Posted on Fri, Apr. 25, 2003
The (Nearly) Fit Guy: This runner can’t face gusts with gusto
BY STEVE DAVIS
The Dallas Morning News
(KRT) – The wind was howling ferociously one evening last week.
And yet it was nothing compared with the hurricane-force tempest of excuses swirling in my noggin.
I can’t stand running in heavy wind. My plans for an evening jog were, almost literally, blowing away.
As I tried to muster some determination, my pot of excuses began boiling over.
I told myself this was a particularly angry wind. This gale had issues!
And I swear I thought I heard Obi-Wan Kenobi saying, “The force is strong in this one.”
“I probably better sit this one out,” I thought.
I will lace up the shoes on the hottest of summer days. I won’t relish it, but I’ll do it.
Rain? Gore-Tex me, baby!
Heck, a dash in a spring or summer shower is refreshing and even strangely empowering.
You feel like Lance Armstrong – without the bike – doggedly logging the training miles en route to great achievement.
I will trot the good trot in the dead of winter, on days when temperatures only dream of reaching 40.
But my determination shrivels up like a pickle in the sun on days when our fierce friend bellows.
I’m absolutely sure that I am not alone on this. I have no scientific, double-blind, control-group-measured, double-top-secret studies to buttress this claim – just countless volleys of “Me, too!” when I mention my disgust for the gusts.
Don’t get me wrong. Wind certainly has its place.
If not for a man-made version thereof, American males of a certain generation would have been deprived of that classic pose of Marilyn Monroe and her famously overmatched skirt.
And what about music? Would Bette Midler’s “Wind Beneath My Wings” really have sounded as sweet if saddled with the unfortunate title “Gale-Force Squall Beneath My Wings”?
Earth, Wind & Fire would have been extremely deflated – not to mention vaguely menacing, in a biblical sort of way – as the stunted “Earth & Fire.”
Elton John, Bob Dylan, Bob Segar, Christopher Cross and even Patrick Swayze would lose tunes if you yanked wind from their lyrical ammo belt.
(Looking back, did Mr. Swayze really have a singing career – including “She’s Like the Wind” – or was that just a nightmare from The (Nearly) Fit Guy’s sad days of powering down late-night burritos?)
Heck, I’ve even been referred to as a big bag of wind.
I am a friend to the wind at large, I tell you. Just not when I run.
In favorable conditions, this running thing is a delicate balance between pleasure and pain as it is. If Stiff Breeze sits on the seesaw, the balance tips precipitously, and Determination is gonna go flying comically off the other side.
Studies suggest that a 10 mph tailwind may increase your speed by about 5 percent.
Meanwhile, that same lame 10 mph wind, blowing in your face, slows you down by about 8 percent.
Bummer. There’s no justice.
Besides, get a bunch of runners together and they invariably start discussing shoes, races, training methods, etc. Then the topic may turn to methods of “breaking the wind.”
And whenever those three words gather in that sequence – “breaking the wind” – giggles and snickers will likely ensue, exposing The (Nearly) Fit Guy once and for all as the 14-year-old he really is.
Running coach Chris Greene suggests carefully selecting your battlegrounds for a face-off with the wind. You might avoid White Rock Lake or other open areas where “hiding from the wind” is difficult.
And, he says, make sure to start your run into the wind. That way you’re fresh when you blast off into the breeze and collect the benefits on the return leg. Do it the other way and you’ll be practically crawling in the late innings of your run.
“If you’re running with the wind at the end, it’s like a little pat on the back as you finish, a little nudge,” Greene says.
And for the wind wussies like me, the ones who just can’t beat this thing mentally, Greene suggests concentrating on beating the beast physically. Lean into the wind with your chest and make sure you’re pushing hard off the balls of your feet.
And just for the heck of it, listen hard for encouragement from your inner Obi-Wan.
© 2003, The Dallas Morning News.