Thar She Blows! Dealing With Wind


Ugh, running in the wind.  It is pretty much a pain in the you know what.  Of course I had to move to the Midwest to a place that calls itself “The Windy City.”  I know this nickname doesn’t have to do with actual wind but try telling me that when I am out for a run.  Like it or not, you are going to have to deal with it sooner or later.  You can hide inside and run on the treadmill on windy days, but races don’t cancel due to wind.

This past fall I went for my first solo run along the Lakefront Trail in Chicago and as I moved south the wind started pushing harder and harder against me.  At one point near my turn around the wind was pushing so hard that I felt like I was pumping my arms and legs but not moving.  It even blew me off of the path.  I actually shouted, “Screw you!” to the wind.  It didn’t help and had someone been around they might have thought I was nuts….I might be anyway.  One day on a particularly windy run my husband lamented, “If I turn around and this wind follows me I am going to quit!”


So what is a runner to do?  Honestly the only answer is, “Deal with it.”  The wind isn’t going anywhere and even if it does, it will show back up soon enough.  For me, I find that the wind is the worst in the spring and fall.  So there are probably a few more weeks of annoying gusts to deal with.

The first thing I recommend doing in the morning or whenever you are getting ready to head out on your run is the check the weather online.  Just as you want to know what the temperatures are so that you can dress accordingly, you can also see what the wind is doing.  By knowing what direction and how hard the wind is blowing you will be mentally prepared to deal with whatever is coming your way and you can also plan your route out accordingly.  I personally prefer to deal with the wind at the start so that I can enjoy an easier run for the second half.  So I will generally head into it for the first half of my run and then enjoy it at my back for the remainder.

Remember that running into the wind is going to slow you down.  Instead of getting frustrated just remember that it is natural to run slower and expect to add up to 30 seconds per mile to your running pace depending on how hard the wind is blowing.  If you are pushing against the wind, stop looking at your watch and just allow yourself to cruise at a slower than normal pace.  On the flipside when you run with the wind you can enjoy a bit of a faster pace.  Ever go for a run and feel like you are flying only to turn around and realize you were running with the wind?

Running against the wind is considered resistance training and can actually help to make you a stronger runner.  That added resistance can help work as speed training as long as you don’t wimp out and slow your pace down too much.  Treat it as a challenge and it will actually help to make you a stronger and faster runner.  You can feel tough like all of those sprinters you see working with parachutes on the track.

Jack Daniels, again the coach and not the drink, states that running against the wind is extremely costly to your pace and that you will never be able to make up the pace when you turn around and have the wind at your back.  Daniels states, “A headwind means a slower pace, and any runner who fails to heed this fact is flirting with disaster.”  Daniel’s Running Formula 2nd Edition.  I would say this is excellent advice to run/live by.  If you find yourself at a race with strong winds you are likely not going to PR.  So don’t head out of the starting blocks struggling against the wind to try and keep your normal pace.  This will likely leave you exhausted halfway through the race.

It is always good to keep in mind that you never know what race day conditions will be like.  That is why it is great to push yourself to try running in some of the more annoying weather conditions.  Wind, rain and snow generally don’t stop races.  So practicing in the wind is an excellent way to mentally and physically prep yourself for a potential windy race.  That being said, I don’t recommend running in tornado like conditions or in lightning.

The art of distraction is important to learn as a runner.  If you head out on your run and spend the entire time thinking about how much it stinks to run in the wind, your entire experience will pretty much be miserable.  The same goes for counting your miles or focusing on how exhausting running can be.  All of these will make it seem unbearable.  Listen to some music or a podcast or take the time to figure out how you are going to reorganize your kitchen.  By pushing the wind out of your thoughts you might find that you forget about it and it really isn’t quite as annoying as you originally made it out to be.

Just remember that like every uphill has a downhill to accompany it, you can only run against the wind for so long before it will eventually be at your back.

On the bright side I think spring is such a beautiful time to be outside.  Yesterday was my day off and I enjoyed just walking around all afternoon.  I wanted to share a few pictures from my wandering adventure.  I hope you all had a great weekend!



