When we think of breathing freely and the best conditions to do so, those conditions most certainly don’t include a covering over our noses or mouths. In fact, itsounds downright stifling to cover our faces during exercise. But the conditions of freezing winter can often make it necessary to cover up or be left with asthma-like symptoms and difficulty breathing – this leaves us struggling to do the outdoor activities we love.Why does exercising in cold air hurt?The lungs are made to process warm, humid air. This is how they best perform their function of intaking air, transforming it into something out bodies can use, and expelling unneeded air. When we exercise in the cold winter months, our lungs suffer because cold air may cause bronchial irritation leading to irritation, wheezing, coughing, and that painful burning feeling. Even without the increased pace of breathing during exercise, breathing during relaxed outdoor activities can be painful. But when we increase our rhythm of breathing, it can make all of these wintertime symptoms worse. You’re putting much more dry, freezing air into your lungs that are made to process warm, humid air.Also, your airways are made to humidify and warm the air as it travels through your nasal passageways and through your mouth, throat, and down into your lungs. Breathing cold air makes your respiratory system work a lot harder to warm the air and dries out your mucous membranes that help moisten the air. This can be dangerous for not only your lungs, but your other organs as they receive less air.All of these different factors create that painful burning sensation and difficulty breathing. None of these are conducive to high-performance exercise. In fact, they decrease our ability to get in a good work out.Which brings us to…How do I exercise safely in the winter?There are several factors that can aid in safely exercising in the winter.Warmth. Dress warmly. Cover your face head, neck, and body so that you will not lose body heat while you exercise. The loss of heat can lead to hypothermia which then causes many other potentially dangerous issues.Cover your airways. Almost any covering will help to humidify and warm the air as you breathe.It seems paradoxical to cover your airways in order to breathe more freely. But, the science proves it. Covering your airways makes it possible for us to head outside.Although you can use almost any covering to help your lungs in the winter, many coverings make it harder to take full breaths, they are uncomfortable, and they press against your face and get into your mouth. Athletes have specific needs that include breathing comfort and the ability to draw full breaths to power their exercise with oxygen. They need sports masks designed for people who exercise.A mask like NAROO’s Z9H is a great option for athletes. Here’s what it does:Humidifies and moistens the airCovers the head, ears, face, and neck to maximize warmth, UV protection, and wind protectionEX | BONE (an apparatus that creates an air warming chamber) that keeps the cloth comfortably off your nose and mouthThe EX | BONE can also be used with EX | HALE to prevent goggles and glasses from fogging upA zipper to let as little or as much air and wind into the mask as you wishPrevents the mask from slipping by using a combination of elastic fabric and stitching along with a moldable nose clip.If you’re in the market for a lighter mask, the Z5H has many of the same qualities as the Z9H but isn’t quite as thick. It will also protect your airways from that horrible burning and help you enjoy your outdoor exercise.Always remember though, use your discretion. If you’re hurting, or your doctor suggests to avoid outdoor activity, please listen.But if you’re ready to head outdoors, please do consider taking NAROO with you. We’ll keep your airways covered while you enjoy your exercise.Check out the Z9H and the Z5H.Don’t let the winter paradox stop you from exercise. NAROO’s sports masks won’t hinder you. They’ll set you free.