In 2013, as I lined up for the NYC marathon the only thing on my mind was WIND.
I knew my legs could handle 26.2 miles, but was the never ending forecast for 20mph winds and 35mph gusts going to blow my hopes a PR away? Running a marathon in the wind adds another level of physical and mental stress. (I won’t leave you in suspense, I PR’ed, but just by seconds and the wind certainly slowed me down.)
Which of course lead me to once again put my nose in a book and start researching how to handle wind next time. Just how much effect does wind have on our time? Do we need to dress differently?
I’ve got the answers!
What’s the big deal about a windy run? I think Coach Jack Daniel’s says it well:
“Of the many adverse weather conditions that runners face, probably the only one that every runner is confronted with at one time or another is wind — and if there’s anything that interrupts training or racing more than wind, I have yet to meet it.
Wind is as much a part of running in Oklahoma as heat is in Florida or Arizona. You learn to work with the wind, and you learn to avoid it when you can.”
How much will wind effect pace?
There are a number of scientific studies which show it absolutely slows you down by creating a higher need for oxygen when running in to the wind and gives you a little boost when running with a tailwind. These studies are not written for the average runner to understand, hence my very simple DUH explanation above.
A few different calculators provide some ideas on how much in could slow you, but remember there are a lot of variables! Here are the potential effects running in to a headwind:
Running in 10 mph wind: 20 seconds per mile
Running in 15 mph wind: 30 seconds per mile
Running in 20 mph wind: up to 1 minute per mile
Tips for Running in the Wind
Fall, Winter, Spring if you’re heading out on brisk day for a run with winds and you remember nothing else…remember this.
Golden rule of windy day running: Run in to the wind on the way out.
There are two reasons this rule has served many runners so well:
- Effort – Expend the harder effort on the way out to ensure you don’t find yourself mentally and physically feeling defeated on the return trip.
- Body Temp – Because it can feel colder running in to the wind, it’s helpful to have it at your back as you return and are now sweaty. Wind + sweat can create a shiver effect that not only wastes energy, but forces your immune system to kick in to overdrive.
Beyond the golden rule, there are a few other tips which can make a windy run more enjoyable…bearable. You’ll notice a lot of this focus on ways to mentally make the run better, which is a huge part of a successful run anytime.
Lucky enough to run with a group on these days? Take turns being in the lead, so those behind can get a little buffer from the wind (it’s a common cycling practice). Run 2-3 feet behind the other runner.
An actual study done on this by L.G. Pugh showed a 6% decrease in oxygen consumption when drafting off another runner. In plain English, they didn’t have to work as hard!
Tight fitting clothing will have less drag. Layers will wick away sweat, but keep you warm.
Outer layer can be anything from a light wind jacket to a heavier pull over depending on temperature, base layer should be a moisture-wicking shirt to ensure that regardless of the top layer, sweat isn’t being held near your body which can cause you to feel colder, especially with the wind.
Though it might not be that cold, gloves can come in handy on a windy day. Our fingers tend to get colder because the blood has been shuttled to our legs and eliminating that discomfort goes a long ways towards a more enjoyable run. You can wear dri fit gloves, but honestly any cheap pair will work and then if you take them off/on and lose one it’s no big deal.
Focus on effort over speed. Consider it a strength training day! Some people pay good money to strap parachutes to their backs for added resistance, you’ve just got it for free with a stiff headwind.
Don’t try to fight the wind, it’s just wasted energy. Much like using effort as a guide on the uphill and then flowing with the downhill try to the same if possible with a head and tail wind.
Another tip I’ve heard is that turning your head to the side instead of straight in to the wind can improve breathing. This is key as the harder you’re fighting for oxygen the harder your perceived effort. And we know that our mental perception of a run can change the whole thing!
The mental strain can make you start to hunch your shoulders and create unneeded muscle tension, which also alters your form. Try to relax and let’s be honest, laugh at yourself because it takes a special kind of crazy to be a runner.
Runners are like mailmen: neither snow, nor rain, nor heat, nor gloom of night stays these runners from the swift completion of their appointed training.
One of my favorite visualizations is to think of yourself like water. It doesn’t force it’s way through a rock, it flows around it and over it. Flow easy, instead of fighting it.
The wind can be super drying, so it’s a good day to carry chapstick. It works not just for your lips but you can rub it on skin when needed! Also a great day for sunglasses so you aren’t squinting and wasting more energy mentally and physically.
What’s the windiest run you’ve done?
Favorite piece of layering for the wind?
Other ways to connect with Amanda
Get new posts via BlogLovin