It may be cold outside this time of year, but you probably still want to exercise. You’ve decided to get your workout in no matter what the thermometer says. Once you’ve overcome this first hurdle, you’re primed for a good cold-weather workout. Now, what’s the first thing you should do? Despite your urge to get right to it so you can get back inside, it’s absolutely vital that you get your muscles warmed up before hitting the running trail or walking hills.
Stretching Versus Warmups
Warmup exercises and stretching are not the same thing and should not be confused. Stretching is a static activity you should do before the warmups. Depending on what exercise you plan to do, you need to stretch your legs, arms, and core prior to doing anything else while your muscles still are warm. Once that’s done, you can get to the actual warmups, which are active movements that increase blood circulation, get you in the mental zone, and raise your body temperature.
Best Warmup Exercises
The most effective movements for warming up your body before exercising in the cold should include action in all of your limbs and core. Just warming up the legs or arms is not enough. You want to do a little bit of activity that makes your heart pump but doesn’t have you breathing hard. Squats and lunges are a good place to start, and they offer a stretching element as well. High-knee lifts, jumping jacks and grapevines are some other options for easy movements that will prepare your muscles for what’s to come.
An important consideration when you are working out outdoors in the cold is your clothing. You will want light layers that can be removed as you warm up. At the very least, your initial exterior layer should be a warmup jacket in a breathable yet lightweight material; wwsport.com has options for both women and men. When you get going and start to get warmer, you can shed this layer and have others underneath. Pants, on the other hand, usually aren’t layered, so chose a fabric that offers insulation but also moisture-wicking material.
After you get done with your run, hike, or ice skating session, you need to spend a few moments cooling down and stretching your muscles with exercises like these from Best Health. This period of low-intensity stretching can help prevent injury that can result when muscles go from active to less active. It also allows the buildup of lactic acid that occurs in muscles during exercise to dissipate. Also, the cool down period is just a good way to relax after a workout.
If you have made the commitment to improve or maintain your fitness level this winter despite the cold outdoors, good for you. Now, be sure to make every moment count by making warming up, stretching, and cool downs a regular part of your routine.