Even on the chilliest of winter days, wearing all your cold-weather gear doesn’t get you mentally or physically prepared for a sub-freezing run. Before you head outdoors, it’s important to make sure your muscles are warmed up. Running on cold days is hard enough, but frigid temperatures mixed with cold muscles can be a formula for injury.
The point of a warmup is to increase blood flow to the muscles and body systems that will be used during the run. Pushing your body into a threshold zone from a state of rest is never a good idea, and it can lead to reduced performance, sore muscles or injury.
Next time you are heading out for a run, spend five to 10 minutes warming up inside to activate your muscles. Here are a few indoor warmup routines you can try.
Light jog on the treadmill
Although it sounds ridiculous, the best way to warm up your body for an exercise is to perform the exercise at a lower intensity. You don’t want to expend too much energy to take anything away from your workout, but it’s important to reach a certain level of intensity to prepare for your run.
Try running for five to 15 minutes at 15 to 20 seconds slower than your easy run pace.
Try some dynamic stretching to engage the muscles around your knees and hamstrings. Some examples of these movements are knee lifts, A and B skips and lunges, which loosen up the hamstrings and engage your core and glutes. Another dynamic movement strategy you can try is a 10-minute flow yoga session to get you warmed up.
According to a systematic review published in the Journal of Sports Science and Medicine, foam rolling is the most effective way to help your muscles to relax. Once the muscle fibres in your leg are relaxed, you can add dynamic stretches to help lengthen the muscles for a longer range of motion. Try spending five minutes rolling out your lower extremities, glutes and IT band before you start your dynamic movements.
Light spin on a bike
Similar to the light jog on the treadmill, spinning is a low-impact exercise to activate your muscles before an outdoor run. Many elite runners in hot and cold climates will spend 15 to 30 minutes on the bike before starting their speed workout to ensure their muscles are loose and ready to perform.
Why you should avoid static stretching
It may be hard to believe but static stretching is not a necessary part of a warm-up for runners, and it could even cause more harm. Static stretching of cold muscles before running makes them more prone to injury due to the extension of the muscle fibres and then applying force on them during your run.