How to make exercising in windy conditions a breeze

How to make exercising in windy conditions a breeze

I don’t know about you, but with just a few weeks to go until winter officially arrives, I’ve noticed a significant change in weather conditions lately. It’s not only cooler, it’s been pretty blustery out there, too.

In fact, on the back of the (strong!) autumn winds that hit Sydney recently, ABC Radio invited me in to discuss the effects of training and competing in those conditions. As I was prepping for live radio, I came across some interesting facts that I wanted to share, because you don’t need to be a serious athlete to be affected by the wind. And likewise, you don’t need to be an elite athlete to benefit from this information, either.

First up, it pays to bear in mind that wind resistance, or ‘air resistance’, produces ‘drag’ if it’s a head wind. And that can make any exercise seem like it’s harder to perform. Your ‘rate of perceived exertion’, or in other words, how hard you feel something is to do, may be greater. For example, it might seem like it’s harder to kick a ball into the wind, or cross winds might lead the ball astray, which means more running around to retrieve it.

And even though air resistance may not cause a significantly greater metabolic response in terms of an increase in heart rate, it can often feel more fatiguing. A strong wind can push back at you at a speed that’s faster than you’re moving, so you need to work harder to move against it. It can also increase the ‘energy cost’ of an activity, if for example, it takes you more time to run the same distance.

But, while wind resistance can make exercising outdoors seem less appealing, don’t let it put you off! Apart from anything else, I find being active outside on windy days clears any mental cobwebs away.

If you like to work out outdoors, throw on a few layers of thin, rather than bulky, clothing. That’ll help ensure you’re aerodynamic yet cosy despite the wind, and you can simply peel them off as you warm up. Don’t bother with a hat, but don’t forget the sunblock.

In terms of your mindset, rather than thinking of the windy conditions as an obstacle, view it as an opportunity. If you see the weather as a chance to face a different challenge and mix things up a bit, it’ll seem like a positive rather than a negative.

All of that said, don’t feel like you ‘have to’ head outside in the wind, either. There are plenty of exercises and workouts you can do indoors or in a sheltered spot outside, so if that suits you better when it’s windy, go for it!

And if you do venture out into the wind, train, walk or run into the wind at the start of your workout if possible, so that on the return ‘leg’ you can use it to push you along.

If you play or participate in a sport and find yourself regularly competing in the wind, it’s a good idea to train in these conditions as often as possible, too. This will help you learn how to adjust your pace accordingly, tailor your clothing choices to be as aerodynamic as possible, and understand how much more water you might need to drink to counter the effect of high winds dehydrating your mouth. If you’re a runner or a cyclist, it also gives you the chance to practise drafting off an athlete in front of you, to reduce your own wind resistance.

And if you’re involved in a sport that requires playing a game of two halves, if it’s windy come competition day choose to run against it in the first half if you get the option. That way you’ll have the wind at your back during the second half – and there’s nothing like a tail wind to assist you at the end of a game!

As a final tip, keep in mind that cold dry air can be problematic for asthmatics. So, regardless of whether you’re playing sport or working out, if it’s cold and windy outside and you’re living with asthma, always make sure you’re prepared.

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Martha Lourey-Bird | Sports & Exercise Scientist will use the information you provide on this form to be in touch with you and to provide updates and marketing.