It’s getting tantalizingly close to spring, but in the meantime we should have at least a few periods of chilly weather left in this season, and a few more opportunities to enjoy some outdoor and indoor winter activities. Whenever you’re exercising in the cold—skating, running, skiing, or even horseback riding—it’s especially important to make sure your body is warmed up, stretched, and properly adjusted for the challenge!
Of course, warming up and stretching is important before any physical activity, regardless of the weather outside. However, cold weather poses additional challenges. Muscles tend to stiffen and tighten in cold weather. At the same time your cardiovascular system must make several adjustments in cold weather. Blood vessels constrict, leading to lower average circulation (especially in hands and feet). The heart has to pump harder, and blood pressure increases.
All this means that, if you’re not properly prepared, the risk of certain injuries is magnified in low temperatures, particularly cramps and muscle pulls.
Always start with a little light aerobic activity to get your body warmed up an ready for exercise. This will get the blood flowing in your lower limbs, which helps to counteract the effect of cold weather on your rate of circulation.
After that, make sure you get some good stretches in before you begin your run or skate, head down the slopes, or other winter activity. Dynamic stretches in particular can provide extra benefit during the winter months, since they keep you moving more than static stretches.
Remember that even if you’ve already warmed up and made some progress on your workout, it doesn’t take much time for muscles to stiffen in winter! If you have to hit pause for more than a minute or two, you may want to do a quick set of dynamic stretches again—multiple times throughout the workout—before you increase the tempo again.
A minute or two of extra precaution before you engage in winter exercise can make a big difference in preventing injury! If you do develop any unwanted injuries or pain in your feet or ankles, make an appointment with Martin Foot & Ankle for effective care. Give us a call at (717) 757-3537, or fill out our online contact form.