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The importance of warming up to prevent muscle injury in cold temperatures

For those with an interest in keeping fit, winter can be a tough slog in keeping up momentum! Yet with cold weather, warming up before you start a gym session, a class or a run is more important than ever for optimum performance and to remain injury-free.

Before you exercise, your muscles will be cold and stiff, especially if you rarely stretch, and your heart and breathing rate will be low. Warming up is a great way to gently ease your body into a working state and is key to protecting your body from injury, especially during the colder months. Not only this but a warm-up is a fantastic way of preparing yourself mentally for the workout and help get you into the right frame of mind.

Investing in a thorough warm-up will not only help warm your muscles and loosen your joints, it will also help get the blood flowing and increase your heart rate and body temperature. If you’re prone to injury, or have sustained an injury in the past, then it’s vital you pay particular attention to these.

Whatever your reasons for exercising, you know that once you get past the cold, you’ll be glad you did the workout. Below we answer some popular questions on how to warm up in the cold weather (even if you’re exercising indoors).

How long do I need to warm up for in the winter?

The answer is that it all depends on the exercise you’re warming up for. Experts differ in recommendations but the NHS has this six-minute, full-body warm-up routine to prevent injury and make your workout more effective.

If you’re about to play a team sport such as rugby, netball or football, then it’s recommended that you apply more time to your warm-up and perform the movements used in that sport at a slow pace, and then build up the intensity and heart rate slowly over several minutes.

What exercises should my warm-up routine include?

It’s not ideal to conduct a warm-up which is formulated of purely static stretches as these can tear your muscles, so it’s important that you do a combination of them, bodyweight mobility exercises and dynamic stretches. The latter are fantastic at waking everything up, gently increasing the heart rate, mobilising the joints and preparing the mind for the workout ahead.

Examples of the types of exercises you can include in your warm-up are:

Squats are a versatile exercise which target many of the muscles in your lower body including your quads, hamstrings and glutes.

High knees will not only help get your heart pumping but will improve circulation throughout your body.

Arm circles, where you swing your arms around in circles, target your shoulders, triceps, back and biceps.

Planks are an excellent warm-up for building the core and back strength, as well as improving posture and balance.

Forward leg swings are great for warming up and stretching the hip muscles and joints.

Side lunges not only help strengthen your legs, glutes and hips but they’re great at working your lower back too.

Jumping jacks are a classic exercise and a fantastic way to activate almost every muscle in your body, including your heart.

Push-ups work the upper body, core and glutes.

 

How do I know if I’m warm enough?

Quite simply, you’re warm enough when you feel light sweating, have a slightly increased heart rate, feel warm all over your body and your muscles feel less tense. A sufficient warm-up will get you here in under ten minutes.

 

Don’t forget to stretch…

You’ve completed the workout, now what? Whereas at the start of the workout we needed to get your body warmer, we now need to get your body to cool down, lowering your heart rate and easing any muscle tension. To achieve this we need to stretch, which will help boost your flexibility and reduce risk of injury. It may even help with your performance the next time you work out!

The NHS also offers this five-minute routine to help you cool down after a workout to gradually relax and improve your flexibility.

Stretching-person

…and apply some Pernaton Gel Forte

This gel creates a lasting and pleasantly warm feeling which stimulates muscle and increases circulation in your skin, making it ideal for those interested in keeping themselves fit.

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