There are a lot of myths regarding running in the cold. Some think the icy weather might even freeze their lungs and others just cannot handle the burning sensation experienced when breathing. Running in the cold is not ideal, but these uncomfortable obstacles can be faced and conquered.
Running in the cold is more uncomfortable than it is dangerous. Your body is designed in such a way that you can go against the odds. Only in extremely cold weather does the chance exist for your lungs to ‘freeze’, but this would require you to go running in freezing, unpopulated areas of the earth. Your pulmonary system is responsible for regulating the temperature and ‘warming up’ the air that you breathe. Believe it or not, no matter the temperature you inhale, you will exhale air matching your body temperature.
Even though studies show that running in the cold won’t do permanent damage to your lungs, there are some short-term negatives. However, before you start thinking up excuses, know that the negatives are all manageable, and are by no means a reason to skip your training.
When you run in the cold you risk becoming dehydrated. At low temperatures there is not a lot of moisture in the air, which leads to that ‘burning’ sensation that some experience. If you don’t stay hydrated, your throat may become irritated.
Keep sipping on water during your run, and cover your throat with a scarf or face mask to prevent damage.
How to Breathe
It is said that you should try inhaling through your nose and exhaling through your mouth. According to some, the air warms up easier through your nose and is less harsh than inhaling through your mouth.
The key is to keep your breathing steady and even without forcing the air in and out. It would be advised to do less strenuous sessions during very cold weather to prevent you from struggling and gasping for air. Plan your schedule so that you can run during the warmest part of the cold day.
Breathing through your nose might lead to a runny or stuffed nose, and some people can’t find enough oxygen by merely breathing through their nose. For them it’s advised to invest in a mask or balaclava that will act as a barrier between the throat and icy air.
Even though covering your mouth won’t heat the air, it will help with trapping moisture and preventing damage. There are numerous neck-warmers available to help runners that live in these conditions.
Just remember, you have to work with what you have. If you prefer sweating it out in the gym during the harsh winter weather, this is also fine. Find whatever works best for you in order to reach your fitness goals.
How do you manage your breathing while running in the cold?