How to Breathe While Running & Walking In Cold Weather
Michael Sean Huffman – MS, ATC, PT
Fit For Life Physical Therapy
On an early morning run there’s nothing quite like the bracing feeling of a cool breeze in your face. The crisp air makes you feel alive and finishing a workout in the cold gives you a tremendous sense of accomplishment.
Unfortunately, some people struggle to catch their breath when they run or walk in the cold weather, and that feeling is real and sometimes even a little bit scary. Despite the burning feeling in your throat, this sensation is not dangerous.
So why does breathing that cold air hurt so much? Why do your lungs feel like they are burning? Most doctors agree that the burning sensation you feel when breathing cold air is due to the combination of the heat and water exchange that occurs when you breathe in the cold, dry air. This exchange is quite normal and allows your lungs to breathe air that has been warmed to your body temperature and is 100% humidified.
In other words, the burning sensation is not really from the cold air hitting your lungs, but from the dry air hitting your trachea (windpipe). If you breathe in and out normally, your body can hydrate that air and warm it up to your core temperature. This exchange of heat within your body happens so quickly that the cold air never actually reaches your lungs. Because the air also must be humidified, staying hydrated is key.
There are a few things that can help reduce this burning sensation and alleviate some of this the discomfort often felt with this very normal process.
First, stay hydrated. Making sure that you are keeping up with your normal healthy water intake, especially during the winter, will assist with your body’s hydration of the dry winter air that you are breathing. Even though you are cold and might not feel dehydrated, please remember that your body will still be burning through fluids while you are running or walking on a cold day.
Second, take normal, relaxed, deep breaths when you run. Regular, controlled breathing will help minimize the stress on your respiratory system in ways that fast, panting breathing cannot.
Third, be mindful of your pace. Some runners and walkers need to reduce the intensity of their outdoor workouts until their body has warmed up. Taking it easy during the first mile of any workout can help you warm up slowly and reduce stress on your system.
Finally, bundle up with a comfortable scarf or a balaclava over your face to help moisten the air as it is inhaled
Most of all, please enjoy your winter run or walk and stay on track with your exercise plan, training program, New Year’s resolution, etc.
Fit For Life Physical Therapy cares for people of all activity levels - to help prevent, recover from, or rehabilitate sports & orthopedic injuries. We are proud to move people every day.
Please visit our website https://www.fitforlifephysicaltherapy.com/, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call or text us at any of the phone numbers for our three convenient locations inside Fleet Feet/FrontRunner stores:
Polaris: 1270 East Powell Road Lewis Center, Ohio 43035 ~ 614-981-2065
Upper Arlington: 1344 West Lane Avenue, Columbus, Ohio 43221 ~ 614-981-1979
New Albany: 5792 North Hamilton Road, Columbus, Ohio 43230 ~ 614-581-7441