Happy New Year and welcome to winter! With current temperatures hovering below zero, it can be a hard sell to leave the cozy indoors for ANY reason. If you started a fitness regime when it was warmer, or one of your resolutions is to increase your activity, how do you continue or start when it’s so cold?
First, acknowledge that when you exercise, your muscles are going to feel and react differently. If you have the option to exercise at a gym or indoors, go with that. If you don’t, then understanding your body during temperature changes will help you exercise smarter.
Muscles lose more heat when it’s cold. They also can lose range of motion because joints feel tighter. When it’s cold your muscles contract, a natural process that helps keep your body warm. This contraction can lead to soreness that you may not have experienced in the warmer months. It’s critical to take time to warm up before exercise. Warming up helps your muscles release the tension caused by the contraction. If you already include warm-up time, increase it. Doing so will ensure less pain during and after your workout.
If you do feel muscle pain the next day after an outdoor workout, don’t be discouraged. Feeling sore doesn’t mean you have to change your exercise plan or skip a day. Surprisingly, increasing your intensity can help your muscles “heal” faster, so go ahead and stick to your routine.
Muscles seem better able to cope with pain the more they’re used (i.e., powering through the pain rather than stopping). Professional athletes understand this–if an activity makes your body sore (in a good way, not due to injury), it’s OK to keep going and do more of that activity. The same tactic can help you exercise in the cold by pushing a little more each time, then honoring what you’ve accomplished by cooling down and easing into rest.
Speaking of cooling down, be sure to add this in after your workout. Walk, stretch or do some light movements to allow your muscles to slowly contract thus minimizing discomfort.
Winter doesn’t have to mean a stop to all outdoor activity. Increasing awareness of what your muscles are experiencing and adjusting your workout can help you stay on track and reduce the risk of injury.
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