I’ve been there, too; running in the wind can be tough. The wind at your back feels great, but running into even a mild headwind can feel tough and frustrating as you battle the air resistance. As a fellow runner, I understand this; it can be like running in a wind tunnel!
I live on the edge of a national park (The Peak District) and often find we get a strong southeastern wind, which always seems to be a headwind as I run home from work!
If you want to be spared the frustration of feeling like the wind is fighting against you as you run, I have compiled this list of tips from my running experience to help you figure out how to best deal with running in the wind, especially on a race day.
Oxygen consumption and energy cost are other key things to consider.
If you’re new to running, windy running conditions may be off-putting, but they don’t have to be.
How Much Does Wind Affect Running Speed?
Running in the wind, particularly a headwind, will mean you have to face wind resistance. These are estimates, but this is the average reduction in speed for running times when running in the wind.
|Wind Speed||Effect on running|
|5 mph wind||0-15 seconds slower per mile|
|10 mph wind||20-30 seconds slower per mile|
|20 mph wind||50-60 or more seconds slower per mile|
|25 mph wind||More than a minute slower per mile|
The numbers above might vary related to your unique level of running fitness and experience, but you can see that a strong wind resistance can actually slow you down as you run into it.
This information is only going to be truly relevant if you are racing or competing and running into the wind, but it does make it clear that very strong winds can be demonstrably tougher to run into, even if you are fit.
How Does Running In The Wind Affect Running?
Running in the wind is not much more difficult unless you are running into a very strong wind, causing high wind resistance.
But, it can affect your breathing, making you feel as though you have to go faster or lean forward to make headway.
The wind is often considered the least favourable running condition, but there are some easy ways to make running in the wind less unpleasant.
To help inspire these ideas, I ran a short poll on a popular running Facebook group, asking for tips on running in the wind.
This research wasn’t scientific, and a few responses certainly show the running community has a sense of humour! Of the 56 people who responded, I grouped their answers into the very unscientific categories below:
|Suggestion||% of answers|
|Turnaround / back to the wind||48%|
|See it as a challenge / be strong||25%|
|Wear tight clothing / hat / long sleeves||13%|
|Run in areas of cover, e.g. trees or buildings||8%|
|Other (joke answers mostly!)||6%|
Top Tips for Running in The Wind
So with this feedback in mind, let’s jump into my actual suggestions for how to deal with windy days. While you might skip a practice run, if it’s race day, you have no choice. What do you do?
1. Accept the Wind
Running into the wind with an attitude like you are fighting with it will wear you out and increase oxygen consumption and use more energy. It is common to take longer steps, lean forward, or press your shoulders forward, running the wind.
Unless it’s a very windy day, it will not impact your ability to make progress significantly.
If you relax and accept that it is windy without breaking your form or struggling against the breeze, you will have a much nicer running experience. I remind myself to hold my head up and relax my shoulders as the first step in fighting with the wind is often to push your head down.
If you maintain your running posture, you will have a much more enjoyable experience running in the wind.
2. Use Positive Thoughts
Some runners use positive thinking to help them turn around their feelings about running into the wind. They will focus on how the sweat is not running down their face due to the wind or the cooling aspect of the breeze on their face as they run.
Changing your mental outlook about how the wind changes your running experience can make a big difference when running in the wind.
Enjoying running into a stiff breeze might take some mental effort, but you can turn the wind into a positive that makes you have the best run of your week.
3. Maintain Posture
Running into the wind in a defensive posture can lead to injuries and fatigue. No matter the weather, you should never look down at your feet, hunch your shoulders, or lean forward as you run.
These posture changes can cause your foot strikes to lead to shin splints, or you might experience back and neck pain after your run related to your incorrect posture.
No matter what distraction is making you change your posture, you can cause yourself harm if you do so consistently. You must stay vigilant as you run to ensure you instinctively do not bow down into the wind.
Resist the urge to lean into the wind, hunch your shoulders up to your ears, or hug your arms to your side if you are running into the wind. Allow the wind to be a part of your running experience that does not cause you to break your form and open yourself up for potential injury.
4. Plan Your Route
If you know that you will be running in the wind, don’t leave the part of your run where you will be fighting with the wind until the end of your route. Consider reversing your run path or avoiding areas that will be very windy if you are fatigued when you reach this part of the route.
Running in the wind when fatigued can make it harder to regulate your breathing and therefore energy cost.
You might feel mentally fatigued by the pressure of the wind if you are exhausted when you encounter this weather change.
Being strategic in your training runs can help you produce better results and have more fun running.
5. Wear Tight Running Clothes
One of the tips from my research on the Facebook group. This is a good tip for any run that you have planned, but this is particularly helpful when you are going to be running in windy conditions. Tight-fitting clothes will not flap and drag at your arms and legs.
It is always less distracting to have tightly-fitted clothes on when you run so that you are not having to adjust and fix your clothes and break up your running cadence as you do so.
If you know it will be windy when you are heading out to run, wear your least baggy clothes so that you will not feel annoyed or distracted by your clothing billowing in the wind as you move. This also helps reduce air resistance.
