Cold weather means cold muscles. And cold muscles lead to decreased mobility, and higher chances of injury. Both BIG “NO-NOs” in the physical therapy world. Before you get into your next workout, use our Winter warm up tips to get your body primed for the demands of exercise in the cold.
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Why Do I Need to Warm Up?
Warming up before working out has many benefits. By raising the internal temperature of your body, you’re also raising the temperature of your muscles. When it’s time to get moving, your muscles will contract more efficiently, producing higher output than those of a “cold” participant. Imagine a rubber band that has been sitting in a freezer for a few minutes. It’s going to be a lot harder to maneuver it, than it would be with a room temperature(or higher) rubber band. This is exactly why injuries happen more often in the cold.
How Long Should I Warm Up?
To be clear. A few minutes on a treadmill, or a handful of static stretches won’t cut it. When we say Winter Warm Up, we mean it! It’s time to turn up the HEAT! Various studies have been performed and found that low intensity workout related exercise for 15 minutes was the best way to warm up. For instance, if you’re planning to go on a run, do a few dynamic stretches with your legs. If you’re planning to squat, try doing some body weight squats, and maybe use 25%-50% of your target workout weight to do some warm up sets. The key is movement, and raising your body temperature without going so hard as to burn yourself out.
See our past article on why dynamic stretching is better than static stretching.
Is a Warm Up Supposed to Feel Like a Lot of Work?
Yes and no. Yes, in the sense that it should raise your body temperature, loosen your muscles, and prep you to be injury free during your actual workout. Is it supposed to feel like a workout in and of itself? No. That might happen if you over-work yourself during the warm up. The most important part of why we warm up our bodies is to avoid injury. This is even more true during the cold months of the year. So by working too hard during a warm-up, you will be negating the positive effects of a proper warm up.
Now that you understand the basics of a proper winter warm up routine, go ahead and try it out before your next workout. Of course, we don’t ever recommend to start a new routine without advice and supervision from your primary physician. But as physical therapists, we just want to make sure that when you do start working out, you do it in the most safe and stable ways possible. Let us know how a proper warm up helped you by emailing us!