You can avoid running in most objectionable weather conditions with a little planning. But running in the wind is almost inevitable, no matter where you are and what the weather is like.
It can be cool and overcast, hot and sunny or freezing cold and snowy, and you will still face wind. The wind accompanies every season, every temperature and every precipitation pattern.
A lot of runners initially avoid running in the wind because the run is hard.
And there is no denying that; running in the wind requires more energy and a certain mental toughness. But, running in the wind also makes you a stronger runner, both mentally and physically.
So, before deciding to hit the treadmill, consider the benefits of a run in the wind and challenge yourself to give it a try!
How will running in the wind affect your run?
Running in the wind is hard, whether you run directly into it or if it is at your back. The wind literally blows you around, pushing your forwards or backwards and making it incredibly hard to maintain your pace and stride.
And it doesn’t have to be a strong wind, either. A soft wind or even a small breeze will affect your run. (Any kind of wind resistance makes running a consistent pace difficult).
When running in the wind, your body actually has to work eight percent harder to maintain the same pace it would if there was no wind at all. (This means you will use more energy)
And the longer you run, the more wind impacts not only your energy use, but also your pace, times, and even your body temperature.
If the wind is blowing against you at the same speed that you are running at, you will actually run 12 seconds slower.
But you’ll gain six of these seconds back when you turn around because the tailwind makes you run six seconds faster than your normal pace!
We don’t always encounter winds at the same speed we run though. So, here’s a chart to help you see how much the wind will slow you down:
5 mph wind = 0-15 seconds per mile
10 mph wind = 20-30 seconds per mile
15 mph wind = 30-45 seconds per mile
20 mph wind = 50-60 seconds per mile
25 mph = more than a minute per mile
Many scientific studies show that running against the wind requires more energy, which increases oxygen consumption.
Breathing while running is hard but breathing while running against the wind is even harder. Especially if it is a strong, winter wind.
Difficulty breathing, extended effort to run the same distance, and the resistance of the wind itself all make running in the wind difficult.
But not impossible.
Reduce wind resistance
When you are running in the wind, the force you feel against you is known as ‘wind resistance’ or ‘drag’. (The goal, then, is to make yourself as ‘aerodynamic’ as possible)
C.R. Kyle and V.J. Caiozzo found that a runner can actually reduce wind resistance from about 0.5% to over 6% simply by improving one’s aerodynamics.
1. Wear comfortable, fitted clothing. Baggy clothing can get caught in the wind, flapping and wrapping around you.
2. If you have long hair, braid it. A ponytail will be fine, but can whip around and create a tangled rat’s nest.
3. Shave your legs. Yes, even the hair on your legs can offer wind resistance and slow you down.
Avoid the wind
While you might not be able to avoid the wind entirely, there are a few ways you can avoid as much wind as possible while you are running.
Adjust your route
One of the best things you can do is adjust your route so that you don’t have to run directly into the wind. Try to take a route that puts you at a cross wind.
For example, if the wind is coming from the North and blowing towards the South, rather than running North or South, run East to West.
Another way to adjust your route is to run where there is more shelter or barriers from the wind.
If your usual running route is in wide open spaces, try running in a residential section or an industrial park, where there are more buildings that can offer relief from the wind.
You can also hit the trails or run through a city park.
If all else fails and the wind is really strong, consider asking a friend to pick you up. Then, start your run with the wind to your back, so that it pushes you.
Rather than turning around at your usual point, keep going and finish your run with the wind. Then, phone your friend to come get you. (You might have to give them gas money!)
Run the first half into the wind
If none of those are a good option, then I recommend running your first half into the wind.
You’ll feel stronger if you tackle the first half of your run when you have the most energy. Then, when you are exhausted and turn around, you’ll have the wind pushing you home. (It’ll be a breeze!)
Getting the hard part over isn’t the only reason I recommend running into the wind on the first half. The other reason is to regulate your body temperature better.
If you run the first half with the wind, get all sweaty, and then turn into the wind on your way home, that wind is going to cool you off quickly.
But, if you run into the wind the first half, then turn around and run with it on your way home, you’ll have some nice tailwind to help push . This will keep you warmer.
A study by Pugh found that increased wind meant increased exertion. He discovered that running in 10 mph winds is 4 times as difficult as running in 5 mph winds.
