How to Modify Your Race Plan to Run in the Wind

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.

Now:

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!

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75 Comments. Leave new

  • You are just a complete bada$$ – end of story! Oh & those cinnamon rolls… hello they look incredible.

    p.s. phone talk soon please?? I miss my tina!!

  • Um. Get ready for Chicago, my dear.

  • I am not a fan of the wind! Last year I discovered how hard it is for running when doing an out and back w/ big wind and trying to keep my HR low. What a difference when it's a head wind! But yes, first world problem, right?

  • I may hate running in the wind worse than the rain. I can handle the heat, the cold and the rain but when wind is involved, forget it. I just hate it!

  • I'm not talking about running sooo I prefer unpredictable weather. It makes things exciting. If I were a runner I might think differently though.

  • I've never run in the wind, but I've ridden a bike in the wind! It does take so so much more effort to get moving, but then your rewarded on your way back 😛
    (Thanks for linking up love!)

  • Great tips! I hate running in the wind, but sometimes you don't have a choice. It feels like I'm barely moving. You just never know what race day will be like though!

  • I was just talking to a friend about running in the heat and humidity and how it affects a run. My first thought is to avoid it but then I think about how easy a race in the fall with nice weather will be compared to my summer training runs. Power through it!

  • Completely agree with you Jill! I feel skuggish and slow in the summer but I love the fall. I love running with wind because it carries me farther and wipes the sweat away.

  • I feel like wind is an element we in the middle of the pack don't feel as much as many but when it comes up strong, it's a pain!

  • I moved to Chicago from Southern California, which also made me a softie for any and all types of weather conditions. Chicago has terrible wind, all the time, and it can hit whenever. Running in the warmer months with the wind is manageable, but when its freezing out and the wind is gusting, its almost unbearable!

  • Wind can be make it hard to run, but I like the way it can cool me off. On windy days, I use bobby pins so I don't have to worry about losing my hat.

    Just goes to show that sprinkles go on everything – looks good!

  • Wind, cold and rain…forget it, I hate running in all that! I ran a few races at the jersey shore last year and the walls of wind that were hit in each (talking up to 20 mph gusts hitting you head on at a turn on mile 19 of the marathon…ugh) and I still am scarred thinking about it!
    I don't wish for or like the heat and humidity – but I know that they benefit you because once fall racing starts – times usually drop!

  • Ugh- I am not a fan of the wind at all. It's so frustrating to feel like you're working hard but not see your pace reflect that. These are great tips!

  • Great advice, as always! I, like everyone else, hates to run in the wind. It gets SUPER windy in CT in the Spring and sometimes I just have to laugh because I feel like I'm almost walking. I've also been know to yell profanity at the wind. It makes me feel better…

  • I feel like I run in the wind a lot especially when I run along the coast. It's windy in every direction. It doesn't help that two of my favorite local races take place along the coast. It never fails that there's a headwind for the last 5 miles!

  • I despise the wind, but it blows pretty much constantly here from February-May, so if I want to train in the spring, I'm training in the wind. At least I'm used to it (if not happy with it) in races that way!

  • I hateeee wind and I tense up. I always tense up and my form goes awful, shoulders forward, hunched over… now that's a blog post for ya too. How to keep your shoulders back! (:

  • Wind is terrible! I've learned to hate it even more when running with a stroller.

  • Wind might be the only weather that would cause me to run on the treadmill. I don't mind light wind, but here in Southern California we get, what is called “Santa Ana winds” they are very strong, very big gusts of wind.. they almost lift you off your feet! ha! These are such great tips! Thank you for another wonderful post Tina!

  • Did you make those cinnamon rolls?! They look sooo good!! I live by the beach so my runs are pretty much always windy especially in the fall. I'm slowly getting used to it!

  • Some tail winds would have been nice today! Instead 85% humidity ugh

  • I SERIOUSLY LOVE THIS SERIES ALREADY. This is why I love your blog!! I don't have to deal with the wind but basically PA throws every other weather situation my way. Can't wait to see what's in store!

  • Love this, Tina!! As much as I despise running in the wind, I still do it because I know it will make me better in the long run. Although I'm sure you've experienced some of those crazy Michigan winds during the winter… Sometimes I have to wear a face mask!

  • uhhhhhh after reading this post, all I can think about still, are those birthday cake cinnamon rolls. DYING over here. DYING! LOL!

  • Awesome post Tina! Very, very helpful. Thanks for sharing this great info.

  • These are great tips, although I have to be honest and tell you that at this point, I wish I could get a little wind down here in South Louisiana! It's just so hot!

  • Living in Kansas, wind is definitely something I deal with on a regular basis! It seems as if no matter which direction I am running I am running into the wind…sometimes I am SURE that it changes directions just to mess with me 🙂

    Thanks for your awesome suggestions!! I am following you on Bloglovin now, so I am looking forward to the rest of your posts about adapting to weather changes!

    WhatTheHeckWhyNot?

  • Great Job!!! Hate weather changes that affect running! Where I live it get's dusty when it's windy and my allergies kick in NOT FUN! And, the wind can get way too strong to run in! #wowlinkup

  • Great info Tina! As with hills, I have a love/hate relationship with the wind. I am definitely better with a windy run now than before thankfully.

  • I was just about to ask the same question.

  • When you say elite races, you mean professional races, right? There are only a few races run in the evening in Chicago.

