Warming Up for Winter Sports

Everyone knows that Vermont winters can be painfully cold at times. Sub-zero temperatures with driving winds and feet upon feet of snow are not the most inviting conditions to go outside and be active. However, snowboarding, skiing, and snowshoeing must go on! The cold weather makes a pre-event warm-up that much more important. While warming up for a summer soccer game is necessary, warming up for winter sports is even more essential because of the impact the cold weather has on muscles. Stiff, frozen, and tight are good descriptive words for how cold muscles feel. Cold muscles loose their elasticity and are more likely become injured. It’s like putting a rubber band in the freezer. Imagine your muscles as the rubber band, and trying to stretch out the rubber after it’s been frozen. There is a high likelihood that the band will snap. Similarly, there is a high likelihood that your muscles will strain or tear when they are “frozen”.

In addition to being at an increased risk for injury, cold muscles do not perform optimally. When a muscle can’t lengthen or stretch to its full capacity, there is no way that it will provide its utmost power. Muscle reactivity is also negatively affected by the cold because muscles remain tight. When muscles are tight, they cannot respond as quickly and aren’t as “ready for action”. Breakingmuscle.com describes cold muscles as being “sleepy”, compared to alert and awake warm muscles. This means that warming up your muscles before a winter event is necessary for waking them up and preparing them for competition. Hopefully it should improve your performance and limit your injuries!

Warming up is not rocket science, but there are a few guidelines that should be followed:

1) Break a sweat!

  • Warming up generally begins with a light jog. While it is important not to push yourself to hard in your warm-up run, it is also imperative to go long enough to break a sweat. Breaking a sweat is usually a good indication that your muscles are beginning to wake up. To achieve this, increase the length of your run instead of the intensity.

2) Perform dynamic stretches; NOT static stretches

  • Conversely to static stretching, where you perform stretches while stationary, dynamic stretching entails performing stretches while moving. You may be wondering why a dynamic warm-up is preferred over a static one. One of the main reasons is because it prepares your body better for a race-specific situation. If you are activating your muscles in a similar way during warm-up as you would during a race, your body is better prepared to react. During a race your body is constantly moving, so it only makes sense to warm up in a similar fashion. Your balance, coordination, and muscle memory should improve due to movement incorporated into your stretching (greatest.com).
  • Some dynamic stretching exercises:

High knees

Butt kicks

Side lunges:

Walking quad stretch:

Walking hamstring stretch:

 

Leg swings: 

 

For more information on warming up in the winter, and additional exercises, see here:

http://breakingmuscle.com/mobility-recovery/winter-is-coming-time-to-up-your-warm-up-game

For more information regarding dynamic warm-ups see here:

http://greatist.com/fitness/full-body-dynamic-warm-up