Cold weather running – ouch!

After last week’s super cold New Year’s Eve resolution run, I thought my lungs were destroyed. By that I mean that I coughed all week and my chest burned – I also had a bit of a cold, but I’m pretty sure all the coughing was because of the running. So, me being me I did some research. (Sources at the end of the post)

I wondered if I was doing any long-term damage to my lungs by running in the cold. Apparently not. The cold air basically irritates the cells that line the trachea. Once the air reaches the lungs, it is no longer cold. Another thing I learned is that dehydration makes it worse. Of course we all know that dehydration is bad, but I really didn’t know that it affected the cold air I was breathing. The lesson I learned is to drink water before running outside. Needing hydration is because the tracea uses water to humidify and warm the air going into the lungs. How cool is that?!

Also, taking short breaths irritates tracea more because the whole process all happens faster. This means that doing hard workouts in the cold isn’t a great idea – long runs that can use long breaths is fine, but shorter harder workouts will cause shorter breathing and cause more irritation. So the 5k I did on Monday made me breathe harder because I had a goal (5k in 35 minutes) and went harder than I normally would.

I guess this means I’ll keep running outside, as long as I figure out the right layers to wear on my legs to keep my thighs and butt from freezing! But that’s another post for another time.

This week’s accountability workout schedule:
This will be my first week of actual training. Since the pool closes for 3 weeks starting on Tuesday, it’ll look like this

  • Monday – 700m swim
  • Tuesday – Run (foundation) – 30-45 minutes
  • Wednesday – Easy bike – 30 minutes
  • Thursday – Run (intervals 4:1) – 45 minutes
  • Friday – Off
  • Saturday – Run and cross-country ski
  • Sunday – Bike – 45 minutes
  • Also, daily Yoga with Adrienne (YouTube)


4 thoughts on “Cold weather running – ouch!

  • January 6, 2019 at 8:24 pm

    I’ve been running in the vicious cold for over 30 years, and I’ve been asked the question of whether I’ve frozen my lungs. I researched it several times, and the answer was always ‘no,’ but it’s amazingly hard to convince people of that. Thanks for the evidence-based perspective.

    • January 14, 2019 at 2:12 pm

      It’s always good to have science on our side! The whole dehydration thing was a surprise to me. I love learning!

  • January 7, 2019 at 2:37 pm

    I don’t see swimming with Angela in your workout schedule, so that needs fixing!! I went to an alumni basketball game a few days ago, pushed myself hard because I was having so much fun, and then had a smokers cough for a few days after. My alveoli were like, wtf??? we don’t usually work this hard dude. Totally worth it!!!

    • January 14, 2019 at 2:10 pm

      I’ll try to put that into my training plan once in a while! Maybe this weekend?


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