Some athletes do this. Some others never write notes. And still others only very sporadically write notes. After over a decade as a coach, I’ve noticed an interesting phenomenon among the athletes who never or sporadically write Post-Workout Notes:
When they do write notes, they will mention adversity, especially wind, if they encountered it in a workout.
That will be it; they will only say something like “It was SO windy!” or “Part of this was into a headwind, and part of it was with a tailwind.” And that’s literally it.
Why is this? What about the wind prompts them to leave a Post-Workout Note when they almost never leave any Post-Workout Notes? After so many years observing this, I think it’s because these athletes see the wind as an obstacle, and it beats them down mentally.
I encourage athletes not to see the wind this way. Wind will almost always be a part of endurance sports training; this is especially true for anyone who trains for distances longer than 5K. Instead, I encourage athletes to embrace the wind.
Take Off Against the Wind
Henry Ford said it best: “When everything seems to be going against you, remember that the airplane takes off against the wind, not with it.”
Yes, indeed airplanes do take off into the wind. Pilots seek out the wind, even though it slows down the plane’s acceleration in terms of ground speed. This is because a headwind increases the flow of air over the airplane’s wings, which allows it to take off in a shorter distance and to climb at a greater angle. In short, the wind helps the airplane lift into the sky better. The overall flight experience is improved by seeking out the headwind and not being solely concerned about speed.
In endurance sports, a headwind is going to do the same thing to you - the athlete - that it does to the airplane. It is going to slow you down. But as we discussed last week, what can be measured isn’t necessarily what is most important. Just because it slows you down doesn't mean that the wind is automatically a horrible thing.
A Constant Companion
Wind is a constant companion. How much of a companion it is will change based on your geographic location, but there are very few places on this planet that do not have at least some wind on a daily basis. Rather than fighting it (and spoiler: complaining about the wind is a form of mentally fighting it), embrace this truth. Wind will be a part of your training and racing.
If you can accept wind as a constant companion, then paradoxically, it will become less of a “thing” for you. Complaining about something or constantly thinking about something gives that something power over you - physically, mentally, or both. If you can learn to accept it and co-exist with it, you are effectively refusing to give it that power. It becomes something that just is, rather than something that is impacting you.
Instead of complaining or worrying about the wind, instead focus on what power you have over the wind. In other words: Focus on what you can control in the situation. For instance, you can control how you’re practicing handling your bicycle or running in windy conditions, which will yield skills proficiency over time.
You can also control your thoughts. (Don’t believe me? Close your eyes and imagine a purple elephant wearing a yellow hat. What are you thinking about now? I bet it’s a purple elephant wearing a yellow hat. You just proved that we do have control over our thoughts; we can decide what we are going to think about.)
So when you encounter wind as a condition on a workout or in a race, you have complete control over what your thoughts are about it. You can choose to whine and complain about it and lament how it’s making things hard for you. Alternatively, you can choose to think about what benefits training or racing in this condition will provide you and how you will likely come out the other side stronger for it. One of these thoughts is a pathway to a fair amount of griping and misery; the other is one that takes back power into yourself and leaves you with a higher probability of being stronger by the end. Which one will you choose?
More Than Just Wind
This article is about the adversity of wind specifically, but the principles here can be applied to any form of adversity you may encounter in training or in life. Ruminating on something gives it power. Complaining about something gives it power. Stewing about something gives it power.
Don’t give up that power to anyone or anything else, whether it’s the wind, another person, or any other sort of adverse encounter you have. Keep that power for yourself.
When you find yourself thinking a particular thought about something, stop and ask yourself, “Why?” Why are you thinking that thought? Is it truly what is serving you best? Is there another thought you could superimpose over your current thought, or another thought you could transmute your current thought into? Is there another way to look at the situation you’re encountering that might be better for you, both in the short and long term?
The Bottom Line
Earlier this autumn, I was out on a ride with one of the athletes I work with. The athlete commented to me that it was so windy. I paused (mentally) and said, “I didn’t even notice.”
I wasn’t intending to sound dismissive or arrogant. We were on the same ride. We were riding in the same conditions. But because I’ve put what I talked about in this article into practice time and time again over the years, I’m now in a place where conditions like wind don’t hold tremendous power over me. I barely even register that they’re there because I know I can handle said condition, and I have made a choice not to let adversity rule me. I will rule the adversity.
Don’t complain about the wind. Embrace it. Rule it. Become stronger because of it.
Coach Laura Henry
Laura Henry is a Syracuse, NY-based coach who is a USA Triathlon Level II Long Course and Level II Paratriathlon Certified Coach, USA Cycling Level 2 Certified Coach, VFS Certified Bike Fitter, and has successfully completed NASM's Certified Personal Trainer course. Coach Laura is passionate about helping athletes of all ability levels reach their goals and has coached many athletes to success.