One of the small and usual concerns with running in the winter: Wouldn’t breathing in all that cold air be bad for one’s health?

Where I live, it’s a very windy area with little protection, so that thought easily comes into play. You’d learn quickly to dress appropriately, but what about exposed skin and the cold you breathe in?

Breathing in the Cold

As so often, there is some truth to the concern about breathing in cold air. It is also an excuse, though.

There is a point where it could get too cold – but unless you live in Siberia or places like it, you are unlikely to get affected by that.
(And when you do, you’ll probably have other things to think about than going out running.)

In the ordinary cold, the air we breathe in gets warmed and moistened in its passage through the nasal cavity.
That’s quite enough to make it unproblematic for health.

These are the two issues to consider, too: warmth and humidity of the air breathed in.

Cold winter air is, surprise, cold… and with that, it is (usually) also dry.

There are two easy tips to handle this well:

  • Exertion levels again play a role.You do not want to get into a situation where you are so out of breath, you want to breathe in through your mouth. In that case, the warming and moistening in the nose wouldn’t take place, and that mouth-breathing could give you a sore throat.So, also for that reason, go slow and steady…
  • When temperatures fall a bit more (or there is more wind), then you might want to cover your nose with a Buff or other headwear – all the way to a balaclava, if you want to go out when it is really rather cold.That way, you are protected more and the air you breathe in gets warmed and moistened that bit more.

And on you (can) go.

Freezing on the Skin

Your exposed skin, in temperatures where you don’t get into serious trouble, is likely not going to be an issue.

Protect your head, including your ears; wear gloves; have good clothing (including, well-balanced for warmth vs. sweat), again maybe use a Buff or other…

That should all be a matter of course and not a big issue.

The only things you might forget:

  • Sunglasses.Especially when it’s cold and windy, or when there is snow reflecting the UV light that even gets through clouds, you will want to have your eyes protected.Doesn’t matter that it may not look so bright; protection is necessary.
  • Lipstick.Your lips are the one part that is likely to remain exposed and to suffer in the cold air even if you are otherwise dressed appropriately and unlikely to suffer adverse consequences; the skin there is just more sensitive and likely to crack.Chapped lips.… not comfortable.

Otherwise, just go. And enjoy. There is a beauty to the crisp cold air.