Why Is Running Against the Wind So Hard?
Running against the wind can make your lungs feel like they’re working overtime, and can make your exhales feel like they’re pulling you backwards. It can also make you feel like you’re running slower than you actually are, and can lead to the equivalent of staring straight into the sun.
What is it basically? It’s the feeling of an object moving against the flow of wind, and it’s a common challenge runners face when they run outside.
For runners, it can also be discouraging to train in the elements. Whether you’re training for an upcoming race and want to train in wind to get accustomed to it, or you simply don’t want to stay cooped up, you’ll benefit from training strategies to successfully tackle running in headwinds or running with a tailwind.
How Much Slower Do You Run in the Wind?
Running directly into the wind is equivalent to running uphill.
The air is less dense, so you have to exert more effort to suck it into your lungs. And if you swallow less air per stroke, that means that you take in less oxygen than you normally would.
The result is that you have to work harder and your pace slows down in a headwind.
But how much slower do you run in the wind?
In one study, when runners ran directly into the wind, they maintained a speed of 8:30/mile (3:05/km) or slower. Coincidentally, that’s the same pace as when you run up a 10% grade. But if you run into a strong wind that says 8mph, then that’s a 3% grade or even closer to a 10% grade.
So if you are running into a 3mph headwind and you were running at 8:30/mile, you will slow down to about 9:25/mile.
If you are running into a 6mph headwind, then you will slow down to about 8:30/mile.
Do You Gain Speed Running With the Wind?
Running at high speeds sometimes requires a tailwind to keep you moving. If you run into a headwind, you’ll go slower and need to exert more effort. It’s little comfort to know that you’re not alone.
Many recreational runners can’t keep a steady pace when running into headwinds. If you’re one of those people, running with the wind can help you stay in a rhythm and prevent your mind from wandering.
In fact, most running speed is enhanced by a tailwind, rather than a headwind. This is particularly true for an elite runner racing in a pack. Each runner is affected by the wind differently based on their individual characteristics such as height, weight, and running form.
A tailwind that’s too strong negates your speed advantage; you’ll slow down because you’ll need to use extra energy to keep from being blown backwards.
On the other hand, running into a headwind, which causes you to slow down, is the proverbial tailwind of a race.
What are Some Tips for Running in the Wind?
If you struggle with running in the wind, you’re not alone.
We all hate it, but let’s be honest, sometimes it’s inevitable.
There’s often no way around running in the wind.
It’s an essential part of most runners’ training and races.
If you’re tired of struggling against the wind or to catch your breath as you run, you should try these tips.
After all, we’re talking about a skill that comes in handy whether you’re doing a 10K or a marathon.
Let’s take a look at some ways you can be ready for running in the wind.
Windy days can sometimes be a little bit scary.
The breeze may start to feel like a gale that just knocks you over and before you know it, you’re flying. However, most of the time, perilous conditions are a rare occurrence. The important thing is to be prepared so that you stay safe and can run with ease.
The most important thing to do to stay safe, especially when it’s windy, is to stay aware.
Create a Positive Mindset
Location, Location, Location:
Training for a race requires you to train for the course and your goal time. You will have to learn how to deal with corners, hills and various environmental conditions like snow, extreme heat, steep hills, etc.
Because these conditions are different for each race, you will have to adjust your training accordingly. You should run on these types of courses to get used to the gradients, length, lanes sizes and scenarios. You will have to train on a variety of terrains to simulate as much of the race as possible.
Don’t Overdo It:
There is no use in running an extra hour or longer every day. It would only lead to injury, burnout or fatigue. It’s better to cut down your workout and train more consistently. It’s better to cut down your workout and train more consistently.
Change Your Shoes Regularly:
To avoid injury, you should change your shoes regularly.
Usually, it’s recommended to change your shoes once every 350-500 miles.
Stretch Before You Start Running:
If you’re prone to injury, you should definitely stretch before and after running. Try the following before you run:
- Neck rolls
- Shoulder rolls
- Arm circles
- Leg swings
Concentrate on Intensity, Not Pace
If you run with your head facing forward, the wind seems to be pushing you back. So it’s easier to concentrate on running intensity and not distance.
If you focus on running pace, the wind may push back and make you feel like you’re not making any headway. Instead of taking a lot of small steps, take fewer big steps and you will make faster progress.
Also, choose over ground terrain instead of going on the treadmill. This way you can adjust your pace as you choose to.
Adapt Your Running Form
Racing against the wind can be hard for a beginner runner who is just trying to maintain a consistent pace.
When running into the wind, there’s nothing more tiring or discouraging than constantly having to fight against a large physical force.
