Cold weather aggravating your asthma while exercising outdoors?

If you have asthma, there is a 90% chance that you also have exercise induced asthma (EIA). There is also a good chance that exercising in cold dry weather makes your EIA worse. But there are some simple ways to overcome these barriers so that you can continue to exercise outdoors all winter long!

There are three things you can do to prevent EIA from creeping up on you during a workout, whether indoors or outdoors, hot or cold, dry or humid. These are scientifically proven to be helpful.

  1. Warm-up: For people with EIA a high intensity warm-up (60% of your max) 15 minutes before your workout is a proven way to reduce EIA symptoms during your workout. This is of course complicated as most people don’t sit around after they warm-up. You could warm-up, then do some strength training for 15 minutes, and then get back to your aerobic exercise. Or, you can…
  2. Take your rescue medication 15 minutes before your workout: This quick acting medication ensures that your airways stay nice and open during an exercise session and is a great way to prevent EIA from compromising your workout. Of course, if you exercise 5-7 days/week, you may not want to take all that medication. So, number 1 may be the better option. Alternatively, you can reduce the frequency and severity of EIA by doing number 3.
  3. Increase your aerobic fitness: This is a bit of a catch 22. How do you increase your aerobic fitness if you’re constantly having EIA symptoms? Well, you can warm-up or take your medication when you first begin an exercise routine and then once your fitness levels improve, the frequency and severity of EIA should decrease quite significantly, therefore eliminating the need for a high intensity warm-up or medication 15 minutes prior.

These sure fire ways of preventing EIA of course are further complicated when you’re exercising outdoors on a cold-dry day. So, here are some things that I do to prevent EIA from creeping up on me when I run outdoors in the winter. I hope they work for you. FYI: these are not scientifically proven to be effective, but 9/10times, they work for me!

  1. Breathe through a face mask or scarf: I’m a scary looking person when I go for a run in the winter. I wrap a scarf around my nose and mouth nice and tight so that I am breathing through the scarf during my run. This allows for the air to warm up before entering the airways…which helps prevent EIA. It also moistens the air a bit since you are breathing in through a damp scarf (it naturally dampens after the first couple of minutes of running).
  2. Breathe through your nose: If you have asthma, you’ve likely heard this before. Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth. In the winter, this technique ensures that you are not breathing cold dry air directly into your airway, but are forcing it to go through the nasal passage (to warm up and get moist) before entering your airways. It also helps keep that scarf around your face nice and damp (I know, gross!).
  3. Chew gum or suck on candy: I find that having gum in my mouth or sucking on a hard candy forces me to continuously swallow saliva…this keeps the throat somewhat moist and helps prevent EIA symptoms; particularly if a sore throat is one that bothers you. This technique also helps with breathing in through your nose since your mouth is busy.

I am sure there are many other techniques to prevent the cold from ruining your workout. Please feel free to share them here as I am always looking for additional ways to overcome this annoying little barrier!

I hope these tips help you maintain your Healthy Active Lifestyle Forever!



My Optimistic Journey with Barefoot Science Insoles

I have flat feet but I didn’t realize it until I started running 8 years ago. I was told to invest in custom orthotics and I trusted the experts, so I had a pair made. The orthotics helped at first, but 2 years in I ended up with a stress fracture. Perhaps other factors were to blame, but since I started wearing my orthotics I’ve had one injury after the other. This past year I was recommended by a physiotherapist to get a new pair since my old ones were clearly inadequate. So, a new plaster was made, another $500 paid, and I started running with new orthotics. Less than 5 months in a new debilitating injury appeared. It felt like I was going to be stuck in a vicious cycle of injuries, rehab, new orthotics and new running shoes. Lots of money spent, but no long-term solution on the horizon. If this story is starting to sound familiar, you might be interested to hear what I have to say.
I decided to go minimalist; not barefoot, just minimalist. I have an arch in my foot but it collapses when I’m standing or weight bearing. This means that strengthening/stretching the associated muscles and tendons could rectify the problem, at least partially. Yet, in all the years of going to rehab specialists, not one recommended exercises for my feet or ankles. Not one!
I did some research and found some appropriate exercises. I also got rid of my painful orthotics and started wearing running shoes with no arch support. I stopped running for a couple of weeks and through a friend of a friend I learned about Barefoot Science Insoles ( As a scientist I rarely buy something without seeing the evidence first but with no research trials available on the product and two extremely positive anecdotal reports, I decided to give them a try anyway.

