When the weather gets cold, it’s important to make some adjustments to how you exercise. There are some physiological changes that occur in your body; joints become stiffer, your body reduces blood flow to your skin and muscles to stay warm, and your heart has to work a little harder. This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be active in colder weather, it just means there are a few changes in your routine that are warranted:
Warm up well
A good warm up is always important to get your heart rate up, more blood to your muscles, and to get your aerobic system started. In the cold, it’s even more important because of the changes mentioned above. To begin, get your heart rate up with a brisk walk or light jog. Follow that with a dynamic warm up rather than static stretches. Try walking or jogging while pulling your knees up high to your chest, high kicks in front of you with straight knees to get your hamstrings loosened, or a walking lunge with an upper body twist can get you ready for more intense activity. Cater your warm up to what you have planned in your workout. If you’re not sure how it should look, ask your physical therapist!
Drink water before, during, and after your workout. The temperature may be down, but you’ll still sweat and you’ll still lose water vapor in your breath. The drier air in winter makes your sweat evaporate quickly, so it’s easy to underestimate how much fluid you’ve lost.
When you’re done, be sure to cool down properly before going inside. Keep moving with a walk or another form of active recovery to let your heart rate decrease. A cool down also helps your muscles transition back to a relaxed state and can reduce soreness following your workout. After exercise is the right place for static stretching. You can also head inside for some foam rolling or self-massage.
The shorter days and lower temperatures don’t mean you’re stuck inside. You can safely keep moving outside if you follow these tips. If you’d like a customized warm up or cool down, or have questions about your exercise routine, your Northern Rehab physical therapist is a great person to ask!