For even the most experienced athletes, working out in colder temperatures can seem like an intimidating feat. Worries surrounding stiff muscles and potential ACL injuries may lead some to avoid the activity altogether. The good news is that there is no need to fear the prospect of working out during the winter.
According to the American College of Sports Medicine, it is entirely possible to work out in cold-weather environments without incurring injury. Through proper preventative measures, winter workouts can provide a safe and effective means for maintaining physical health.
Don’t Skip Out on Warming Up
In colder weather, the body’s muscles lose heat, causing them to tighten and lose flexibility. This means that it’s especially important to warm up prior to working out in colder temperatures. The following exercises are possible recommendations to try during your next warm-up:
- Jumping Jacks – Jumping jacks are a great way to get a head start on cardio and increase your heart rate. This exercise’s quick movements will ensure that more blood is being pumped to the muscles, reducing the chances of injury.
- Walking – If jumping isn’t an option for you, walking is an excellent warm-up alternative that can increase blood flow throughout the body. Additionally, upper body stretches for the arms can be incorporated while walking.
- Squatting – Squats offer an effective way to warm up the lower body’s muscles. When performing squats, try to practice proper form: your back should be straight with both hands placed either on the back of your head or in front.
- Stretching – Stretching is a perfect exercise to try towards the end of your warm-up, when muscles tend to be more limber. Make sure to stretch your entire body and pay careful attention to sore areas.
Dress for Dryness
When dressing for a winter workout, keep in mind that you’ll want to stay both warm and dry during the duration of your exercise. Since moisture degrades body heat, avoid having wet fabric directly on your skin.
For workout clothes, try to stay away from fabrics that are known for holding in moisture, like cotton. Instead, opt for water-resistant materials like polyester or nylon. These synthetic fabrics dry much quicker than cotton and can help contain some much-needed body heat.
Utilize a Post-Workout Cool Down
Just like the pre-workout warm-up, a post-workout cool-down can prove to be beneficial in preventing injury. Transitioning directly from a strenuous exercise to being stationary can cause unnecessary stress on the heart. The purpose of a cool down is to allow the body time to recover and gradually return your heart rate to pre-workout levels.
Consider reincorporating exercises that were done during the warm-up phase into the cool down. Stretching, for example, is great to do post-work-out as your muscles are more pliable. Additionally, walking or squatting can help facilitate a more gradual cool down.
Keep Your Winter Workouts Pain-Free
If you’re still having anxieties regarding winter workouts, consider scheduling an evaluation with Dr. Van Thiel. As a leader in orthopedics, Dr. Van Thiel has extensive experience working with athletes to develop preventative treatment plans.