4 Tips to Running Outside in the Cold
Runners and others who exercise outside during the winter (Also read: Effectively Hydration During Winter) can experience a dry mouth and throat, restricted breathing and burning lungs due to the drier winter air. There has even been some hype about “frozen” lungs that causes some people to express concerns about whether it is safe to exercise outdoors when the temperature starts to drop.
Provided you do not have any serious breathing disorders, such as severe asthma (Also read: Hydration and Battle Against the Flu) or COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), and the temperature is below -26 degrees °C, scientific research has shown it is perfectly safe to run and perform other exercises outside during cold weather. However, for the sake of safety, strenuous outdoor exercise should be curtailed when the mercury drops below -26 degrees as the body may not be able to warm the air sufficiently enough to prevent damage before it reaches the lungs.
If you find you are having trouble breathing while running outside during the colder weather, here are four things to try:
While many recommend breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth, to help humidify the dry winter air, this will result in less oxygen reaching your lungs. Your basic breathing technique should be no different during cold weather than during the warmer months, with long, deep, controlled breaths through your mouth. Try to resist taking big gulps of cold air, as this will increase the stress on your lungs and can result in a burning sensation throughout your respiratory system.
2) Cover Your Mouth
For those with breathing issues, cold air can irritate your airways, resulting in coughing, bronchitis or triggering an asthma attack. Covering your mouth with a lightweight face covering will allow the air to warm up before it hits your lungs, lessening the shock to your system.
Options for face coverings include a loose-fitting balaclava that doesn’t push up tightly against your face. This will allow air to warm up as it moves freely inside the garment, around your face and neck. Another option is a neck warmer or turtleneck sweater that is long enough to be pulled up over your mouth. A third option is a neoprene face mask that has air holes in the area that covers the mouth. Try different garments until you find what works best for you. Whatever you choose, just be sure the fabric allows for easy air flow both in and out of your mouth. Once warmed up, you may be able to loose the face covering.
3) Go Easy
Breathing cold air during high-intensity workouts can result in breathing difficulties. Instead, go for longer, and less strenuous workouts. Once you are thoroughly warmed up you can try to increase the intensity, slightly, to see how your lungs handle it. If all goes well, then you can try gradually increasing the intensity of your workout until you find a level that works best for you. Just be sure to continually self-monitor your breathing and slow down if any issues arise.
4) Don’t Forget to Drink!
Becoming dehydrated (symptoms of dehydration) affects all of your bodily functions, including breathing. While you don’t typically sweat as much while running during the winter, you still expel a lot of moisture when breathing heavily. For example, the amount of water exhaled is approximately four times higher with a heart rate of just 140 beats per minute as compared to a resting heart rate. Additionally, when exercising harder, it is also important to replace your electrolytes or your neural system won’t be able to function properly, possibly leading to heart, blood pressure and breathing problems. One of the best scientifically-proven sports drinks for electrolyte replacement is SOS, as it speeds up rehydration three times faster than plain water.
All the research supports there is little danger from exercising during the cold winter months, so there is no need to let yourself go and then have to work that much harder to get back into shape when the weather warms up again. Just remember to follow the tips provided in this article and you won’t have to suffer with cabin fever this winter.