Raynaud’s Coping Tips for Runners

Running in the ColdRunner’s World has an Ask the Sports Doc section, and this season the question was asked:  “After running in the cold, my fingers get swollen, feel numb, and turn white. It seems to take forever for them to warm up. My running partner said it sounds like Raynaud’s. What is this and what precautions should I take?

Sound familiar?  Fortunately (or not!) it was all too familiar for the Sports Doc William O. Roberts, MD, who claims to have been a sufferer since his early 20’s. 

He suggests runners need to be more aware of Raynaud’s symptoms in the fall and early winter months because coming off the summer, we’re in the habit of leaving behind the gloves, extra layers and other protective gear that can help prevent attacks.  Dr. Roberts suggests the key is to start warm and stay warm – even if that means carrying layers, unzipping them or stuffing pockets with gloves and hats later in the run.

The doctor has also found the “warm water—cold air” exposure technique has worked to condition his hands to the cold.  It’s similar to the army submersion training technique we’ve read about that was used years back to prepare soldiers for transfers to extremely cold climates.  The process is similar in concept to biofeedback – it works to retrain the brain to change its response to cold exposure.  But it’s not an instant remedy – like biofeedback, it requires commitment and practice.

We applaud the doc for bringing attention to the fact that “Raynaud’s deserves respect” from runners, as running in colder temperatures with restricted blood flow can result in frostbite in extreme situations where no warm shelters are available.  His advice:  Plan your run around access to warm-up locations, or just sit it out (or take to the treadmill!) on days when it’s just too cold for you.  So wrap up and run smart in winter months!

Here’s the full article.