Running Tips

Don’t Eat the Balaclava: Keep That Face Warm Instead (repost 2009)

Don’t Eat the Balaclava

A Balaclava is a fine idea for covering your face in cold weather. It will help keep the cold air from triggering bronchospasm, if you have asthma. A number of articles over the years have found that it isn’t merely breathing cold air that contributes to asthma and bronchial constriction, but “facial cooling” that triggers the response. This is a reflexive triggering of the vagus nerve. Facial cooling can trigger other vagal nerve reactions, including slowing up of heart beat, which will limit your ability to exercise.

While we do not recommend speed work in the cold weather, you may as well be exercising optimally. Make sure you have enough fuel, hydration, and don’t overestimate your ability when heading out in the cold. A Balaclava head covering, in addtion to a hat can help. In severe cold you can add a face mask. Other areas on the web offer substantial advice and information on exercise induced asthma, so we will not replicate them here.

Make sure you have clearance from your physician for the exercise you do, and the conditions in which you do it.

And yes, you shouldn’t eat the Balaclava. You now know that it is a head covering. Baklava is what you may be looking for if you are hungry. Baklava is a tasty snack, which may help replenish your carb stores and it since it has some walnuts and almond, there is a bit of protein, micronutrients, and other goodies contained in it. (Although of course we still recommend a protein/carb liquid drink after intense or long work outs.). For lots more information on cold weather exercise visit Dr. Pribut’s Running Injury Site where you’ll find more information on Running In The Cold .

And for the hungry among you, here is a recipe for Baklava. Pictures, coming, when I next see it. It has been a while. Sorry, it doesn’t fall in the healthy food category. You can substitute where it calls for sugar, but if you need to, perhaps making something else would be better. This serves 25, and if you take really small portions, it will serve more. Best for skinny runners in search of carbs. (I was informed, however, if I put up a recipe for Italian style Bakala (cod), that would make for healthier eating.)

Amelia’s Tasty Baklava


* 3 cups Walnuts, finely chopped
* 1 cup almonds, finely chopped

* 2-3 sticks sweet butter
* 1 cup almonds finely chopped
* 1 teaspoons cinnamon
* 1/3 cup of sugar
* 1/8 tsp ground cloves
*  1 lb. (16 ounce) package phyllo dough


* 2 cups sugar
* 2 cups water
* 1/2 cup honey
* 1 tsp lemon juice
* ¼ tsp lemon/orange peel
* 1 tsp cinnamon


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F
2. Grind the almonds and walnuts in a food processor.
3. Combine the cinnamon, cloves, sugar and nuts and stir to blend.
4. Melt the butter over low heat.
5.  Prepare the 13x9x2” pan by greasing with 2 tablespoons of the butter.
6. Place 5 layered sheets of the phyllo dough into the pan. Each layer should be buttered using a brush. Sprinkle 5 tablespoons of the nut mixture over the phyllo sheets. Place 2 more phyllo dough sheets (brushed with melted butter) on top of this layer.  Sprinkle with 5 tablespoons of the nut mixture.  Continue to layer the dough  and nut layers until pan is 3/4 full or about 4 more times. Place the remaining phyllo on top, and butter every second layer.
7. Score the top layer of phyllo dough in a diamond pattern.  Trim edges to fit the pan.
8. Bake 45 to 55 minutes in the preheated oven. It should appear golden brown. Let cool in the oven.


9.  Prepare the topping by combine the sugar, water, lemon/orange peel and cinnamon in a medium saucepan, and bring to boil. Stir continuously and simmer for  10 minutes.
10. Add the lemon juice and honey, simmer for 1-2 minutes more.
11. Pour the topping over the baklava. Allow to cool.

Arctic Monkeys – Balaclava