Running in the Wind Guide: 7 Tips For Windy Day Runs

Do you have trouble running in the wind? Well, you aren’t alone.

When it comes to poor weather conditions like running in the rain or even in icy and snowy weather, there is plenty of gear you can grab to make your run safer and more enjoyable. 

Unfortunately, wind can be a bit more complicated. 

Running in the wind forces you to use more energy to move forward, making you work twice as hard to reach the finish line.

If the thought of running during a windy day makes you want to opt for the treadmill or, even worse, skip your run altogether, don’t give up just yet!

We’ll fill you in on . . .

  • everything you need to know about running in the wind
  • how running in the wind affects your speed (for every wind direction)
  • and give you a few expert tips on how to get the best out of your run on a windy day.
running in the wind

How much will the wind affect my run?

A lot of the current sports science research focuses on how the wind affects sprinters, as opposed to long-distance runners. Fortunately, a few notable studies from the ‘70s and ‘80s help long-distance runners understand how wind conditions can impact their run. 

An article from Runners Connect outlines two significant studies that help long-distance runners understand how the wind can affect them. In the first study, published in 1971, London researcher L.G. Pugh mounted a treadmill inside a wind tunnel to measure a runner’s oxygen consumption through various running speeds and wind conditions. 

Pugh found that “oxygen consumption, and therefore energy cost, increases with the square of airflow over the body.” In laymens terms, running against the wind makes your running harder, and stronger wind is exponentially harder to run against.

running in the wind guide

Headwinds vs. Tailwinds

The second study, published in 1980 by C.T.M. Davies, uses a treadmill setup similar to Pugh’s to research the effects of headwinds and tailwinds on three runners. Like Pugh, Davies found that running in the wind increases oxygen consumption, which inevitably decreases performance. 

He also found that running with a tailwind can drastically improve your performance (If you’ve ever done it, you’ll have figured that out too!). But…it won’t be enough of a boost to make up for the negative impact of turning back and running with a headwind. 

So, how much does the wind affect you?

Runners Connect explains that “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.”

In other words, the negative effects of a headwind are roughly double the positive effects of a tailwind of the same intensity.

And how much do headwind speeds negatively impact a run?

Here’s a guide to give you a more specific idea:

  • 5mph winds – add 0-15 seconds per mile 
  • 10mph winds – add 20-30 seconds per mile 
  • 15mph winds – add 30-45 seconds per mile
  • 20mph winds – add 50-60+ seconds per mile

If you want to be a more successful runner, you’ll have to be familiar with the effects of different winds and wind speeds on your run.

And now that you understand those basics, all you have to do is combine that knowledge with the following 7 tips for running in the wind.

running in the wind guide

7 Tips For Running In The Wind Effectively

1. Adjust your running clothing for windy days

On a windy day, you should pay particular attention to what to wear when running.

You’ll want to opt out of wearing baggy clothes and excess layers because they increase drag in the wind and slow your time. Instead, wear tighter clothes

Chris Knighton, an expert competitive runner and running coach, suggests choosing your more tightly fitting tops and tucking them into your bottoms on windy days.

He also recommends wearing half tights or full-length tights as opposed to running shorts and running pants.

Tighter clothing creates a more streamlined profile, which ultimately reduces the impact of wind on your run.

running in the wind guide

2. Draft behind another runner

There’s really no way to beat the wind when you are running alone. Knighton mentions running in a pack is an excellent idea for runners in windy conditions to draft off one another. 

This technique is common among cyclists, and is called ‘slipstreaming.’ Runners in a group will take turns in the lead position, allowing the other runners to draft off the leader. This tactic conserves energy and is the only way proven to shelter harsh winds from each other.  

The previously mentioned study by Davies confirms Knighton’s theory that running in a pack is the best way to beat headwinds and crosswinds.

Davies found that trailing another runner by about a meter can create an 80% decrease in wind resistance. He states that running a mile behind another runner is four seconds easier than running it alone. 

running in the wind guide

3. Run against the wind on the way out

Many runners consider this the golden rule for running in the wind.

Running into the wind on the way out helps runners in two important ways:

  1. It forces you to work harder during the first half of your run, keeping you from getting burnt out on the way back.
  1. It can keep you from getting too cold. Running against the wind when you’re already sweaty from the first half of your run could create an energy-wasting shiver effect (not to mention the discomfort!).

4. It’s about effort, not pace

As you’ve already seen, even a mild headwind or crosswind can significantly decrease your energy and make you run slower. No matter what, you can’t expect to run at the same pace in windy conditions without putting in much more effort. 

Knighton describes pace as “an extrinsic factor based on environmental conditions.” What he means by this is your pace as a runner has nothing to do with your effort or fitness level. So instead of pushing yourself too hard to hit your desired time, try focusing on perceived effort instead. Doing this will allow you to finish your run strong.

Related: Guide To Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE)

running in the wind guide

5. Maintain proper form

Running in the wind can have negative effects on your running form if you aren’t paying attention. Most runners want to hunch and lean forward when running against strong winds. 

Doing that could negatively harm your form for good. What’s worse, is the added tension from being hunched over burns more energy, causes muscles to tire out faster and can put you in a negative mindset.

When you run in the wind, it’s crucial that you fight the urge to hunch over.

Instead, focus on good running form:

  • Focus on proper breathing technique through a strong headwind
  • Rolling your shoulders down and back, standing tall, and releasing built-up tension
  • Leaving your jaw and hands unclenched
  • Keeping a smooth and relaxed stride.

Focusing on these things will make it easier for you to stay relaxed and maintain proper form.

If you’re still having trouble, try turning your head to the side, away from the wind. It can help improve your breathing.

running in the wind guide

6. Stay Positive

As with anything else in life, keeping a positive mindset can make all the difference.

Runners do face more challenges when running against the wind, but that doesn’t make it impossible. At the end of the day, it boils down to mind over matter. 

Will you finish your run regardless of wind conditions? 

Or will you allow less than favorable conditions to slow you down or make you quit early?

If you are facing windy conditions on race day, don’t be afraid to adjust your goals. Remember, running in the wind will have an impact on all runners, not just you. It is more important to focus on a pace you can keep steady through the entire race than to wear yourself out early by pushing too hard.

7. Stay safe in gusty weather

Going for a run on a particularly windy day means you need to be able to focus on your surroundings, even if that means leaving the headphones at home.

You need to be able to listen for falling debris, especially if you’re running on a trail or wooded path. Not only that, a particularly powerful gust could push you off course and cause an injury. 

If conditions are too risky, it might be a better idea to find the nearest treadmill. But don’t worry; there are plenty of great workouts you can do on a treadmill to build up your stamina and stick with your training plan.

 

running in the wind guide

No one will argue that running in the wind is at the top of the list when it comes to a runner’s least favorite things. Fortunately, with the proper knowledge, technique, and mindset, it is an obstacle anyone can overcome.

If you’re reading this article, it means you’ve dedicated yourself to running on a new level. You won’t be giving up, even when the weather is not in your favor. 

Now, your next step is to sign up for your next big challenge. Whether it’s a half marathon or an ultramarathon, we’ve got you covered with free training plans that will fit your fitness level. Download one today and good luck with the wind!

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Mia Kercher

Mia Kercher

Mia Kercher is a hiker, cyclist, and runner. After finishing her first marathon in 2013, she continued the sport but found a new passion in trail running. She now explores the glorious mountains in Portland, Oregon where she works as co-founder of Evoke.

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