I live, and run mostly on picture perfect costal roads sometimes mere feet from the ocean. While it’s pretty it’s almost always freakin’ windy! By 10 am we usually deal with costal ‘breezes’ which are about 25km/hr on any given day, 40 km/hr isn’t rare either. If you’re working a training program you can count on a few 60 km/hr days too. Personally I think windy runs are often really the worst feeling runs of all the weather patterns. I’d rather take cold, darkness, rain or heat any day. But if there is going to be heat I will take a bit of wind please! I don’t have it totally figured out (leave a comment below if you do!) But… I have picked up a few tips in my gusty travels.
Why it sucks
It’s probably no surprise that running in windy conditions is physically hard but it takes a pretty severe mental toll as well. But there are still yet more challenges. With what to wear. Running into the wind is harder, louder and colder than regular running. Plus gusts really up the intensity when you’re least expecting it. I can’t put my finger on it exactly but running in the wind is mentally really taxing. Honey works in some really windy spots for the day and I remember him just being exhausted at the end of those days. He was also crabby and would complain that he just couldn’t think in the wind. Even though he’s not a runner I think it’s a pretty apt description of what it’s like.
A lot of these tips are behavior modifications that you can easily apply to any training run that make a huge difference. If you do these things you might not even have to wear anything special but that doesn’t apply to races. So along the way try the behavior stuff for regular runs first but the special gear stuff might only apply for races. On certain days around here I need both.
Find the perfect wind breaker
Are you ready to do your best goldilocks impression? Finding the perfect running jacket is really, really hard! I’ve had three I’ve hated and one I love. The one I love has a cult following judging from the prices they go for on eBay but I found mine at winners. I can only tell you what I like (and don’t). I like a very, very, VERY lightweight material (not at all heavy) that still has a breathable feel (rather than totally waterproof). I also like it to be pretty close fitting and loose at the bottom. That means I can wear it in the wind in the summer when the weather is hot too. For colder weather I can make it warmer by adding a top or two under it and in the winter I wear I big heavy sweatshirt though it barely fits. In a perfect world it would fold up tiny into a pocket or something and fit into my sports bra, though mine doesn’t. I actually do favor this one year round and in the rain as well even though it does let the rain through. It gets bonus points for being a light visible color glowing in the dark all over but it lacks pockets and the zipper pulls are tiny so nothing is perfect! I bought one for my mom I thought had the same overall feel and I think she likes it too. All of the heavy, actually waterproof ones have fallen into disuse at my house but you might like something different. The key is to have that bit of tight weave plastic feeling fabric to protect you from the wind but still have it be really breathable so hopefully that helps in starting your search!
Lower the loud
A lot of the mental drain of running in the wind comes from the noise. If you can lower that wooshing noise it goes a long way to a better run. The most obvious choice is ear phones but you might want to choose the type that fit snuggly in your ears or cover them completely. Of course only tune out all the sound when you’e sure it’s safe to do so. But music isn’t your only option. If weather permits adding the right hat or thick headband to your look can go a long way too.
Find a sheltered route
While you’re driving around keep your eye out for routes that will provide shelter from the wind. When I’m looking for a breeze in the summer I head out along the road by the ocean but in the cold seasons I usually go for backroads that are sheltered and therefore warmer. If things are really blowing around out there I will occasionally go on the narrow tree lined trail even though it’s pretty boring. You might find tree lined streets, a trail, streets that run parallel to the wind or ones with big buildings give you shelter where you live. If you have to drive to beat the wind on your run when it’s windy that’s okay too!
Find a sleek layered outfit
So you’ve done all the above stuff to change your behavior but sometimes, like races, you just got to run in the wind. If that’s the case it’s best to go with a streamlined outfit so you catch the wind less. Things like tight leggings, tight shorts, a body hugging top or just a sports bra can lower your drag and irritate you less by not flopping around. If you want to cover your head opt for a snug fitting hat with out a beak and avoid using your hood at all costs. Depending on the temperature you might want wind proof or just covered and pretty breathable fabric on your legs and top too. One thing I recommend it at least bringing gloves with you even at temperatures you don’t think makes them necessary. Your hands often get so cold in the wind and they are easy to stash in your bra, pants or even underpants if you don’t need them.
Go by effort not pace
Since running into the wind is way harder and I think we’ve established that it sucks it’s okay to lower your pace goals when it’s windy. Go by effort and not by pace, this will also help prevent you from overheating or getting too cold. Especially when running into the wind go by perceived effort and not a specific speed goal. If the wind is at your back and you’re feeling like going faster then do that. But.. you should start into the wind if you can and here’s why.
Run into it on the way out
Once you turn around and the wind is at your back it feels great and you might even get an extra push. But if you happen to run with the wind on your way out and against it on the way back you may find yourself freezing cold on the way back and that can be dangerous. We tend to go hard with the winds at our backs and on longer runs at lower temperatures that can even put us at risk for hypothermia. Hypothermia is not something you really need to worry about unless it’s a very specific set of conditions though. Those would be very high winds, on a very long run at close to freezing temperatures or below. But you will be happier if you just listen to me since you can keep warm with an extra layer at the start, go hard when you’re fresh and finish easier at the end.
Breath to the side
Some runners recommend breathing to the side when it’s windy. I’ve never tried that but it could be awesome! I’ll try it and report back.
Are high winds your least favorite running condition too? What is your least favorite weather condition? Do you have any windy day running tips to share? I’m all ears! Leave it in the comments below!