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  1. #1
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    How to breathe in low temperatures

    How do you breathe when you cycle (or exercise hard) in the winter?
    Do you breathe through your nose or mouth?
    I am asking because in my case if I cycle hard I have to breathe through my mouth.
    And if it is cold enough outside breathing through my nose make me catch a cold.
    This is why I slow down if is cold, although I do not want to.

    Thank You, this forum is great and addictive.

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    I breathe through a mask, with my mouth. I can't get enough air if I breathe through my nose. Exhaling through my nose also tends to fog my glasses.

    If you're concerned about inhaling all that cold air, there's at least one company that makes a face mask specifically for that purpose: it has a membrane that is heated by your breath when you exhale, and then warms the incoming air as you inhale.

    Oh, and you can't catch cold from breathing cold air. That's an old wives tale; the cold is caused by one of 200 different viruses. The cold virus is transmitted by exchanging fluids from your mouth and nose. During cold season, you can avoid catching cold by avoiding touching your mouth, nose or eyes before washing your hands.
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  3. #3
    Sensible shoes. CastIron's Avatar
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    Jeff called it.
    I'll only add that when it's that cold, I now religiously use a Patagonia R1 balaclava which is just about perfect as it's warm and easy to breathe through.
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    Railgun of Patience WhiteRabbit's Avatar
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    I have a real hard time with this. If the temperature drops below about 45 degrees, my eight mile commute goes from being a nice warm up to something that makes me start coughing up blood. I picked up a mask last year to help, but the weather warmed up enough that I didn't need it before I had a chance to really use it.

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    WhiteRabbit, if you're coughing-up blood for any reason you need to see a doctor immediately. Don't wait for winter to arrive before making that appointment.

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    I've had good luck with some of the Pearl Izumi balaclavas worn beneath my helmet. I cover my jawline but leave my mouth and nose exposed.
    When it's truly bitter outside, I just back down a notch on the intensity of the outdoor riding and do my tougher training on a treadmill, stairclimber, or turbotrainer indoors.

  7. #7
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    I breathe like I normally do when it is warm. I usually breathe through my mouth, and occasionally through my nose. Not a problem. And I don't like anything over my nose and mouth when I ride.

    There should be no reason why breathing through your nose should make you catch a cold.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by Machka View Post
    I breathe like I normally do when it is warm. I usually breathe through my mouth, and occasionally through my nose. Not a problem. And I don't like anything over my nose and mouth when I ride.

    There should be no reason why breathing through your nose should make you catch a cold.
    I always find this question to be odd. So apparently this issue is only for a certain percentage of the population. Perhaps a precentage with respiratory problems or just plain ol poor health. Regardless, i breathe through my mouth, just like the rest of the year.

    Breathing through my mouth only causes trouble on days like today when i am riding my mountain bike through mud and a chunk makes a direct hit with the back of my throat. Yum!

  9. #9
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    Like you say, everybody is different.

    But, In a few times that I breathed only through my mouth at cold temperatures (bellow freezing) I was quite sick when I finished the exercise. I addition to that I had big pain in the lungs at the beggining of the exercise.

    Do you think it is OK fot the lungs to get cold air?
    Thks.

  10. #10
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    Everyone is different, and from my observations, this question often comes from people who live in an area where the temperatures are generally quite warm and where they only experience a short period of time in the winter where it is cool, and maybe only a few days where it could be considered cold.

    On the other hand, I have spent approx. 2/3 of my life living in temps that could be considered at least cool, and about 1/2 my life in temps that most people would consider cold. For me breathing in cool or cold air is normal. It's a part of every day life. I'm used to it.

    The only time cold air bothers my lungs is if I do something like dash out the door and sprint for the bus ... and the temperature is about -40C with a bit of a wind. It can be a little bit of a shock to the system to go through a dramatic temperature change and to go from casually breathing in room-temperature air to gulping in freezing cold air.

    However, if I decide I want to go for a ride on a day when the temps are in the "freezing cold" range, I will ease myself into it. I will open the garage door to let in the cold air while I'm getting my bicycle ready. I'll walk my bicycle down the sidewalk and across the street (I do that to avoid the piles and snow and ice too). Once I am cycling, I start easy and gradually build up my pace to something that feels reasonable for the conditions. When I do that ... I'm fine.

    Now I will add that I have EIA, so damp, or cool, or cold conditions can create a certain amount of congestion, and potentially, breathing difficulties. And I'll often cough for an hour or two after I get in from a longer ride. I can avoid some of the discomfort of my EIA by doing things like starting slow, or never overexerting myself on my ride (outdoor winter cycling isn't the time to do interval training, or something like that, anyway), and especially by using my inhaler. NOTE: What I experience is not a cold, and I'm not "sick", even though I may appear to have some cold-like symptoms. It has been officially diagnosed as EIA, and a shot from my inhaler can make my symptoms pretty much vanish (or never start to begin with if I remember to use it before I go out.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by Maro View Post
    How do you breathe when you cycle (or exercise hard) in the winter?
    Do you breathe through your nose or mouth?
    I am asking because in my case if I cycle hard I have to breathe through my mouth.
    And if it is cold enough outside breathing through my nose make me catch a cold.
    This is why I slow down if is cold, although I do not want to.

    Thank You, this forum is great and addictive.

    One thing that you can do is to breath in through your nose and out your mouth. This helps somewhat as the nose warms the air better than the mouth but you have to pace yourself because with harder efforts you can't get enough air in and out fast enough breathing in with your nose.

