Now that we've settled into the coldest winter months with a high of FOUR BELOW and a low of -14 today, I am shocked and amazed to see people still running outside on the trails. I always thought that breathing all that frigid air could damage your lungs, or give you frostbite! Then I came across this article in the New York Times about an environmental physiologist who has done extensive research on the risks of exercising in the cold. Here's what he says:
It doesn't hurt your lungs to breathe such cold air, even up to -50, because by the time it reaches your lungs, it's near body temperature. The cold air doesn't usually cause frostbite unless, say, you're running in subzero temperatures without a hat covering your ears. Your skin goes numb at about 50 degrees, and doesn't get frostbite until about 27 degrees, so it's gotta be a LOT colder than 27 degrees before you'll get frostbite, and as long as you're moving you can get by with not much more than a track suit, gloves, and a hat! Read the whole article here:
There were two different road races in Wisconsin over the weekend, which happened to be the coldest day of the winter by far, and they still had a good turnout, raising over $2000 for charity at "Freeze for Food" (left: the starting line).
People are also still commuting to work on their bicycles here. I'm still trying to figure out how to handle the extreme cold, and for now I try to avoid being out in it longer than a minute or two. I feel like my eye
balls are going to freeze solid, and my nose hairs and eyelashes get stuck together with ice crystals after just a few minutes in the cold. After reading that article, though, I'm encouraged to try running outside, or biking. Maybe we'll run across frozen Lake Mendota this week!