When you run outdoors, you’re exposed to the elements. You’ve got to deal with running in the wind, the rain, the heat, and the cold—you might even have to elude a stray dog or two. Now, you can always look out your window and decide to stay indoors, content to enjoy the cozy confines of your couch. But, if you’re training for a race, or just trying to stick to a disciplined running regimen, then you’re going to put your shoes on and head outside. Which means that you’re going to deal with whatever gets in your way—including a strong headwind.
“Running in the wind is an important element of outdoor running, as wind resistance allows your body to perform in a more competitive environment,” says Aaptiv Trainer and RRCA Running Coach Meg Takacs. “The more adversity you can overcome as a runner, the stronger you will be.”
She compares it to hill training. “You run hills to get better at hills, but also because it builds lung capacity, and makes steady pace running easier and more comfortable. It’s the same thing with running in the wind. The resistance makes the non-windy days easier.”
This extends to your mental state, too. Running in adverse conditions impacts more than just your body. Knowing that some days will be more difficult than others, and embracing it, can increase your mental toughness. Takacs says that learning to accept the hard times can be a game changer for ensuring that you’re in the right mindset to keep on pushing when things get tough. “You have to put your body through the ringer every now and then so that you can appreciate the good days,” she adds.
Tips for Running in the Wind
Takacs suggests the following technical tips to keep you running, even on the windiest of days.
“This is a big one,” she says. Keep your elbows in and by your sides, with your arms bent at 90 degrees. Otherwise, you might move your arms across your chest, which causes your body to sway side to side and increases wind drag.
Run in a straight line.
This sounds obvious, but Takacs suggests thinking about literally putting one foot in front of the other. Similar to the above tip, running in a straight line helps you fight the wind by keeping your body in a straight, aerodynamic line.
Go out and back.
Fortunately, the wind blows primarily in one direction. Which means that, if you run out-and-back intervals, you’re only facing the wind half the time. “I do this when I get strong headwind on the West Side Highway,” says Takacs, who is based in New York City. “I’ll run one mile into the wind, and then one mile with the wind at my back. This gives my body the opportunity to take a break from the headwind.”
Don’t fight it.
Running into the wind is going to affect your pace. If you try to fight through the wind to maintain your pace, you’ll tire yourself out. “Don’t try and fight pace, just fall back and ride the wind,” advises Takacs. “Find your cruise control and stay there. Once you can find a rhythm, you’ll find your pace.”
A bulky windbreaker might keep the wind from pummeling your skin, but it will also create more resistance and slow you down. So opt for tighter-fitting clothing to keep you aerodynamic. If it’s cold outside, try a moisture-wicking base layer. It will pull sweat away from your body, which helps to keep you warm.
Don’t let the wind keep you from getting a great outdoor run in. Keep aware of the weather conditions and don’t expect to hit a new PR on a windy day. Find a steady pace, keep your arms pumping alongside your body, and push ahead.