Monday, December 28, 2015

Why does your skin burn after running in the cold?



I ran my long run of 10 miles last night at about 7:00 pm.  The temperature was about 40 degrees when I started and dropped to about 37 degrees by the time I finished.  I was wearing running tights (not insulated), wool socks, a long sleeve top, and a light weight vest.  Other than my hands being cold on occasion, I felt quite comfortable. 

When I got home, I stretched for a second and then jumped in the shower.  I couldn’t wait to warm up a little.  After about a minute of being in the warm water, I developed patches of red, itchy skin on my belly and legs and it started to burn.  What the heck just happened to me?  I decided to do some research as to what I was experiencing and how to treat it.

According to an article from Runner’s World, your skin vasoconstricts, which may be just short of getting frostbite.  Your skin turns red and burns when your skin is cold and you decide to jump in the shower.  The warm water increases blood flow, which in turn allows your body to release chemicals like cytokines and leukotrienes.  That is what causes the discomfort.  The good news is that this doesn’t actually hurt the skin or blood, but is a harsh reminder to layer up for your next cold weather run.  

While this condition does not bring any long term effects, the next step is frostbite.  Frostbite is quite dangerous and can cause permanent damage including the possible loss of limbs.  The solution is simple; dress in layers.  There are tons of insulated running tights that you can find on Amazon or Road Runner Sports (RRS Men) (RRSWomen) starting as low as $30.  Just remember, you can take layers off if you get too hot.  There are tons of packable jackets and vests out there that will fold up into a little pouch and fit in your pocket.  I usually like to just tie my jacket around my waist when I am done with it.  While it doesn’t get as cold in Sacramento as it does in many parts of the nation, I will be layering better for my next cold run.

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