I'll let you in on a secret: I actually love running in the winter months. Fall, with its mild temps and crisp air, is notoriously a great time for runners. But even winter has prime running time written all over it for me. But many of my friends turn their noses up at my love of cool-weather running, citing that dreaded icy feeling in their chests as one of the main pain points.
I don't deny this is an uncomfortable side effect of cooler runs. But there are a few things I've learned to do in order to make my cold-weather runs less painful and to avoid that burning feeling in my lungs.
Slow It Down and Ease Up
This one is a simple one: pull back the reins! When it's chilly outside, our bodies often find themselves working a little extra. With that, it may feel a bit more difficult to find a comfortable pace and breathing cadence — thus making breathing comfortably and controlled more of a challenge. And, because the air is drier, the air that does fill the lungs can feel extra uncomfortable. I combat this simply by easing up my pace. I make sure to find a pace that is comfortable and allows me to keep a consistent breathing pattern, control the amount of air I take with each gulp, and thus cut back on the possibility of gasping for too much chilly air.
Cover Up Properly
In addition, I always make sure I'm dressed appropriately. To help avoid me getting too chilled and exerting too much energy simply to warm up (and thus getting myself tired and gasping faster and faster for breath), I gear up with the appropriate layers, gloves, and even a face gaiter. But the most important part in my staying-warm strategy is a solid base layer. Opting for one like the UA IntelliKnit Phantom 2.0 Crew ($100) that has body-mapped knit construction to help disperse heat and keep you warm and dry can make or break a pleasant run.
Hydrate as You Go
Just as I would during any run during the summer, I make sure to stay hydrated. When it's colder, it may not always feel like we're sweating or losing as much water when we work out, but staying hydrated is still essential no matter the conditions. What's more, because the air is often drier in the cooler months, the nose and mouth are working overtime to warm up the air to your body temp, thus dehydrating them even more and making that burning or dry sensation even greater. That's exactly why I always stop to rehydrate and fuel up, especially on longer, colder runs.