Have you ever smoked a whole pack of cigarettes right before you hit the starting line of a big race? No? Neither have we. But, if you’ve run in really cold weather, you’ve probably used similar comparisons for that burning, throbbing feeling in your chest and throat. There’s nothing like breath after breath of icy air to make you question your race decisions. We looked into this uncomfortable phenomenon and have some good news and some bad news.
Let’s start with good news: It’s not dangerous or harmful!. But here’s the caveat: if you have asthma, this can trigger bronchospasms. In short, your mouth and nose begin the process of warming the air you breathe before it hits your lungs. If that air is cold enough, and the nose and mouth have been cooled by constant exposure, it’s not much warmer internally than it was externally when it hits your lungs. Hence, you feel the burning/stinging/cigarette pain. But, the lungs are pretty amazing. With all the blood vessels circulating around the lungs, they can take the cool contact and still remain warm and properly functioning.
You need a little more good news? There are some ways to combat the pain. The first suggestion is to breathe through your nose. Simple, right? Yes, until the cold takes its toll and the mucus and the sweat and… you know. Other ideas include wearing a scarf or balaclava over your nose and mouth to help pre-warm the air as it comes in. However, the eventual condensation may leave you with a moist, if not icy, wrap across your face. The third idea is a charm: while there is little research into the products, there is gear out there designed to help you breath in comfort on those cold days… and to look like Bane.
The bad news? Well, we’re tricky. We just gave it to you. There are few ways around the cold-air lung sting and the suggestions that are out there aren’t always a certainty. This may just be another discomfort runners put up with for the love of the sport.
Of course, we won’t leave you on a sad note. We have one more bit of good news: the sting should go away. After your body feels what’s up and acclimates, the pain and/or discomfort should ease.
What do you do for cold-weather runs? Any tried-and-true secrets to avoid these feelings altogether? Tell us in the comments section below. You can also run over to our Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram to let us know what challenges you face on cold race days. Whatever those challenges are, we know of one obstacle we can certainly help you with: if muscle cramping is slowing you down, click here to order HOTSHOT for yourself and discover what cramp-free performance is all about.