In our plushy (is that the right word?) little world, we can come up with things to complain about that really would not be even worth mentioning in other countries around the world, but as we are lucky to live in the countries we do, these are our biggest problems. One of these first world problems is the weather. Coming from England, I know this very well as we are definitely “grass is always greener” people, and one of the things I disliked the most about living in England was the Eeyore, doom and gloom attitude towards the weather…..mind you, it does rain at least five out of the seven days a week….
Long story short, I thought I would start a series of posts on how to handle weather variables that will require you to change your run/workout pacing as your body will have to work much harder than it would on those nice 50 degree, calm, sunny mornings.
As much as I loved living in Southern California for 8 months, it definitely made me soft with the perfect climate year around. I honestly think a big part of the reason I ran so well at Ferris State was because the brutal winters made me so tough, that when the winter was somewhat decent, I would race much better than everyone else because I was grateful for even a little lift in weather.
Today I am going to focus on wind.
As wonderful as it is having the wind at your back in a race, especially when you can feel it pushing you along, you know in the back of your mind what is coming…..directly into your face on the way back/when you turn. The difficulty of running into the wind definitely outweighs the assistance from it being against you.
How does wind affect runners?
When the wind is blowing into your face, your body is working much harder to maintain the same speed. This is the reason many of the elite races are run in the evening, when the wind has died down.
Runners Connect wrote a great article explaining all the research (or lack thereof) about wind resistance on performance. One study completed by L.G Pugh concluded “A “substantial” wind (i.e. one approximately equal to the pace you are running at) will set you back 12 seconds per mile with a headwind, and aid you by 6 seconds per mile with a tailwind.”
Whenever the wind is behind you, it can also be difficult to maintain a rhythm, especially if there are big gusts. It can be equally as difficult to run smooth after running into the wind as you have to put in so much more effort to run into the wind that when you turn out of it, your judgement of effort is off.
Runners Connect also featured results from a study by C.T.M Davies that found “drafting” resulted in an 80% decrease in
One advantage that should be considered is the cooling effect. The sweat evaporates off your skin easier, which will help your body maintain its core temperature, this can make a big difference over a longer race. However, this effect reverses and becomes dangerous when you run with the wind in high heat, and it is more difficult for the sweat to evaporate.
How should I change my running form in wind?
Try to remain relaxed. The more you tense up, the more effort you are exerting into maintaining speed. Lean into the wind slightly to reduce resistance, and head down. Treat running into wind the same way you would run up a hill, lean into it, but not at the waist, your whole body should be slightly forward.
How should I change my pacing or time goals when running in wind?
Wind will definitely cause a decrease in performance, and you will need to adjust your pace based on this. Your body has to work 8% harder to maintain the same speed it would sans wind. Keep this in mind.
Davies found that when running at a 6 minute per mile pace, a 10mph tail wind would increase performance by 6 seconds per mile, a headwind would reduce performance by 12 seconds per mile. This adds up to around 8 minutes over the course of a marathon. The slower the pace, the more it affects the runner. Unfortunately that means that running 9:00 per mile pace means you are battling the wind for an hour more than the 6 minute per mile paced runners.
Any other suggestions?
If you know a race course is notoriously windy, or very open on a windy day, try to stick in the middle of a pack to limit the wind resistance your body is fighting. Try to use the wind to your advantage when it is at your back, and pay attention. Be aware when it is pushing you, so mentally you stay strong as you know you have had the advantage, but fair is fair, and so you have to deal with the disadvantage too.
Wind is one way being an elite athlete at the front of the pack doesn’t pay off 🙂
When you are running on a windy day, try to run into the wind first. It is better for you mentally to know that you are over the worst on the way back, and also physically as it will be easier for you to maintain good running form if the wind is pushing you.
It also would not do any harm to practice running in the wind, even if your course is not known for being windy. It will only make you stronger, both physically and mentally. Strong wind can make it difficult to breathe, especially in the winter, so this way you will be able to learn how you work best in it. So next time you have a workout scheduled, but the wind is strong, instead of pushing it back to the next day, head out there and challenge your mental strength. It is only going to help you!