Warm-ups are always important! They gradually raise your heart rate and get you to breathe a little faster at the beginning of your workout. This sends more oxygen, energy, and nutrients to your heart, lungs, and muscles so they can perform at their best! Warm-ups start the aerobic energy system, which takes several minutes. Getting this system excited prior to your activity also helps with performance.
Our bodies have a few tricks to stay warm in the cold. One of these is to narrow the blood vessels closest to the skin which causes the more superficial muscles to get less blood flow. This decreased blood flow makes these muscles more likely to be injured if you place too much demand on them before they’re ready to go. Moreover, the narrowing of the blood vessels causes the heart to work harder to keep up with the demand of your body. Our bodies’ adaptations to the cold don’t have to stop us from being active in the cold; it just means that you should take a little more time to get your body ready before exercise.
Start with a movement that causes you to raise your heart rate, maybe a brisk walk or light jog. Follow this with a dynamic warm-up such as walking or jogging while pulling your knees up high to your chest, high-front kicks with straight knees, or walking lunges with an upper-body twist. Your warm-up should match the activity you have planned. If you’re not sure how it should look, ask your physical therapist for help!
Dress in layers so you can adjust your clothing to how you feel during the activity. After your warm up, you might want to take a layer off to avoid getting too hot during the main portion of your workout. You can always add layers back when your activity level drops or the temperature changes.
We know it’s tempting to rush inside to a warm blanket or a hot drink, but don’t skip the cool-down. Keep moving with a walk or another active recovery so your heart rate can decrease gradually. A cool-down helps your muscles to transition back to a relaxed state and can reduce soreness following your workout. Since your muscles are still warm from the activity, your cool-down could include static stretching.
The shorter days and lower temperatures don’t have to stop you from exercising outside. Follow these tips and you can safely keep moving outside. If you’d like a customized warm-up or cool-down or have questions about your exercise routine, your physical therapist is a great person to ask! Contact us for a free consultation at Live Your Life Minnesota and Florida for physical therapy services!