Brawlers Fitness News with Dr Edgar Ngoni: Watch out for the windchill factor

This week – Zimbabwe Digital News caught up with Dr Edgar Ngoni of the Brawlers – and asked him about his views on Covid-19 and how it is affecting fitness levels of millions of people caught in the lockdown.

Good afternoon Dr Ngoni, hoping that you are fine.

1. How are you keeping fit during this lockdown period?

Good afternoon. Thanks for having me. With fitness you have to want to do it. Doing some resistance exercises at home. With the regulations on staying indoors – indoor cycle for Cardio where possible. Time is the adversary. Everyone can get something done. Run, tread, cycle, spin, or do some weight and resistance training. Much can be done at home. But it has to be in you first.

2. There is a lot that is made about runners running while wearing a mask. Infact there were posts posted on the group about a Chinese runner who collapsed while he was jogging. What is your view about the wearing of masks by runners?

No matter your fitness level – running with a mask is going to reduce your performance unfortunately. Unless the mask is so porous it is for demonstration not for purpose. You can get through this by adjusting your pace, or starting up slow and working upward, listen to your body.

There are two sides to this.

On one hand you are likely to feel a drop in measured performance. On the other as your lungs need to work more to get oxygen in. This can train your lungs and diaphragm to get stronger in the long run.

As for the Chinese jogger mentioned, he had something called a spontaneous pneumothorax. While really unfortunate the condition itself is rare and also very treatable when detected on time. The better take home is – cater for the extra exertion on your heart and lungs when running with a mask.

Start slower and work upwards. Don’t attempt to benchmark your previous (unmasked) performance if you can feel it is not working as before.

3. What is your view about the wearing of masks by runners? Runners need oxygen isn’t it?

Yes. Though you might think some don’t when you see them competitively. Wear a mask if you’re going to be in contact with people; or the regulations dictate.

1. Be aware you may need to adjust your running targets, you may still be getting the same workout with less speed or distance because of the mask.
2. Scientifically – it only makes sense to wear a mask when you are going to be in contact with other people. However – if your regulations locally say always wear it, you have to wear it. Much of the harsher regulation is designed because authorities are concerned about compliance with soft guidelines and want to avoid ambiguity.

3. We are feeling the change of weather patterns to winter. What should runners do to adjust to cold weather conditions when running?

The main challenge with running in the cold is when it is cold and dry. It dries the lining in the lungs which can inflame them. A warm scarf covering the nose to warm the air as you breathe in and reduce heat loss as you breathe out can help with this. It becomes a more significant problem at very cold temperatures eg below zero deg. The temperatures for those running in Africa rarely reach those levels.

Watch out for the windchill factor, not just the reading.

Those with existing lung and heart problems are especially prone to this and advice then is to avoid running in the cold Eg asthmatics. Running in the cold can enhance your performance. Eg Less dehydration and it takes longer to get your heart rate up for instance.

So here we advise the need to exercise common sense. If it feels much too tight compared to your desired exertion – don’t do it and seek attention.

4. What is your view about runners taking supplements?

In the form of vitamins these are greatly recommended for runners. They boost performance, health, wellbeing. Other supplements will depend on your goals – eg protein supplements for muscle gain.

5. Road activity itself can be tricky, as you have to share the road with cyclists and traffic. What general safety precautions should runners take?

* Plan your route and run beforehand.
* Run against traffic.
* If listening to music on headphones keep one ear open, stay alert and in the moment.
* Carry an ID and have your phone on you and preferably tracking. We know responsible Brawlers always want their every movement tracked.
* Wear bright or reflective gear and be visible
* Don’t run through an injury. If it hurts especially on weight bearing joints and especially ligaments – get that resolved first.

6. Since social distancing is recommended in our everyday life, what do you think about the distance between runners while in motion. Four metres or six metres apart?

* At least 4m running in parallel. Any extra is a bonus.

7. In your view, because of the ban on large public gatherings, what do you think of the future of the international marathon season, and big tournaments?

In jurisdictions with more balanced views as soon as a large fraction of the population is already exposed they will likely start. That may be within a year. Progress being made on getting new treatments online, we may get all this behind us before then.

8. One of the advices that is floating around in the running magazines is that runners should NOT run where others have just run, because Covid-19 can be transmitted as an airborne virus in droplets? Your view about this safety suggestion? 

In theory… if the droplets exhaled by the previous runner are very small then they can stay airborne long enough to transmit the virus. However the jury is still out as to how significant this is in practice so that advice errs toward caution.

9. Are you a solo runner, or you prefer a running mate?

If you’re exercising you would want someone who pushes your current limit and targets, and those change all the time as would any partner you choose. So fitness running will always tend to be more effective solo. A good run with a colleague matched as above can’t be beat for energy – but you won’t get that easily every day.

10. Any other fitness during Covid-19 comments from your side to conclude the article?

Watch what you’re eating. This is by far the most underestimated part of fitness, running, cycling, body shaping or bodybuilding. 50 % of what you want to achieve is decided by your choices on nutrition.

With that, keep moving – Indoors or outdoors; enjoy what you’re doing and connect with others, then it becomes a habit.


All medical advice given here is general, and is not to be applied without consulting your Medical practitioner for confirmation and clarity.



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