Five Tips for Windy Winter Running

We’re hitting the tail end of winter up in Cheyenne; yes, I know the first day of spring was last week, don’t remind me. Like any other person with a problem, when the first snowfall of the season hit, I frantically Googled “tips for winter running” and the like. I got a lot of the usual advice – Yaktrax for the ice, wear layers – but most of the articles on winter running don’t take one really important factor into account: the wind.

Cheyenne, WY is the fourth-windiest city in the U.S., and I once heard a joke that they must have hit on that number during the summer. In the time I’ve lived in Cheyenne, the wind has been so bad that I’ve been pushed across the street and temporarily unable to breathe, sometimes at the same time. I’m dead serious about that.

Now that I’ve made it to April, I’ve learned a thing or two about running in extreme wind conditions. Thus, for those of you who are faced with the same lack of information I was, I present…

Five Tips for Windy Winter Running

1. If you can’t breathe, don’t run outside.

This seems like a no-brainer, right? You don’t go running when you’re stopped up (or, uh, you shouldn’t). But this past winter I experienced days where I would go outside and immediately start coughing just because it was so cold. For those of you who haven’t had the joy of experiencing this, it usually starts happening when you get into single digit temps, but on particularly windy days, it could happen at 15 degrees fahrenheit.  I hate the treadmill too, but some days you gotta suck it up and go inside.

2. Dress for the actual temperature outside.

Every single article I read on winter running advised to dress for temperatures about 10-15 degrees warmer than those you’ll actually run in. Yeah, that’s great if you live somewhere still, but if you don’t factor in the wind chill, you’ll be absolutely miserable, especially if you do your runs in the evening like a lot of us desk jockeys. Invest in both a good jacket and a lightweight windshell. And speaking of clothing…

3. Protect your extremities.

Wear gloves, wear a hat, wear a Buff. In fact, if you find a pair of mittens you can run in, even better. In Cheyenne, we get windchill and frostbite warnings, and that shit is no joke. I underestimated it when I first got here, and though I haven’t lost any fingertips yet, there were a couple of runs where I felt like I came close.

4. Determine which direction the wind is going beforehand.

I became a fiend about checking the weather in January simply so I could determine this. Figure it out and plan your route about it, especially if you have to run in the city. It’s a little easier to deal with on the trails, since you usually have tree cover, but you should factor it in nonetheless. On a related note, after a couple of months of living in a city-turned-windstorm, you’ll get a pretty good handle on what times of the day the wind is worse. There’s a reason I don’t run at lunch unless I absolutely have to, and it’s not because I don’t want to deal with showering before I go back to work (okay, maybe that’s part of it too).

5. Let someone know when you go and when you get back.

I know, this seems extreme. But remember that frostbite thing? If you’re running in inclement weather, it’s better to be prepared, and severe wind is inclement weather. Besides, you really should be doing this anyway if you run on trails or in other remote places. Feel free to tell me I’m being paranoid – it’s probably true.

Obviously, this isn’t an exhaustive list – please go check out all of the great winter running articles online to supplement my tips. But hopefully this will help some of you that live in areas like the Front Range where the wind can be truly brutal. And I hope I didn’t scare you off coming up here to run. The trails are gorgeous and the wind is worse in the city, I swear! Happy running!

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