Every day I field all manner of running related questions but for the first time I've been asked, "Can my lungs freeze if I run outside in the winter?" Several days later, another runner repeated the question and and yet another runner told me she won't run outside in the winter because she heard her lungs could freeze.
I'm befuddled how this urban running myth started and why its suddenly spreading in our local KC running community, but I figure if Ive heard it three times, there are probably a few of you out there wondering the same thing.
While there are risks to running outdoors in the winter, your lungs will not freeze. The dry air and cold can irritate your airways especially if you have bronchitis or reactive airway disease, but be of ease, your lungs won't freeze.
The biggest risk to running outdoors in the winter is falling on black ice. This can lead to nasty bruises, sprained ankles or worse...broken bones. To decrease risk, run on well lit, properly cleared surfaces, decrease your pace and stay attentive.
Other risks include frostbite and hypothermia. These can be avoided by dressing properly in several removeable water wicking and windproof layers. Running with the wind at your back is ideal.
If in doubt about the weather, use PB's run cancellation policy as a guide. We recommend running indoors if the effective temperature, taking into account windchill, is below zero or if course conditions are dangerous due to ice or excessive snow.
Runner's World covered the frozen lung topic in 2004 with quite a funny article. Check it out!
We hope to see you all Jan. 11th for the start of the PB spring session! Stay tuned for details.