  • #wowlinkup

  • Blowing wind helps make you stronger. 🙂 #wowlinkup

  • I can't wait to see what other posts you have in this series. Running into the wind stinks big time, especially when it's hard to catch a breath! I would say it is one of my least favorite conditions. #wowlinkup

  • Thanks so much for this. I live in Chattanooga, TN and one of the places I LOVE to run is along our riverwalk (the TN river)…being next to the river, I get wind and a breeze quite often. #wowlinkup

  • My run yesterday included sunshine, clouds, wind, rain, clouds and sunshine again. talk about unpredictability lol

  • Great advice! I also love my new SoCal weather situation, but my beach run IS super windy. Thanks for sharing! 🙂 #wowlinkup

  • I went to college (and ran track) in west TX – it is super flat and always windy. I can't tell you how many times I felt like the entire run (out and back, loops, whatever) was into the wind because it seemed to swirl and change – good times.
    Great tips!!!

  • Thanks Jessie! I definitely would like a phone talk, I bet you have lots of updates for me! Next week? Which morning works for you? 🙂

  • Hahahaha I know I know! This is why I started with wind 🙂

  • Oh yeah, I can imagine that was tough, especially as the competitor in you wants to fight it!

  • Really? I guess for me it depends on whether it is cold rain or warm rain. What about if it was a cold windy rainy day? 😛

  • Thats okay, relate it how you like 🙂 Thats what I love about you Erin, you do not just agree with everything. How about yoga in the wind? 🙂 Stroooong wind of course!

  • Oh yes, I think biking in the wind is even worse!!!

  • Oh yeah, a lot of the time it is windy where I am. Such a good point though, exactly what i was trying to get across!

  • Yep, exactly right Jill! Linda, I love that feeling when it is hot, but the wind is blowing the sweat off, makes you cool down much quicker!

  • Thats true, I recommended running in the middle for this post, but its good to be ready for it 🙂 Thanks for sharing!

  • Oh jeeze thats a huge difference! I was there! Chicago is queen of wind, and winter windy runs are the worst kind of conditions…even worse than sub freezing…in my opinion. Chills you to the bone!

  • Yep, that is one of the advantages. Ahhhh good idea! I usually just ditch the hat on windy days.

  • That would rule out most days for me 😛 Ooooff those races sound rough….more reason to practice 😛 Definitely true about fall running, makes it all worthwhile 🙂

  • Yep, I know the feeling, why we need to focus on effort during these times, but you are learning this anyway through your pregnancy having control of your running 🙂

  • Thanks Allie 🙂 I didn't know it was windy in CT, but I guess it makes sense as it is close to the coast. Oh I hear you, I yell at the wind too, and it is great as noone can here….you just look like a crazy person haha

  • Yeah, I am sure you do get hounded by the wind. Maybe you were a pretty bird in a past life….like it carrying you to your destination 🙂

  • Oh really, yep, there is no way to avoid it all the time, and I am sure you are great at handling windy races 🙂

  • Yep! You need to keep my tip in mind….reeeeellllaaxxxxx! I am keeping the shoulders post in mind…it is on my list 🙂

  • Oh yeah, I bet it is worse, now you have a 50lb weight to push through it too with the resistance!

  • Oh yeah, I remember the santa ana, but I actually appreciated them as it was so warm. Thanks for your kind words Lisa 🙂

  • I sure did 🙂 They tasted even better than they looked, I promise! A definite treat…I may or may not have had a headache for a few hours after eating two of them in one go….

  • Ick, yucky, but this will only make you tougher for the fall races 🙂

  • Thanks so much Cassie 🙂 Such lovely words. I know PA can be tricky to train in, but makes you adaptable 🙂

  • Thanks Leigha, Michigan winter windy runs are the absolute worst. I never thought I would wear a bull, but sometimes you need them!

  • I know, I hate when people do that with their posts…..put some gorgeous food at the top, so all you can think about is that…..ooops!

  • Thanks so much Jesica, I appreciate it 🙂

  • Thanks Amy 🙂 I am sure you have it rough in South Louisiana. Did you read the humidity post I did? 🙂

  • Oh yeah, i visited Kansas a few years ago, and there was a HUUUGGGE storm, it was veeerrry windy, especially with the lack of shelter from trees and hills. Thanks for finding me, I appreciate you sharing 🙂

  • Thanks Laurie 🙂 I did a race about 5 years ago, where it was so dusty and windy, we finished the race looking like we had rolled in dirt! Thanks for sharing 🙂

  • Thanks Kris, I think thats where I am too! It definitely makes you tougher!

  • Yeah, I do 🙂 Where they have an elite section. Track races are often run in the evenings, but usually in glamorous locations like Southern California or New York 🙂

  • It sure does, that was what I hope people got from this post 🙂

  • Thanks Lara, did you see the humidity post from this week? 🙂 Next week is heat….shhh its a secret 😉

  • I just love the name of your town, that is one of the best names! I am sure it is windy, but sounds beautiful 🙂

  • Mother nature was messing with you Kierston, testing out your strength 🙂 I hope you won!

  • Thank you Amanda 🙂 SoCal sounds pretty damn good to me, you need some weather elements to keep your feet on the ground 🙂

  • Isn't it funny how it seems like that? I always feel like that when I do hard runs in the wind….I think to myself “okay, its tough now, but will be easier on the way back”, yet somehow it feels worse!

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