Running in the wind – 5 top tips

Person running in the wind

Us runners can be pretty tough (or is that stubborn?). We’ll run in most conditions – rain, snow, hail – but if we had to pick our least favourite weather, it would be running in the wind. Sure, a light breeze is very pleasant and cooling. But a full-on headwind pushing you backwards and sideways is less fun. 

However, wind is hard to avoid, especially in the winter and early spring months. Rather than skip your training runs or resign yourself to the treadmill, we’ve put together our advice for getting out there. Read on for our 5 top tips for running in the wind.

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1. Check the conditions

The weather app on your phone is your friend when it comes to running in the wind. We usually use the Met Office, as it seems pretty accurate most of the time. And it tends to be less dramatic than some of the other weather apps available! If you’re a bit more knowledgeable than us, you can check the wind direction and use that to plan your route. However, we generally just check to see if it’s windy, or super windy, or dangerous windy.

There is a difference between being a hardcore runner and heading out on a windy day, and being a bit silly and running in a tornado. If there’s a weather warning in place, then just be sensible and make a judgement call. You might just have to adjust your route a bit if it’s really high gusts, to avoid falling trees and flying debris. Most of the time, the wind is just a nuisance rather than a danger. But if it’s really bad, then you may have to make the decision to stay inside after all.

2. Dress right for running in the wind

Windy doesn’t always mean cold. Sometimes the weather can really throw everything at you and you might have to battle wind+rain, wind+cold or even wind+hot sunshine. So, just because it’s windy doesn’t mean you have to wear all the clothes.

It’s definitely worth investing in a lightweight windproof jacket. This doesn’t add too much bulk or heat to your body, but just keeps the wind out. Wind on sweaty skin will make you feel cold pretty quick! You don’t have to spend a lot either. Decathlon do windproof running jackets for men and women at a good price. If it’s raining, you might want a waterproof jacket instead of the windproof one, but adjust the layers accordingly.

Then you can just dress as normal, with a t-shirt, long-sleeve t-shirt, leggings or shorts as you need to for the temperature. Don’t go for anything too baggy either, or the wind will whip it around and create more drag. Also, consider sunglasses on sunny but windy days. Be careful with capped hats – they can blow right off your head with a decent gust.

3. Watch your running technique

Running into a strong wind can force us to adopt a slightly different running position. This can lead to discomfort, and aches and pains. We tend to hunch more and tense our shoulders against the resistance. Try and maintain a relaxed posture. It does help to lean into the wind slightly, to offset some of the resistance that the wind is giving you.

Often you might feel like you’re running really hard, but when you check your pace, you’re moving much slower than usual. Hello resistance! Rather than trying to always maintain your normal running pace, monitor your effort level instead. During your route you will likely run both into the wind and out of it, so aim for a consistent effort on normal training runs.

4. Use the wind to train

You can also opt to use the wind to help your training. See it as a workout of its very own; it’s not simply running in the wind, it’s a resistance running session. Plan a route where you know you will have a headwind. Do a warm-up and then find a nice long stretch where you will have to run into the wind in one direction. On the way out, push through the wind as your effort. At the end, turn around and recover with the wind behind you back to your start point.

When planning a longer run, if you can, try and run into the wind in the first half of your run. This means that you can have the wind behind you when you’re heading back. You might start to feel colder in the second half, so it helps to have the wind on your back. Plus, it means you can try to pick up the pace and finish strong. If you want a challenge, however, you could swap that up and occasionally finish into the wind to force you to push through when you’re already tired.

5. Embrace the mental benefits of running in the wind

Running and racing takes a lot of mental strength. During a run we all have those times when we want to give up and go home. Learning to cope with those times and find  the inner mental strength to carry on is a key skill.

Running in the wind, like any other less-than-favourable weather condition, takes a lot of mental strength. From that first step out of the door, you have to use a lot of willpower to keep going. Just like a physical muscle, the mind can be trained. As you battle through bad conditions, you are also conditioning your mind to push through and keep going.

When it comes to race day, you know you can cope with whatever is thrown at you. If it’s windy on the day, you are prepared and it won’t phase you as much, giving you a distinct advantage.

Main photo by Daniel Reche from Pexels