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 a headwind definitely outweighs the assistance from it being against you.
How much does running into a headwind affect your running?
When the wind is blowing into your face, your body is working much harder to maintain the same speed. This is the reason many track races are run in the evening, when the wind has died down.
It also tends to feel like the wind is blowing in your face for almost all of the run. Regardless of whether you are running a marathon or around a track, it can make running a consistent pace really difficult.
This is pretty interesting though:
A 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 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.
If you are grasping at straws trying to find a positive if your race is looking like winds will be overtaking you, there is one advantage you can fall back on; 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, so keep that in mind.
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 modify my pace for windy conditions?
Wind will definitely cause a decrease in performance, and you will need to adjust your plan based on this.
Keep this in mind:
Your body has to work 8% harder to maintain the same speed it would sans wind.
Research has shown that headwinds can have HUGE effects on running paces, and the longer you are out there, the more time it is going to have to affect you. Runners who run 9:00 pace per mile will end up adding an additional 8 minutes that a 6:00 minute per mile runner would not have to deal with throughout the course of a marathon. And that is in addition to the extra time spent just finishing the marathon.
This is why when there are windy conditions, I recommend runners use the Effort Scale for running success. You never really know just how much the wind is going to affect you, and it is almost impossible to know how the exact mile per hour wind will affect your exact situation, dependent on the people around you, the stretch of course, and the gusts.
It would be impossible for anyone to know how much to slow down in windy conditions, but if you use the effort scale to run by feel, that is what you are focused on controlling, and you will cross the line knowing you have given your best.
That way, you can run your best for the conditions, and the results have taken care of themselves.
Yes, it might not be the big PR you hoped for, but the more you force yourself in the wind, the more energy you are going to spend fighting it, which is energy you could have been using in those final miles.
Give it a try, and let me know how it works for you.
Tips for running in the wind
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.
Next time you have a workout scheduled, but the wind is strong, instead of forcing yourself to run a pace you are not going to be able to hit, destroying your confidence in the meantime, use the opportunity to run by feel, and challenge your mental strength by NOT looking at your GPS watch.
Trust your body to tell you what it can do today. It is only going to help you!