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Is it worth running on a windy day?

A headwind causes you to lose more time than a tailwind allows you to gain

All runners are faced with running in the wind from time to time, but how much does it affect your run? Of the many extreme conditions runners face, the wind is the only weather condition that can be detrimental to your training. Whether you’re running in a headwind or a tailwind, both can strongly influence your performance, form and energy levels. That brings into question, should you still run outside on a windy day?

A study published in the Journal of Physiology analyzed competitive middle-distance runners, running in the wind at different paces. Researchers found that oxygen consumption in the body increased at higher wind velocities while running at the same pace.

How to handle the wind on race day

The study also found that the effects of a 15 km/h wind headwind are four times greater than that of an 8 km/h wind. The faster you run into the wind, the greater the resistance. There are ways to combat the wind by drafting off other runners, the study states a runner has 80 per cent decrease in oxygen consumption when tailing another runner.

Runners brave the wet and windy conditions on race day. Photo: Scott Turnbull

How much benefit do you get from a tailwind? It does aid performance, but runners only get half the power that they face during a headwind. A tailwind eliminates air resistance. For example, if you are running at a six-minute mile pace with a 16 km/h tailwind, the wind would only help you by around six seconds per mile. If you were to run the same pace into a 16 km/h headwind, it would slow you down by 12 seconds.

A headwind causes you to lose more time than a tailwind allows you to gain, and a tailwind will only benefit you if you are running in one direction. 

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This data is useful for runners and coaches looking to adjust workout splits on windy days. If it’s very windy, you might want to push your workout to another day or run with others to draft and take advantage of any tailwind.