WEEK 1: Last week, with a sample size of just one (n=1, literally) I began my research on the Barefoot Science Insoles. I put them in my running shoes and decided to pound the pavement. I mapped out a 5K, but it was a gorgeous day, so I ran just over 8K. It felt great. With the exception of a little IT band pain while running up the final hill and the smallest start of a blister, it went well. For the first time in months I was able to run more than 6K without ankle pain, knee pain or complete discomfort in my feet. Now obviously, it was day one, and I might have been a bit euphoric on hope.
Over the course of the week I have used the insoles in all of my shoes for workouts and work. My calves were easily fatigued and occasionally I experienced discomfort in my foot (primarily when on the elliptical), but all in all, things have been good. My ankle is feeling better; likely a combination of a decrease in running over the past couple of weeks and hopefully because of the new insoles.
Stay tuned for weekly updates on the insoles (it is a 7 week program). I will be sharing the good, the bad and the ugly. I also hope to hear from others that have used them or products similar to them.


Want to improve your running performance? Less might be more!

As a recreational runner you understand the frustration with not being able to increase your pace. You do your long-slow runs and you cross-train and you run up hills and you speed through those shorter runs, but you can’t seem to get faster. Well, the answer to your pace problems might just be 10-20-30.

High intensity intervals are the “new” way to workout. They’re good for your health, they’re good for performance and they’re used by athletes around the world. But the question is, what type of intervals are optimal for a recreational runner? A recent study published in the peer-reviewed Journal of Applied Physiology showed that 10-20-30 might be the answer. Two scientists in Copenhagen conducted a small experiment with recreational runners (5K times of approximately 23 minutes). They split the participants in to two groups. The intervention group was asked to do a 10-20-30 training regime. This consisted of approximately 1.2k of warm up at low intensity followed by three to four 5 minute running sessions with 2 minute breaks between each session. Each of the 5 minutes of running consisted of 5 consecutive 10-20-30 second runs at an intensity of <30%, <60% and 90-100% of their max intensity respectively (see the note below for more information on how to determine these intensities). The other group (control group) continued to train as they were before with an average weekly volume of 24-25k/week (around 120-130 min/week). The authors found that those in the 10-20-30 group significantly improved their aerobic fitness, 1.5K time and 5k time compared to the control group in just 7 weeks. Another advantage to those in the 10-20-30 group was that their systolic blood pressure (the higher of the two blood pressure numbers) and their cholesterol ratio (total cholesterol to good cholesterol (HDL)) improved significantly while it did not change in the control group.

It seems that high intensity exercise sessions can lead to significant improvements in performance and in health. By simply doing 3-4 repetitions of the 5 minute 10-20-30 intervals, young and healthy participants were able to able to improve their 5K time by 4% and their 1.5K time by 6%! Moreover, they improved their already healthy levels of cholesterol and blood pressure; a difficult task for most. The greatest part of this story is that the runners in the 10-20-30 group were only training three times/week for no more than 30 minutes each session. In other words, less time + higher intensity = greater gains in performance and health.

TAKE HOME MESSAGE: If you are a runner, no matter the level, you can benefit from incorporating high intensity intervals. The intervals in this particular study were 10-20-30 seconds in length, but there are others out there that have been proven beneficial. The benefit of a workout such as 10-20-30 is that it takes less time and is of a lower volume. This gives your body more time for rest and recovery, making it stronger and faster!  If you are not a runner and are not regularly active, be careful when taking on high intensity exercise. It is certainly beneficial, but if you push yourself too hard, too fast, you could get injured. Also, be sure to get clearance if you have high risk for heart disease or have been inactive, before starting high intensity training.

NOTE: You can estimate your 10-20-30 intervals based on heart rate or speed/incline on the treadmill. For the heart rate method, determine your age-predicted maximal heart rate by subtracting your age from 220. Take this number and determine 30%, 60% and 100% of it. Use these heart rate zones to determine the appropriate intensity. The heart rate method will underestimate your zones, but is an easy method. The alternative is to use the treadmill to determine your maximum capacity/workload. Start running on the treadmill at an easy speed with an incline of 2%. Every two minutes, increase the speed by 1mph until you are at your maximum running speed. Then start increasing the incline every 2 minutes. When you get to a point where you can’t run the full two minutes anymore, you have determined your maximum capacity. From this, you can calculate the 30% and 60% workloads on the treadmill. This latter method should not be done without a buddy standing close by. It is also essential that you be screened for exercise prior to attempting this method if you have been inactive up until now. Please use this method with caution!