The wind can dehydrate you, particularly if you are running into a very stiff breeze. Always bring enough water with you to help keep your throat from getting dry and ensure you do not get dehydrated by the wind and start getting cramps.
Hydration is key if you are a distance runner, but it never hurts to be prepared for the challenges of hydration in windy weather on a short run as well. Wind can make you have a cottonmouth and it can make your skin feel sticky and dried out, but hydrating properly will help keep you from feeling icky when you are running on a windy day.
7. Run With Friends
Sometimes the best way to keep your mind on track when you are running is to head out with a group of running buddies. This will keep you motivated to stay at the right pace and cadence as well as providing a distraction from the weather.
Chatting as you run and following the group will keep your mind off the wind and you will not even notice that the wind is affecting your gait or your time for the day. Running with companions can help with any kind of training need, and pushing against the wind is no different.
8. Adjust Your Planned Run Times
If the wind is strong enough, it can affect your overall run times. You will be wise to accept this and plan for your daily run to be slightly slower than usual. You should not force yourself to push against a strong wind to get your normal daily time for your route.
Running too hard into the wind can lead to injury as well as a feeling of uncomfortable breathlessness. There is no need to pressure yourself to fight against the wind to stay at a set running pace. Adjust your expectations and you will not feel so uncomfortable as you run into the wind on your normal running route.
9. Avoid Stormy Conditions
Always remember that a breeze is one thing, but a real storm is quite another. If the weather conditions call for lightning and thunder of winds that are not safe for running in, you should heed the weather predictions and head to the gym for your run.
There is no sense in training in weather that might cause injury or might be unsafe for outdoor activities. It is one thing to be prepared for anything when you are running and completely another to endanger your health and safety just to prove to yourself that you can run in any kind of windy weather.
Running in the Wind Doesn’t Have to be Tough
If you are like me, you know that running into the wind is mostly about adjusting your mental attitude before you head out for your workout.
Freeing yourself from being obsessed with the timing of your run or pacing of your run can make a big difference in your overall feeling about your windy day run.
I always remind myself to think about windy day runs as part of a different training plan based entirely on endurance and mental fortitude more than speed or other metrics.
Using these tips and tricks for running in the wind, you will learn to enjoy running in windy conditions and become a well-rounded running athlete.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is it OK to run when it’s windy?
Yes, it’s generally okay to run when it’s windy, but there are a few considerations to keep in mind:
- The direction of Wind: If you are running into the wind, it can make your run more difficult and could cause you to become tired faster. Planning your route so the wind is at your back during your run’s hardest or final parts could be helpful.
- Debris: Be cautious of flying debris, especially during strong winds. This could include leaves, dust, or even branches.
- Clothing: You might want to wear layers, especially if the wind is cold. Wind can drastically lower your body temperature, so it’s important to dress appropriately.
- Hydration: Windy days can dry out your skin and lips and cause you to become dehydrated more quickly, so stay hydrated.
- Effort: Running against the wind is harder, uses more energy and is similar to running up a hill. You may have to exert more effort to maintain the same pace, which can influence the intensity and duration of your workout.
- Hearing: High winds may also reduce your ability to hear traffic or other potential dangers, so be extra aware of your surroundings.
So yes, it’s generally okay to run when it’s windy, but it’s important to consider these factors for a safe and effective workout.
Can you run in 20 mph wind?
You can run in 20 mph wind, but it will present challenges. Plan your route to run against the wind initially and with it on your return to avoid facing strong wind when tired.
Dress in wind-resistant attire, consider eye protection and lean slightly into the wind for balance. Be prepared for a slower pace and ensure adequate hydration, as wind can cause faster dehydration.
Safety is crucial in high winds due to the unpredictable movement of objects and potential debris, so avoid running near unstable structures or trees that might drop branches. Always prioritize safety over the intensity of your workout.
How Much Wind is Too Much For Running
Generally, wind speeds of 15-20 mph or higher can make running more difficult and increase the risk of injury. The wind can affect your balance and coordination at these speeds, and you may need to adjust your pace and form to compensate.
Additionally, harsh winds can make it harder to regulate your body temperature, increasing the risk of heat exhaustion or hypothermia, depending on the conditions.
It’s always a good idea to check the weather forecast before heading out for a run and to be prepared for changing conditions.
Can you get wind burn from running?
You can get wind burn from running in windy weather, especially if you are running on a particularly windy day when it is cold.
Symptoms can include itching, burning, stinging sensations, and peeling or flaking skin. To prevent this when running in windy conditions, it’s important to wear protective clothing, such as a hat, gloves, and a scarf or face mask to cover exposed skin.
Additionally, applying a moisturizer or barrier cream to the skin before and after running can help to prevent wind burn.
Can you run in wind chill?
Yes, you can run in wind chill, but taking precautions to protect yourself from the cold and wind is important. Running in windy and cold conditions can increase the risk of hypothermia, frostbite, and other cold-related injuries, so it is important to dress appropriately and stay warm.