You are enjoying a wonderful run outside. The wind is lightly blowing, your iPod is thumping, the sun is shining, and you are breathing in a bunch of toxic garbage suspended in the air. Oh, so close.
Now that summer is fast approaching, for many of us that live in or near an urban setting, poor outdoor air quality will start to increase its unwelcomed presence.
Running will not stop but there are a few things you can do to protect yourself and reduce the risks associated with inhaling this unhealthy cocktail of contaminants.
Why Should You Be Aware
When running your heart rate is elevated so you are consuming much more air than if you were sitting in a comfy chair on the patio with a glass of wine in your hand. Also, most run breathing is through the mouth which bypasses one of our natural filtering mechanisms; the old schnoz.
If the air quality is quite poor, it will have an HOV lane to the lungs and there will be a significant unnecessary stress put on the body to try and get rid of all contaminants. Whether the body will be successful in this clean-up is not a guarantee and may be based on a whole array of factors.
Can you see the possible concern?
How To Be Aware Of Conditions In Your Area
First it would be beneficial to know the current jargon used to describe air quality.
The U.S. uses the AQI (Air Quality Index) to define air quality for a particular location. The index ranges from 0-500+. The lower the value, the better the air quality.
Here is a nice chart displaying the various AQI levels and their meaning as displayed at the governments air quality and information site AirNow.
Wiki provides a description of indices other countries use.
What are the conditions in your city?
To stay up to date on your local air quality, cities that have pollution issues will often mention the air quality levels in their news reports or on their website.
The U.S. government’s site AirNow is pretty cool and you can find all kinds of information concerning air quality within the country. Of most interest to us would be checking out your local air quality. At the top of the main AirNow page, simply type in your zip code or state and you will see the air quality for the specified area.
Kind of cool.
How much fun is this! Ok, maybe not fun but hopefully useful.
If you would like to have your local air quality report brought to you.
AirNow has an air quality e-mail notification that will provide a daily forecast or it can be configured to only notify you when a minimum level is reached such as the Moderate level.
I personally like the second option. If conditions are Good, I don’t need to know about it.
What Can You Do With This Data
Now you have some choices for those running days when air quality is not in your acceptable range.
- Run indoors.
- Run during a different time of day when air quality will improve. (The times around rush hour traffic will probably have the worst air quality conditions.)
- Drive to a different location that has improved air quality. Of course driving is part of the problem.
- Wear a gas mask. This may be a bit cumbersome and inconvenient. Plus the goggles may fog up.
- Tape mouth shut with duct tape to force the air through your nasal filtration system. Not recommended and no intervals with this one!
- Breath it all in and take your chances.
You now have the power to make the decision that’s right for you!
Be active – Feel the buzz!
David – EnduranceBuzz.com
Posted on 17 Jun 2009
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