It’s no secret that winter can put a freeze on exercise motivation. Warm beds call, cold air deters and stiff muscles increase injury risk. These five winter workout hacks will keep you moving injury free – and hopefully heat up your motivation, too.
Familiar with the ‘tense’ feeling that comes from cold air exposure? This tightening of muscles is what makes you increasingly prone to tears and strains. Your muscles have to work extra hard to warm up in the chill, so increasing your pre-workout time prepares your body for optimum performance and to remain injury free. Choose warm up exercises that mimic what’s to come (e.g. a light jog and high knees before a long run), always focus on full range of motion and aim for at least 5 – 10 minutes.
Cold temperatures cause your muscles to cool down rapidly post-exercise. If your muscles get cold too quickly, exercise by-products (e.g. lactic acid) aren’t properly flushed out of the bloodstream, which can lead to painful muscle spasms. So rather than bolt for the nearest hot shower post workout, ease off the accelerator with light movements and dynamic stretching.
Winter often sees us swap H2O for a hot bevvy, and without realising it, our bodies can become dehydrated. Exercising without sufficient hydration is a red flag for injury, as it leads to fatigue, poor technique and delayed recovery. Even if you sweat less, you still need to replace the fluid lost through exercise and breathing. Water is the best thirst quencher.
Hitting the cold air in shorts and a singlet is not doing you any favours. Investing in proper clothing (like light weight jackets and compression tights) helps protect your muscles from stiffness. A good strategy is to start with layers and shed them as necessary. Then you’re ready to tackle those chilly mornings.
The strain of cold weather training can be felt by your muscles for prolonged periods. And persisting with high-intensity training on stiff or tired muscles can lead to muscle micro tears.
It’s crucial to give your body adequate rest and recovery between training sessions. Alternate between high intensity days and light training days, and always make sure you get enough shut-eye. If you’re carrying an injury, don’t neglect that ice pack. And remember, your immune system is vulnerable in the winter months, so rest is even more valuable to keep winter bugs at bay.