, black ice can be extremely dangerous to runners. Even a layer of frost can lead to slips and falls. Make sure your soles still have plenty of tread, and consider getting a pair of special slip-resistant shoes if ice is a regular occurrence.
  • Be wary of frostbite.
    If it's extremely cold, be on the lookout for frostbite on your toes, fingers, nose, and ears. A bit of numbness is usually not an issue, but if they don't begin to warm up a few minutes into your workout, or if you spot any patches of cold, pale, hard skin, frostbite might be setting in.
  • Get out of those wet clothes.
    If you're out in the rain or snow, or if you're sweating in the cold, you increase your chance of slipping into hypothermia. Don't spend too much time out in the cold if you're wet, and once you're inside get out of your wet clothes quickly.

In the end, running in bad weather is all about using common sense and taking precautions. If you're worried about your comfort or safety, however, it might be best to make fall and winter the seasons of the treadmill.