Congrats to everyone who raced this past weekend.  A special congrats to Carrie for an awesome 5K and to my friends who raced at the Trout Festival.  Happy belated birthday to Madeline!


27 thoughts on “Thar She Blows! Dealing With Wind

  1. Headwind is absolutely my most frustrating issue in running. I’ve definitely shouted some not so nice things as well! (Although I try to look around first to make sure no one is nearby!) It’s a great point that running against wind makes you stronger, I’ll try to remember that on my next windy run!

  2. Oh my goodness, I was just about to write a post about running into the wind! Yesterday, it was so bad that it covered my face with my hands at one point because I was getting a dirt facial! I decided that running in it is just making me stronger – and I totally agree – run into it at first so it’s at your back at the end, and for me, it’s important to remember that these runs are tough, so I shouldn’t try to push it too much because it could exacerbate my injuries!

  3. That picture is insanity. And I would agree with you that every headwind should have a tailwind, but on too many runs along the lakefront I have discovered that it is very possible to have headwind in both directions. No idea how, but it is possible.

  4. I completely agree with you! I ran two races this weekend, and both had over 20mph wind gusts and one was during a rain/thunderstorm. Neither was cancelled, but the second one was closed to being delayed. I was so glad that I stuck it out in the elements and was able to power through it. It is only April, and spring is rough in the Midwest, so lots of runners are still hitting the treadmill, which was pretty obvious in my races this weekend. My Garmin also did not work very well, and I don’t if that happens typically in the wind as well. I also check the weather and wind reports to mentally prepare myself. There’s not much else you can do except suck it up and deal with it!

  5. Running in the wind is an excellent time to work on your form!!! When you are running against the wind, you automatically lean forward a little, you drive your arms more and pick up your knees without realizing it. So I tell my high school kids at practice when it is windy to focus on form more than anything! It helps you to enjoy running in the wind more knowing you are getting a good workout in. 🙂 great picture of the dog.

  6. I definitely agree with you- If you keep concentrating on the wind (while running in it) and getting frustrated/angry about it, it only makes the run seem longer. Lately, every time I run, it is very windy so I try to zone out, relax my body, and keep a comfortable pace.

  7. Whenever I’m running in windy conditions I try to turn off the competitive side of my brain that wants to be fast. It’s just not going to happen in that sort of weather!

  8. I never really thought about running against the wind. We get wind here, but not nearly like that. It is interesting how weather changes everything. From heat to wind, it can hurt our runs, but it can also make us stronger (if it doesn’t kill us). 🙂

  9. If you want to appreciate the wind as a runner, try cycling! You are guaranteed not to hate it as much after your first 30 miler in a 20 mph breeze. Guaranteed.

  10. Here in Riga, Latvia the closes shore is in Jurmala and (besides being an ocean) has the same feeling as Chicago’s lakeshore. Sandy, seemingly never ending, and WINDY.

    What I like to do is turn it into an sort of fartlek windy run. So i will stagger the run. run 500m into the wind, make and about face and run 200m back, then turn around and go 1km headwind, turn around again etc. I find it breaks up my run nicely and I can arrange the effort of my run according to what I was planning to accomplish that day.

  11. I must be in the minority, but I’d take a strong headwind over a moderate tailwind (especially in the summer). I overheat WAY too easily when I’ve got a tailwind and there is no air circulating over my face. Happened to me on Sunday – my run was going awesome (despite the headwind) until I turned around and had the wind at my back. My heart rate spiked way up from overheating (it was 85f/30C already though).

    • That is a fantastic point. On a hot day I have definitely been on a windy run and thought about how great it will be on the turn around. But without the wind you do overheat very quickly. It can make a hard run quickly turn miserable. Excellent way to look at it.

  12. Wind is easily my least favorite element, but I’ve learned recently to do what you said here…treat it as a resistance workout and as long as I look at it that way, I don’t get as frustrated.

  13. Great tips for running in the wind. My final long run in my half marathon training was in some major wind ( However, the next time this happens, I’m going to keep these tips in mind! Thanks! xo Kelby

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