A Little Something Against the Wind: Tips for Running in Windy Weather

TV Guide #964
I much prefer Sandy Duncan to Hurricane Sandy. The lady who played Peter Pan does not mess with my running plans! (Photo credit: trainman74)

Oh Sandy. Sandy. When I decided to move back to Cleveland six and half years ago, I never thought I’d be dealing with hurricanes. But here I sit this evening in my Northeast Ohio kitchen, wind howling, rain pelting my windows, and power threatening to go out. Sweet! And it’s all fine when I’m sitting here hacking away on my laptop, but what about that run I had planned for tomorrow morning?

With sustained winds forecasted to be 43 mph, gusting to 80+ I’m thinking it’s probably going to be a treadmill day. When the local schools are closed because it’s too dangerous for kids to stand outside waiting for the bus, it’s probably too dangerous for running outside. Winds that strong will not only literally break your stride and possibly blow you over, but could also blow large blunt objects at your head. Yeah, that’s bad. As for Sandy, these crazy winds should die down soon to a more reasonable (?) 20+ mph. Still windy. Annoying, yes. But probably runnable if you play your cards right. Which brings me to this question:

If the wind is merely annoying rather than dangerous, what can we do to not only make running outside possible, but also more pleasant?

Adjust Your Expectations.

The most important thing you can do to get through a windy run is to adjust your expectations. There is nothing you can do to stop the wind. It’s there. Accept it and adjust your workout accordingly.ย If you’re running into a headwind (running against the wind, in the words of Bob Seger) your pace will be affected. I’ve run tempos where I ran 6:15 out of the wind and then 7:45 into the wind. Focus on maintaining the right effort level and go with whatever your pace is.

Relax.

On a related note, it’s important to go with the flow and relax. Don’t fight the wind. You won’t win. In fact, you could hurt yourself. The harder you try to combat the wind, the more you’ll tense up and your form will degrade. You’ll overstrain muscles like glutes and hammies trying to fight it and risk injuring and frustrating yourself. So focus on relaxing and maintaining form through the wind.

Think Wedge.

Persimmon-Goat Cheese Wedges
If you want to get extra fancy about it, picture yourself as a persimmon-goat cheese wedge (Photo credit: esimpraim)

One of my favorite mental training books is calledย Running Within. This book suggests that when running into a headwind, visualize yourself as a wedge cutting through wind. I’ve used this mental technique to great effect on many track workouts. I’m normal Salty running on one half of the track and then Salty in a giant wedge of cheese costume running on the other half. Ha! One of my track workout buddies and I used to think it was hilarious to picture ourselves as cheese wedges. No matter what kind of wedge you picture yourself as, it really does work.

ย ***

It’s amazing how reframing something we usually think of as negative, like wind, into something not so bad, makes it much more pleasant to run in. Just like hills, wind only sucks if you think it does. ย By adjusting your expectations, relaxing and perhaps visualizing yourself as something able to cut through the wind, you might get those runs in outside this week, afterall!

How do you feel about running against the wind? Got any tips for windy running we missed?

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Salty Running boss and mother of 3 little ones with PRs of 3:10:15 (26.2), 1:25:59 (13.1) and 18:15 (5k). I love to write about running culture, mental training, and fitting in a serious running habit with the rest of a busy life.

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8 comments

  1. I opted for the treadmill/rec center for the first time in over 10 months today, but actually conditions have improved quite a bit today – I suspect it may even be OK outside tomorrow. At least, I’m trusting it will be – and I’ll follow your advice to stay relaxed and think about wedgies. That is what you said, isn’t it?

    1. I think it was probably fine to run here by 9:00 a.m. or so. It seemed like the winds died down a lot. Maybe a little gusty still, but not insane like it was overnight! Hope you get out tomorrow with your wedgie!

  2. Was that the wind? I thought I was running so fast that I hit turbulence! I don’t do treadmills. I run outdoors unless there is a threat for lightening or black ice. Ran 7 this morning, dressed in tight layers and a hat to keep my hair out of my face. I strapped my stopwatch over my sleeve. I changed my route to the “neighborhood loop” so I had the option to go to my house every 1.7/1.8 miles. Saw only one other runner.

    1. The winds up here last night and early this morning were seriously nuts. Not just annoying, but actually dangerous. Normally, I’m with you. There aren’t very many days when I feel like I have to run on a treadmill. Glad you made it out today!

  3. Depending on how it looks when I get out of work in the next hour or so, I may try to take a little run to shake things out. I know we were nearly blown into another lane while we were driving from DC to MA yesterday in the earlier portions of the storm, so I can’t imagine what it would have been like unprotected from the elements!

  4. I ran on Monday afternoon and was alone in the woods save for some deer and wild turkeys! :) I did hear two trees fall throughout my run but just kept pushing ahead. I also ran Wednesday evening but that was just rain not so much the wind.

    My goal was to just get a run in, I did not focus on besting my time. All of your suggestions are great!