But if you learn to adapt your running form to handle windy conditions, you’ll be able to keep consistent pace without having to work as hard.
Here are a few tips for achieving that:
Go a few steps faster
Running a few steps faster will help you better regulate your speed or maintain a consistent pace without having to fight the wind all the time. You’ll still be able to maintain a good running form and achieve a good rest interval.
Ensure your form is not leaking energy
When you’re racing against the wind, you don’t want to reduce your running cadence and your arm swing.
The moment you do that, you’ll also be reducing the effective power you produce.
Don’t be afraid to really lean into it and fully extend all your limbs. This allows you to maintain a good running pattern and to transfer as much energy as possible into the ground.
Maintain a quick arm swing
If you like to run in the early morning or in the evening, you will inevitably run into headwinds. It’s best to tackle these headwinds by staying warm and bundled up.
Headwinds can damage your hair because the wind is strong enough to dry out hair and strip it of natural oil. Invest in a headband or a hat to protect your hair.
Layer your clothing to help trap in body heat. Wear high-quality, tight-fitting clothing made of either nylon or spandex to create the warmth and compression necessary for body temperature regulation.
Invest in quality running shoes that suit your foot type. If your feet are prone to sweating, invest in a pair of quality running socks. Running in shoes made of synthetic materials will protect your feet from harsh cold and drying winds.
If there is condensation on your cheeks or forehead while you run very early or very late, consider wearing a cycle mask under your headband.
The cycle mask will protect your face and eyes from the wind.
Finally, if you’re acclimating to running in the cold, start first by wearing only one layer of clothing. When you start running, slowly add more layers until you reach what you feel is the perfect amount of layers to shield you from the wind.
Be Careful in Gusty Conditions
When the wind is blowing, be extra careful running next to busy roads. Unlike mufflers on cars, it is impossible to muffle the sound of wind. So when you hear a car approaching from behind, stop on the shoulder of the road and get out of the way. If there is no shoulder or a slightly raised paved path, get behind a large vehicle or a truck. At least that way, if the driver is inattentive enough to miss you, they are less likely to run you over entirely.
If you are heading into a headwind sprint, try to run at an angle to make the best use of the wind. For example, if your normal running pace is 8 minutes per mile, but you can do it at 6 minutes per mile with a headwind, run at an angle in the direction of the wind for three quarters of a mile, then turn 180 degrees and go back. This will be better coordination than running straight into the wind and then straight back out again.
When you have to head into a tailwind, you need to mirror the effort you would make when you are running into a headwind. So if you would normally run into a headwind at 9 minutes per mile, you run into a tailwind at 8 minutes per mile. And it is just as important to turn around and go back at the same effort.
Run an Out and Back
A great trick for training for a race and for general running is to run an out and back route. At least that’s what I do. I’ll run my normal route back and forth, but I’ll do it on the opposite side of the road so I’m running with the wind.
Most people think the best way to run against the wind is to run with your face towards the wind. This is not correct. Run sideways! You’ll need to get a feel for that and it will take a while. It’s almost like a shuffle. You’ll find you can go a lot faster.
If you’re running with a stroller and visibility is important, you can line up your eyes so they are aiming at your nose and fix your gaze there. And it’s not just what you do with your head. Walk sideways. You’ll get it soon enough.
You'll be surprised how much faster you can run. It really is great training and a great way to use up some extra energy.
Skip the Run or Take It Inside
These winds were the perfect way to start the week before I start training for my next marathon. I haven’t been logging many miles recently, because of some [excuses].[/excuses]
Went out today for a run to see how I felt after my last hard workout. It was windy! So naturally, I wanted to see how fast I could run with the wind. I ran the loop in an even 8 minutes, which isn’t too shabby. But I felt like my form was a bit sloppy.
The next loop, I decided to run the other direction and head to the trees for wind cover. I got to the trees, and I’m jogging along when I realize that I should have run in my other direction out of the wind.
The wind in the trees was 100X worse than in the middle of the field! I hope I can find a place with no wind next time so I can focus on my form again!
Then, as soon as I got tired of running into the wind, a little bit of a headwind was just enough to help me pick up my pace.
Whether you love running with the wind in your face or running into it, learn the tips below.
Give any of these a try and see if you feel a difference.
(What Else You Should Know)
Some of these running tips may seem simple, but just by following them you will notice a big difference in your performance.
If you only remember and actually use a few tips you will see your running performance improve quickly.
The only way to get better is to keep at it.
Remember to practice these running tips and you’ll be well on your way to becoming a better and faster runner.
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