How to Prepare Your Muscles for Cold-Weather Workouts

When it's cold outside, our muscles tighten and our aches and pains hurt even more. In this weather, we literally need to warm up before we work out. But how?

The key to a successful workout include a proper warm-up routine, a steady transition from warm up to activity, and a balanced body at all times.

Avoid Static Stretching

Traditional or static stretching often puts excess pressure on muscles. It also lengthens muscles before they are properly warmed up, which may tighten or damage them and potentially lead to injury.

Think about your body as if it were a car: Especially in colder weather, you need to let the engine warm up and wait for the windows to gradually defrost before you can drive the car. The same goes for warming up your muscles on a cold day -- or any day. It's best to slowly prepare your muscles for the activity ahead.

Traditional stretching should only be done after working out, when your muscles are already warmed up. At this point, it can help increase flexibility.

Wake Those Muscles Up

Instead of traditional stretching, try isometric exercises. Isometric exercises keep the muscles in a shortened or contracted position to avoid unnecessary strain on the body. This also happens to be the weakest position for muscles, so activating the muscle at this point helps strengthen it for all other positions. Isometric exercises can also decrease the chance of injury and help you get the most out of your workout.

Try these simple exercises:

Triceps (upper arm):

  • Lay straight back on an exercise or yoga mat. Keep your hands at your sides.
  • On one side, bend your elbow in a 90-degree angle. Your hand should be open in the air.
  • Lightly push your tricep into the mat. Hold this position for four to six seconds.
  • Relax your body.
  • Repeat on the other side.
  • Complete six sets.

Quadriceps (upper leg):

  • Lay straight back on an exercise or yoga mat. Keep your hands at your sides.
  • On one side, lift your leg up about 45 degrees or as far as feels comfortable to you. Hold this position for four to six seconds.
  • Slowly release the position, and relax your body.
  • Repeat on the other side.
  • Complete six sets.

Trunk/core (center of body):

  • Sit in a chair with a straight back. Fold your arms across your chest.
  • Without moving your hips, slowly rotate the center of your body to one side. Hold this position for four to six seconds.
  • Slowly release the position, and relax your body.
  • Repeat on the other side.
  • Complete six sets.

While doing these exercises, if one side of your body feels stronger than the other, do a couple more reps on the weaker side to increase stability.

At first, it may seem like you are not doing much with these exercises, but by limiting your movement and the amount of pressure placed on your muscles, you can effectively warm them up and save the bulk of your energy for your workout.

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