T Nation

Running in the Cold

Well, it has just started getting cold here in North Cackalacky and it’s having an effect on my daily run. In the past, while I wrestled, we would always run in the cold and I’d think nothing of the burning throat, lungs, and the taste of blood. However, after today’s run, I could feel my throat swelling. My voice is important to me so I am concerned whether I may be doing damage to my vocal chords. Bottom line, what adverse effects does extremely cold air have on the respiratory tract? Should I get my butt onto a treadmill? Thanks.

the only potential problem with running in the cold is catching pneumonia. The air will condense and put water in your lungs, potentially killing you, but that would be in about -30 weather. I live in northwest canada so I dont run at -20, anything above this should be fine, unless your a big pussy. Also, the type of environment your in counts. If you are running in a wet cold,dont. Dry cold you could run until -25 i tihnk.

Matt, I think you have that backwards. Very cold air is going to be drier. The airways warm AND moisten the air as it enters the lungs.

Almond – you can use masks/scarves to help warm the air, and alleviate some of that work from the airways. As for lasting effects – none that I’m aware of. I haven’t been running in very cold environs, but I have been skiing in them. Even now, I tend to get a phlegmmy throat on days that I run in even moderately cool weather. Lasts a couple hours, then I’m fine. I think you’re in greater danger of frostbite than lung/throat damage. Try backing the intensity off a bit for a while and slowly increasing it over a few weeks.

Sweet. Thanks for the replies. I have a dust mask I can try out. Hopefully it will make things a bit easier on the throat. I’d hate to have to hit a treadmill. All that running, and you get nowhere! :stuck_out_tongue:

Also most people when the run in the cold are not well hydradted. Because they think since they aren’t sweating they don’t need to drink water. I recommend drinking a lot of H2O while running in the cold or your favorite sport drink.

lol, I live in Canada. And it gets VERY cold up here. But the thing is once your used to it, your immune system will get stronger. Trust me.

My fellow Carolinian, sorry to hear about your troubles. Allow me to speak especially to your vocal questions as such is a very important professional arena for me(hence my name), and rarely do I get to answer posts because most want to know something about squat form or how to use Mag-10!

The answer to your question is most undoubtedly yes, running in cold weather has severe vocal implications although the severity of such may vary slightly from person to person and in each situation. The common laryngeal implications are thus:


1)Dehydration of the vocal folds due to rapidly drawing dry air across them


2)Spasms/paralysis in the vocalis muscle due to extreme temps. This is often temporary and explains post-run hoarseness if you have any.


3)Possible blood vessel damage/hemmorage on the folds themselves…very dangerous because it can cause scaring on the fold that can possibly require surgery in some people


4)Vocal Fold paralysis(Usually temporary)


5)Laryngeal swelling


6)there are more that I can’t quite remember off the top of my head, sorry!

In conclusion, running in cold air, assuming that you breathe through your mouth most of the time, can be very damaging to your voice(though so can many other things in bodybuilding, especially steroids and hormones although NOBODY at Biotest has ever returned an email wherein I asked about the vocal side-effects of Mag=10 ior 4-ad-ec). I would say that it comes down to how important your voice is to you and in what capacity. If you plan to make your living with your singing voice then I would be very wary of anything that could harm it, but if you only use it to speak for daily use then you’re likely okay. There is very little chance that running in cold air will permanently harm your ability to speak; so, I suppose it’s up to your judgement to weigh the risks and benefits involved. I hope this helps you out, and please let me know if I can be of any further assistance. God Bless.

This is kind of getting away from your question but how about running in the cold with some sort of fat burner? Increase thermogenesis? I think maybe so…

Hey Operaman, thanks for your reply! I pretty much experienced the symptoms above so I will definitely be careful next time. While a little rasp might be ok in my style of singing, I don’t want to do any real damage. As far as dehydration, I will try to keep well hydrated and use a mask on my runs. If I have swelling and the bloody taste, I guess I’ll have to take it inside…
As far as thermogenics, I have been taking the max dose of Hydroxycut but am trying to keep well hydrated. Keep 'em coming. -Alex

In short, yes. I work in Radiology and during my training years one of my physiology professors told us that running in the cold actually destroys through freezing the alveoli (the tiny grape-like bunches that directly exchange the O2 for CO2 between the bronchus and pulmonary arties which carry oxegenated blood to the heart). If you destroy these little bad boys, you’re going to develope respiratory difficulties eventually. And cold, dry air is hard on the mucous membranes of the esophagus, vocal chords,and trachea too. Hope this helps you.

Mayfield, if your physiology profs were anything like mine, they were probably fat and out of shape and rarely left their labs. Lots of things they told us were directly refuted by clinicians.

The FACT is that the air coming in is rapidly heated and is not nearly cold enough to freeze anything by the time it gets to your alveoli. If that were the case, you’d see tons of people who jog in the cold with emphysema. You just don’t see it. Just another myth.

lots of orientering runners in Sweden got lung inflamation(whatever its called, lamonia?) from running/training in the cold. the thing that people sa? here is that ice crystals rip the lungs, ofcourse very little each time, but enough. they now wear some kind of mask protection whatever and no more lung inflamation.
anyways, running in the cold is bad in many ways, more oxygen per volume so you dont get as much condition training/oxygen transport. since the body recieves more oxygen then when its warm. im tired, sorry, hope you get what i mean.

I bike and run in the cold a lot, and I’ve found two things that make it more comfortable…Cover your nose and mouth with something (I use a bandana)and inhale through your nose - exhale through your mouth. The bandana traps some of the moisture and warmth from your exhaled breath so it conditions the air you breath a bit, and inhaling through your nose gives the air more time to warm up before it gets down to your chest, so it doesn’t burn as much.

Good advice HB. I ran today with a mask over my mouth and kept my nose uncovered. When I start breathing heavy, I mostly breath through my mouth anyway. I was also properly hydrated. In any case, it GREATLY improved my performance. No burning, blood taste, or swelling. It does feel a bit restrictive but that’s something I can get used to. No treadmill! Yay! -Alex

Breathe through your nose. This method is more effective at warming and moistening the air than is inspiring through your mouth.