And running in a steady breeze at a 5:40 mile is twice as hard as running in a steady breeze at an 8:00 mile.
However, in the same study, he discovered that running about 1 kilometer (or slightly over a half of a mile) behind another runner will eliminate about 80% of the wind resistance! And it will require 6.5% less energy.
When you run behind another runner like that, it is called ‘drafting’. And if you have to run a race on a windy day, you have little control over your route.
So, often the best you can do is run directly behind another runner, to reduce wind resistance and conserve your energy.
You can use drafting any time you run in a group; it doesn’t have to be just race day.
How to dress for windy days
Just like any incremental weather, it is best to prepare for the wind, whether it’s hot and windy, cold and windy, or rainy and windy.
The wind actually makes it feel five to ten degrees cooler than it is. So, check the ‘feels like’ temperature on your weather app.
Your clothing should keep you warm, retain your body heat, and reduce drag. It’s best to dress in layers if it’s chillier outside. This way, you can remove layers as you warm up.
Your base layer should be form fitting and made from wick away fabric, so that it doesn’t trap sweat against your skin. The outer layer can be a heavy pull over, a light windbreaker or a light jacket, depending on the temperature.
You don’t want too many layers, hoods or baggy clothing, because it will drag in the wind.
If it’s chilly out, you may also want gloves, even if you wouldn’t normally wear them. Oxygen is shunted to our legs while we run, so our fingertips are left without as much and get cold faster.
You might also want to consider a neck and face covering, especially in the winter months, to keep the wind from chapping your face.
Thicker, wool socks will keep your feet warmer in a cold wind, and earmuffs or a wide headband will keep your ears protected.
And finally, grab a pair of running sunglasses. They will protect your eyes from a harsh wind.
Mentality and effort in the wind
Running in the wind is hard, but not impossible. And just like everything else with running, it is just as much mental as it is physical.
Your reaction to the wind is what will determine how this run goes, not the wind itself. So, stay positive and relax! It’s all a head game.
Start by reframing the entire situation. Running in the wind will make you stronger. Focus on that. The more you do it, the stronger you will become.
Use positive self-talk. Remind yourself that you are tough. You are resilient. And you’ve got this.
And then reframe your goal. If you intended to finish this run in a certain time, you may need to reconsider.
Run by perceived effort, not by hitting a certain benchmark. It’s better to finish your run strong than it is to push yourself to meet a certain time and potentially injure yourself in the process.
A slower run is far better than a run cut short.
You will know you are working hard enough if:
- you can’t carry on a normal conversation
- your breathing is faster and harder
- you’ve worked up a sweat
- your muscles are tired
- your heart rate is increased
Don’t pay any attention to what your times say. When running in the wind, you should gauge the success of your run by the effort you put into it.
Your finish time does not make or break you as a runner. So, work hard, push yourself, and enjoy your run.
Physical adjustments for running in the wind
A lot of people run in the wind all wrong. The wind is pushing back on you as you are running, and so the natural instinct is to double down, hunch over, and lean into the wind.
But this can actually cause more harm than good. Hunching down like this can tire your muscles out sooner and use more energy. It even causes stress to your body, setting you up for an injury.
If you find yourself doing this, take a deep breath and exhale. Roll your shoulders down your back. Release any tension in your hands and jaw. Try to straighten yourself up as much as you can.
Pay attention to your stride and the way you swing your arms as well. You want to shoot for a relaxed stride and swing.
It’s okay to lean into the wind slightly to make it through. But try to avoid hunching down and clenching up.
There’s no doubt that running in the wind will require more from you. You will use more energy and double your effort. The wind resistance will slow you down.
To prepare for your run, make yourself as aerodynamic as possible. Choose clothing that is form fitting and warm. Dress in layers.
Try to avoid the wind if you can, by changing your route or by drafting behind another runner. If you must run head-on into the wind, do it on the first half of your run, so that the wind is at your back on the second half.
Remember to let go of your original goals and run based solely on your perceived effort. And keep a positive attitude! Look at this run as way to build muscle, endurance and character.
Running in the wind is unavoidable if you are an outside runner. There’s no way to escape it. You might as well embrace it!
It’ll make you a stronger runner, both physically and mentally.
So, get out there and run!