Heart rate Zones and cold weather

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  • #3822

    I’ve noticed that in trying to keep in the heart rate zones when it’s cold, I quickly climb out of the zones without my usual amount of effort. I assume this was due to the extra effort of my body keeping itself warm. Should I go with it or should I adjust somehow.


  • Participant
    mountain_stoke on #3831

    You need to adjust your training zones to compensate for the effects of temperature and cold on your body.

    Anonymous on #3832


    I work every day with cross country ski racers in cold and sometime very cold temps (-20C) and have done so for many years. I confess that I have never seen any noticeable HR effect from the cold. I would suggest that you dress warmer while warming up so that your core temp stays higher perhaps. If you are shivering then I think yes it is possible to see a higher HR. Normally in cold conditions the capillaries in your extremities shut down which restricts blood flow and will actually lower your HR.

    Sorry I can’t shed more light on this. You stumped me 😉

    LindsayTroy on #3835

    Interesting! So maybe it is just me being cold, I definitely do notice this. I live near the coast and we get crazy wind even when its cold, so I’ll be running down a N/S street and when I get to an E/W cross street the wind will whip through and my HR will go up even if I’m standing still, so that makes sense in terms of shivering. But more what I was thinking of, for example I set out for a run last Monday where it was close to -5C and I basically could only power walk without my HRM beeping at me that I was getting out of Zone 2. And I never really felt cold.

    I do notice that when I run in the cold my lungs really hurt, could it be that the cold weather is affecting my breathing? I know that breathing can affect HR…

    So I guess the question is, should I go by “conversation pace” or HR zones when this is happening?

    ConMan on #3836

    One issue I had for years was I would get a wheez and a dry cough when it was cold. I started to first notice it after a day of skiing. Then, I noticed it during the summers when I would go up to altitude and it was cooler out. A year ago, after watching Brett Maune have another unsuccessful CO 14ers speed record attempt due to exercise induced asthma, I went into the DR. I also had just spent a day skiing about 45,000′ of vert and I was having a very difficult time breathing while laying on my living room floor. I was diagnosed with “bronchospasms” and given a script for albuterol. I’ve taken about 50 “hits” off the inhaler in about a year, so I use it very little. But, it makes a world of difference when I need it. I’ve found that I don’t really need it regardless of temp on my aerobic workouts. But, I only train at about 6000 ft. I hiked Pikes Peak last week, and started with some albuterol. Now it was cold at the top, and my HR was up, but I was also getting blown around.

    That’s the long winded way of saying, if your lungs hurt when it is cold out and you’re exercising, a trip to see your physician is probably wise.

    LindsayTroy on #3837

    Hmm thats really interesting. I told my doctor about it a few years ago, because I would notice that I would walk from a warm house outside and start coughing. They told me it was normal. Maybe its time for a new doctor…

    ConMan on #3838

    It should be noted, when it is very cold and you take your first few breathes, it is quite common to choke or cough on that breath. Growing up in Minnesota, I would also feel the hairs in my nose “freeze.” But if it persists, that is something of concern. My symptoms were never being able to feel like I could take a deep breath (which I often attributed to being at altitude, or at least a bit higher than what I normally live at), a dry cough which I felt I needed to clear junk from lungs, but never could and in extreme cases, a wheeze even in a completely relaxed state.

    I’m not a doctor nor do I pretend to be one, but as Scott pointed out above and after talking to many of my outdoor buddies, prolonged discomfort in the lungs (especially when trying to keep your HR down) is not typical and probably something worth having a conversation with a physician about.

    Aaron on #3840

    I feel like my heart rate and respiratory rate sometimes decouple in cold weather. In circa – 20 deg Celsius and wind I think my hr climbs well above my respiratory rate. I’ve been paying close attention to the ventilator turn points and hr as described in the 3 part articles and TFTNA.

    Anonymous on #3841


    I have seen skiers how race in very cold conditions get very bad chest/lung pain. In XC races they do not allow races below -4C due to the potential of lung damage. But these folks that get serious chest pain (like a knife sticking into them) will develop a stress reaction that causes HR to jump up. It makes sense too. You sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight) sense that pain as survival threat and want so to prepare you for action so get you ready for action by jacking HR. Our CNS is such an amazing thing. But this may explain what you are seeing. Sorry I didn’t think of this before.

    Pete on #3997


    when I run in cold weather I notice, that my HR drops/is lower when going at the same speed. And vice versa, in hot weather I quickly climb out of zone. I would agree with Scott that this is due to constriction of capillaries and restriction of blood flow.

    But never had any issues with cough though, apart from coughing at altitude.

    Best, Peter

    Anonymous on #3998

    Hi Lindsay,

    You may want to try wearing something over your nose and mouth when you’re exercising outside. A Buff works great for this, and you can double it up if it’s really cold out.

    Although it’s a thin filter, the air gets slightly warmed as it’s passing through the Buff, which eases the cold effect on your lungs.

    Scott S.

    LindsayTroy on #4012

    Hey everyone,

    Thanks for the input! Scott S- I’ve been putting a buff over my face and that actually helps a lot, so I think that it might have been the cold air/lungs problem because I haven’t been having it in a while.

    Also, east coast winter has been really mild so that helps too.

    Thanks everyone!

    Anonymous on #4033


    Scott’s comment triggered my old feeble brain to remember that xc skiers deal with this a lot and use this:

    These don’t freeze up like a Buff will and give less restriction to breathing when you are huffing and puffing hard.


    LindsayTroy on #4037

    Hey Scott,

    Your link is missing 🙁


    Anonymous on #4043

    I think Scott was probably talking about an AirTrim: https://www.bouldernordicsport.com/shop/p-518-airtrim-cold-air-mask.aspx

    Anonymous on #4057

    YES! What Scott said.

    He is hired to come in here and clean up after me……..


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