5 Tips for Running in the Wind

Although windy days are usually not a top choice for running enthusiasts, they can benefit you in a number of ways—if you know how to make the most of it. Not only can you use running in the wind to improve your endurance and power, but you also can use it as a unique training tool.

While running in the wind might slow you down and keep you from getting a PR that day, it is not without merit especially when you use its natural resistance to build your workout. Whether you live in a particularly windy climate, or you just deal with windy days on occasion, here are five things every runner needs to know about running in the wind.

Make Smart Clothing Choices

Clothing choices impact your ability to run in the wind. On windy days, you might want to opt for tight-fitting apparel because looser clothing can create a drag and force you to work harder. In running, when the main goal is cover a specific distance in the lowest time possible, minimizing any drag remains crucial.

According to a review on garment aerodynamics, the front of your body’s drag can indeed be reduced by using tight fitting suits. Wearing loose apparel can increase your drag by up to 40%, which means your energy output is much higher and you could tire faster.

The review also states that textiles make a difference. Material to consider include nylon and synthetics such as Gore-Tex. They block wind, are waterproof, and allow moisture to move away from the body. Such materials can help keep you dry and maintain an appropriate body temperature.

Use the Wind as a Training Tool

If you are running an out-and-back course, you might want to consider running against the wind on the way out when you have more energy. Anytime you are running against the wind, it can help make you stronger, especially if you adapt to the demands, push a little harder, or try to increase your pace despite the resistance. If you run against the wind in the beginning, you will have more energy to push harder and meet the demands the wind places on you.

If you live in a particularly windy climate, and it is windy most days, you also can try mixing it up. Instead of running against the wind on the way out every day, try also running with the wind at your back in the beginning.

Running against the wind on the way back is a great way to practice running when your legs are fatigued.

This experience can help you learn to deal with the demands your body experiences late in a race and is a good race training strategy. By running against the wind at the end of the run, you can simulate those harder miles you will experience at the end of a race. You can even use running against the wind at the end of your run as a way to help you practice pacing in those early miles.

You also can use tailwinds to help you train. For instance, when running with the wind at your back use it as an opportunity to develop your stride rate, stride length, and turnover. Interestingly, researchers studied the role of weather conditions on running performances in the Boston Marathon from 1972 to 2018. They found that runners of all levels, not only elite runners, profit from tailwinds.

Focus on Something Else

It’s easy to get discouraged running in the wind, especially when trying to run at a certain pace or complete your training within a certain timeframe. But you can overcome your discouragement by practicing other skills you will need for your race.

For instance, try running tempo workouts in the wind. Push yourself for 5 minutes facing the wind and then reward yourself with 5 minutes with the wind at your back—ignoring your pace clock. If you train with a partner or a group, you also can work on drafting.

In fact, you may be able to reduce your energy expenditure by drafting another runner—although the amount of reduction is not fully known at this point.

One study found that 80% of the energy you expend overcoming air resistance from running in the wind can be abolished by drafting at least 1 meter behind another runner while another study found that energy consumption is only reduced by 2% to 4% when shielded from the wind.

Regardless of the reduction amount, learning to draft another runner is an important skill to develop for race days when conditions may be less than ideal. It also can lead to improved race times. One study found that when Kenenisa Bekele used drafting in the 2019 Berlin marathon, he was able to run the second fastest marathon ever.

Even if you are not looking to cut your time or reduce your energy expenditure, sharing the training load that results from running in the wind is beneficial. In fact, the researchers in the Bekele study noted that another benefit of drafting is that it allows you to shut off your mind and follow.

Embrace the Positive

While running in the wind, may seem like a real drag at first, it can actually be very beneficial to your training. You just need to make sure you reframe the experience in your mind so that you can make the most of it.

For instance, the wind can give something to push against—especially when running alone. Think of the wind as a training partner and not the enemy. Instead, it is just hidden speed work.

The wind also forces you to work harder and use more energy in order to move forward—especially if you are running into a strong headwind at your normal running pace. This resistance running can help improve your endurance, power, and technique. In fact, some people use parachutes or pull weighted sleds to get the same type of resistance the wind is naturally supplying for you.

Running in the wind also can give you a mental edge, which can prepare you for racing in inclement weather conditions.

It is not easy to run in the wind, but if you relax and embrace the challenge, it can help you prepare you mentally for those tough races when the weather is less than ideal. There is even some evidence that working out in less than desirable weather can have a positive impact on your mental health, particularly seasonal affective disorder.

Stay Safe

Running in extreme weather can be dangerous, so it is important to consider safety before heading out on a run. While it is generally safe to run in the wind, you want to be mindful of the weather report before heading out—especially if you have a long run planned.

If the weather report calls for a wind advisory with particularly strong winds that day or other dangerous weather, you might want to hit the treadmill or perform another cardio workout indoors, such as swimming or a cycling class. Windy days also are an opportunity to strength train instead.

According to the National Weather Service, during high winds tree limbs might break, street signs become loose, and objects from balconies can fall. You could also incur dust in your eyes or get stuck somewhere far from your starting point without the energy to return.

You also have to be particularly mindful of downed power lines. If you come across a downed power line while running, avoid touching it or anything that may be touching it including cars and tree branches. Even puddles and wet or snow-covered ground can conduct electricity in some cases.

When planning a run on a windy day, check the weather first and consider your route and training schedule. While you want to get your run in, you don’t want to risk injury in the process. Make smart choices about your training and recognize that dangerously windy days can be an opportunity to mix things up.

Windy Running Conditions and Nutrition

You may need to modify your fueling strategy or nutrition for running in windy conditions, especially because you are burning extra calories when running in the wind. In 30 minutes of 12-minute miles of running, you can burn 240 to 336 calories, depending on your weight. However, running in natural weather conditions can burn 268 to about 373 calories for the same time and distance. Over longer distances, this discrepancy can add up, so you may want to factor that into your plan for nutrition before, during, and after your run. 

Running in wind can be both invigorating and challenging as long as the weather service does not call for a high wind advisory or dangerous weather conditions. And although running in the wind may not be your most desirable running condition, with the right approach you can use it to your benefit.

Running in the wind not only improves your endurance and power but it also can prepare you for race day. In addition to practicing skills like pacing and drafting, you also can use running in the wind to get used to what it is like to finish a race in a fatigued condition. Just be sure to take precautions if it is a particularly windy day planning your workout with safety in mind.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Is it OK to run in the wind?

    As long as it is safe, it is OK to run in the wind. According to the American College of Exercise, in windy conditions, choosing to start the session facing the wind and finishing with the wind at your back is optimal. You should also wear layers to remove garments or put them back on as winds shift.

    Although running in the rain, wind, or even snow is generally safe, for anyone with certain health conditions, namely asthma or heart issues, you should check with a healthcare provider advice.

  • What are the benefits of running in the wind?

    Running in the wind can offer a number of benefits. For instance, it can help build your endurance as you work harder to push against the wind. It also can help build your mental strength and allow you to try different training strategies like tempo running, resistance running, and drafting.

  • How much will running against the wind slow you down?

    Running against the wind does slow you down. However, there are a number of factors that will influence how much like your age, speed, and fitness level. Regardless though, everyone uses more energy when running against the wind.

    For instance, one researcher found that oxygen consumption—and ultimately energy cost—increases with the wind while another researcher found that you only get back about half of what you put into running against the wind when you turn around and run with it at your back.

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