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Into the Wind

This morning, on my daily run, I was met with sunshine, cool temperatures, and one of the most deceitful conditions that a runner can face - wind.

In my experience, a windy day can turn your training plans on their head, with no regard for your good intentions. If you’re planning to run at an easy pace and face a strong headwind, your effort-level is immediately heightened. A faster paced run, when met by the forceful gusts of wind, requires greater focus and effort just to hit paces that otherwise would be well within the runner’s ability level. Hit strong headwinds in a race, especially one of Marathon distance, where every ounce of energy must be accounted for, and you may just need to reframe your expectations for the result that you’re striving for.

Athletes and coaches often talk of ‘controlling the controllables’, and the sad realization is that weather conditions fall into the ‘uncontrollable’ category. Wind, then, is a form of resistance. We can’t change or eliminate resistance. It is ever present. And if you can’t see it in the moment, it’s probably more a matter of perspective than reality. Embrace those moments, because they are fleeting.

Author Steven Pressfield, most well-known for his novel The War of Art, defines resistance as anything that stops you from taking action, including inner fears and self-doubt. The interesting thing about this definition is that it identifies two intrinsic factors in resistance: fear and doubt. Much of Pressfield’s book, for that matter, discusses resistance as a ‘war within’, as opposed to one being imposed by the external.

With this understanding, the wind that so desperately wishes to blow me backwards, is actually a state of mind.

Becoming more fit will certainly help us to run stronger into the wind, but more importantly, our minds must be conditioned to face the challenge. We don’t control the forces that impose themselves upon us; but we do control our response. Work within, and allow battles won inside of your mind to determine the results of the war.


“Resistance arises from within. It is self-generated and self-perpetuated. Resistance is the enemy within”.

Steven Pressfield


Reframing the Enemy:

My initial reaction to a strong gust of wind is anger. My mind tells me to scream louder; impose my own force. With this approach, energy is wasted, and I am weaker than before. Resistance has won. The way to win the war is not to exert the most energy, but rather to apply a consistent, steady stream of force back towards the challenge. The strategy, then, isn't to overpower, but to outlast. Wage a war of endurance.

The enemy isn’t resistance, it’s your inability to manage the forces that are working against you.

We are only as strong as our weakest link, and I can assure you that the resistant head-wind flying into your face isn’t the weak one. You have to strengthen the parts of yourself that either want to lash out, wasting energy; or crawl into a ball, surrendering to the perceived magnitude of that which surrounds you. Wars are won with tact and patience, two things that many of us lack.

When we work from the inside out, we are better conditioned for the challenges that stand before us. Rather than allowing negative thoughts to arise in the face of resistance, a mind and spirit that has built confidence over time will be more resilient in the presence of adversity. Focus on the controllables, exercise patience in all things, and be willing to struggle, knowing that the stress that you’re experiencing is simply a stimulus for growth.


“Success is not measured by what you accomplish, but by the opposition you have encountered, and the courage with which you have maintained the struggle against overwhelming odds”

Orison Swett Marden


Outlast and Win the War:

In my most recent post, I discussed endurance, and the tremendous importance of increasing our capacity to endure hardship. It was stated that if we desire to overcome adversity, then we must be exposed to it, often. Frequency is variable number one. If your challenges are scarce, so too will be your strength. Embrace stress as a stimulus.

The next variable is conscious awareness; an avoidance of following the comfortable approach that is a detachment from stress. Emotions are powerful, because they reflect the responses that our body’s are experiencing. Emotions such as fear, anxiety, anger, sadness, etc. all represent a state of stress, one that is felt fully by our mind and body. Often, we try to suppress these emotions, or hurry the time of feeling. We wish for reprieve, and in these moments of stress, our worst selves are brought into the world.

The energy that we are feeling is an input; we are unable to control the natural stress responses that present themselves before us. What we do control is our mental and physical responses to stress-provoked emotions. We get to make the decision between avoidance of hardship or embrace.

Cowardice or courage? You decide.

The decision is made through the ability or inability to be present within moments of struggle. To recognize, understand, and use your emotions, for better or worse. We have to become accustomed to the practice of turning feelings into action. Feelings alone will get you nowhere; right action, in accordance with your unique values will take you to great levels of personal growth and achievement.


“Permanence, perseverance, and persistence in spite of all obstacles, discouragements, and impossibilities: It is this, that in all things distinguishes the strong soul from the weak”

Thomas Carlyle


Revisiting the Wind:

As I continue to run into the wind, I notice my legs beginning to turn over at a faster rate. My pace is greater, despite the wind that so desperately tries to slow me down. As I come to the end of the road, I make a slight left turn, providing me with a reprieve from the headwind that has forced me backwards for minutes on end.

As the road becomes easier to travel, my legs begin to slow back to their original pace, that of conservation and caution for the restraints of the workout.

Now, with the wind fading into the background of my mind, I begin to feel my senses calm, my body relaxing into a state of increased comfort. And yet, something feels wrong. Something is missing. Only a few minutes remain on my run, and I briefly consider what I want to remember from this day. Do I want to come to the end knowing that I avoided the wind when given the opportunity, or do I want to embrace its resistance once more?

I take a hard right turn onto a side street, increase my turnover, and run into the wind once more. Before I know it, I am home.

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