  12. #12
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    Another suggestion would be to just get used to the cool/cold temps by spending as much time outside as possible. I love being outside, and don't like being cooped up inside any more than I have to be ... so I adjust to the weather.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Machka View Post
    Another suggestion would be to just get used to the cool/cold temps by spending as much time outside as possible. I love being outside, and don't like being cooped up inside any more than I have to be ... so I adjust to the weather.
    Yes,

    This is very important. Your body will adjust to the cold if you can do it slowly and gradually. It's best to spend lots of time outside doing things that don't require heavy breathing but this may be harder in southern climbs where it's generally warmer.
    Last edited by Hezz; 09-22-07 at 08:32 AM.

  14. #14
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hezz View Post
    Yes,

    This is very important. Your body will adjust to the cold if you can do it slowly and gradually. It's best to spend lots of time outside doing things that don't require heavy breathing but this may be harder in southern climbs were it's generally warmer.
    I supplement my cycling with a lot of walking, which doesn't require overly heavy breathing. Plus walking has a lot of extra benefits like working different muscles and being a weight bearing exercise which is good for the bones. And I can still walk, even when there are huge snow drifts and streets covered in ice, so it is a good option for winter.

  15. #15
    Senior Member ken cummings's Avatar
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    For really extreme cold and heavy labor like workers in a deep freeze facility there are special re-breather masks. The exhaled air warms and condenses breath moisture onto what are basically copper Brillo pads. Inhaled air passes over the same pads and is warmed and moistened.
    This space open

  16. #16
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    Here's an example of one of those heat exchange masks:

    http://www.allergyzone.com/xchange.php

    I wear a half-face mask from http://www.seirus.com/ It doesn't do much for the cold air I'm breathing in, but it's very good at keeping my face warm.
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  17. #17
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    i can't move enough air through my nose so i use my mouth. last winter i used a scarf but it was either too hot and wet under the scarf or too cold outside it. might have to try one of those masks this winter.

  18. #18
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    I try not to breath too hard in winter; it burns my lungs. If it's cold really cold out, I just slow down (it often means that there is snow on the ground too, so I have to slow down for safety anyhow ).
    Stomping as lightly as I can...

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    Bicycle Repair Man !!! Sixty Fiver's Avatar
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    Your nose is designed to warm incoming air and provide some filtration so it's better to breathe in through the nose and out through the mouth... a decent mask can trap some heat while staying breathable enough to not get all damp inside.

    I ride in extremely cold temps here ( -40 anyone ?) and use a neoprene mask that covers everything from the nose down and wear ski goggles as they provide great protection from sun, wind, and cold and don't fog up.

    I also have a nice fleece hood that covers pretty mcuh everything and it is a very functional piece of winter gear.

  20. #20
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    A note on breathing difficulties in cold weather:

    About a year ago I was diagnosed with cold induced athsma (some times referred to as exercised induced athsma). In effect, when you exercise and breathe harder your lung temperature actually drops as there is more air passing in/out drawing heat out of your body. With this type of athsma, your lung has an athsmatic response to this drop in temperature, which is significantly more pronounced in colder weahter.

    For instance, so long as the temp is above 50 degrees or so I never notice anything. As it gets colder than that my lung will tighten up more and more. I first really noticed playing soccer in the fall when it was about 45 degrees out. I thought I was getting winded but alas. If the temp is 20 degrees or less, even a vigorous walk in gives my lungs a rasp.

    Needless to say, I did get an inhaler for this condition, which I only use before outdoor exercise if its going to be cold. Works like a charm, keeps the lung from overly contracting.

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    Now that you mention it VonMorkai, after a long bike ride in the cold (average -10F to +10 in the winter) I cough a lot, and it's a different cough than I'm used to. My former roommate Lindsey had the same problem.

  22. #22
    Senior Member john bono's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ken cummings View Post
    For really extreme cold and heavy labor like workers in a deep freeze facility there are special re-breather masks. The exhaled air warms and condenses breath moisture onto what are basically copper Brillo pads. Inhaled air passes over the same pads and is warmed and moistened.
    -1 on the rebreathers. I picked up one at walmart instead of a standard balaclava, and it was definitely a mistake to buy it. The problem with them is that while they do warm your breath, they do it at the cost of restricting airflow. A "normal" balaclava is better, IMHO.
    Ride a bike. It makes your legs stringy, and less tasty to our Kanamit friends.[SIGPIC][/SIGPIC]

  23. #23
    Tora Tora Tora Relaxer's Avatar
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    When it's really cold out, I love the sensation of inhaling through my nose and feeling my snot freeze. I love less the need to break off the crust of snot after a ride from the bottom half of my face.

  24. #24
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Relaxer View Post
    When it's really cold out, I love the sensation of inhaling through my nose and feeling my snot freeze. I love less the need to break off the crust of snot after a ride from the bottom half of my face.

    It's better to ride in temps cold enough where snot freezes and you can just break it off, than to ride in temps where the snot keeps flowing, and your entire sleeve is covered in it.

  25. #25
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    In yoga, we practice what's called the heating breath. Breath in through your nose. (start w/ your stomach, then your sternum, then your chest) When you breathe out (in the same order), act like you're breathing out of your mouth, but have your lips closed. Exaggerate it so that you get a deep, whooshing/growling sound, and rinse, repeat. (If you're around a lot of people, you can leave out the sound) It's amazing how it will actually warm you up.

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