Did you know that you’re more prone to injury when the weather’s cold? ….
If you were already on the fence with your winter fitness regime, this may well have just pushed you over the edge. But for those who are keen to commit to their winter workout goals, we’ve got some handy tips to avoid sports injuries during winter – nasty muscle tears and sprains are the worst! Here’s how to make sure your muscles and joints are warmed up to the max in winter and beyond.Exercising in winter is hard enough – cold, dark mornings do absolutely nothing for your fitness motivation. It can be hard to muster the energy just to get out of bed, let alone throw on your running shoes. And that’s without the worry of causing yourself an injury from working out in the cold!
When it’s cold outside, your muscles tend to tighten a little bit more than they would during summer, which means you’re more likely to strain or tear something when you’re exercising. Even before you start to exercise in the cold, your body is working harder than normal just trying to stay warm.
As IF you needed another reason to stay in bed.
Luckily, there are some things you can do to keep your muscles warm, and your momentum going strong from winter right through until summer.
Follow these simple steps to avoid injuring yourself when you’re working out in winter.
Why are we more prone to sports injuries in winter?
As we’ve already mentioned, your muscles tighten more when the weather is cold. Cold temperatures cause muscle to lose more heat and contract. As a result, muscles can lose their range of motion, and nerves can be more easily pinched. Your joints tend to be stiffer too, making you more prone to injury when you’re working out.
Colder temperatures essentially force muscles and stiff joints to work harder than normal. Muscles and connective tissue also have less elasticity when the temperature gets lower. Your body’s circulation reduces too, so the risk of tearing a muscle or sustaining an injury is much higher than it is during summer. You need to work a little harder to make sure your muscles are warmed up properly before you throw yourself into your workout.
Similarly, you should spend more time cooling down after exercising, as this helps to alleviate excessive muscle soreness, keeping you more comfortable and allowing your body to bounce back before your next workout.
If you're exercising outdoors, you also need to be wary of your surroundings. It’s much darker during winter, and you could be running on slippery, snowy, hard, frozen ground, so you’re also more likely to slip or fall if you don’t pay attention!
Studies have also shown that the colder it gets the less energy it requires for muscle tears to occur. So even if you’re going for a gentle jog, you still need to warm up properly, as your body is more prone to injury despite putting in less energy than usual.
The cold may also slow down some of your sensory mechanisms. Your nerves are colder, so your reaction to pain will be slower than usual. It’s possible, then, to be doing damage without being totally aware of it. In warmer weather, you might read a twinge of pain as a signal to ease up; in cold weather, you might push yourself through the twinge and cause yourself further injury.
So what can I do to prevent injuring myself during winter?
Although you’re more at risk of injuring yourself during the colder winter months, thankfully, there are a few things you can do to prevent yourself from tearing or straining any muscles.
- Spend longer warming up and double your stretching routine before heading outside to work out.
- Try doing some light cardio and walking along with extra stretches when warming up.
- Try warming up indoors, so you’re already warm by the time you head outside, which will in turn help increase your circulation and stop you from shivering the moment you step outdoors!
- Go for a walk and do some additional stretches post-exercise.
- Massage your muscles before and after sport. Using a heat rub or oil is a great way to warm up the muscles and reduce tension, reducing the risk of muscle strain or tear whilst exercising.
- Don’t push yourself too hard – the colder it is, the more likely it is to tear a muscle, even if you’re putting in less energy than usual. Take it easy in winter and listen to your body.
- Wear the right clothes to regulate your body temperature — like gloves, breathable layers, beanies, ear warmer and headbands. This will also help with your body’s circulation.
Anything else I can do to avoid injuring myself?
Warming up properly is even more essential in winter, but so is cooling down and post-exercise stretching.
Here are a few noteworthy things to remember and some remedies to keep your muscles and joints in check.
This will help with flexibility, performance, and prevent injury. Cold muscles are less flexible, so if you jump straight into a workout without warming them up properly, or winding down post-exercise, you’re more likely to pull a muscle. Give yourself 10 -15 minutes of pre-workout stretching in the winter, as well as 10 -15 minutes at the end for static stretches to cool down your muscles. This will help to speed up your body’s recovery post-workout.
Regulate your body temperature.
While stretching will help maintain flexibility and reduce the likelihood of injury, it’s important to get your body back to its normal temperature post-workout. Cooling down after your workout prevents your body temperature from dropping too quickly.
Once you’ve finished your workout, continue exercising for 5 to 10 minutes with reduced intensity and at a slower pace, to calm your body down and allow your heart rate and blood pressure to return to normal. It will regulate your blood flow and lowers your body temperature gradually.
You should also remove sweaty, wet articles of clothing as these will cause your temperature to drop even more in winter, which could put you at risk of further illness. If you’re feeling the shivers, wrap a blanket around you, or jump into a hot shower to warm your body back up. This will raise your core temperature and ensure that oxygen and blood are flowing throughout your body.
Magnesium is an important mineral for the overall function of the body. It plays a few crucial roles, including energy production, muscle and nerve function, heart health and bone strength.
Without enough magnesium, muscles can’t properly relax. As a result, they contract too often and can cause spasms and cramps. Having sufficient magnesium helps speed up recovery, reduce fatigue and avoid injuries, so it’s particularly important if you’re exercising frequently.
If your levels are too low, you can take a daily supplement to help increase your levels. These will help boost your muscle function, and reduce any inflammation in the body. Magnesium supplements work as a muscle relaxant, relieving pain caused by tight, sore and cramped muscles, so you’ll feel less aches and pains after your workout.
When it’s cold outside, people tend to sweat less, and often that means they don’t drink as much water as they need to. Keeping hydrated before your workout can make a huge difference to how you feel post-workout. It’s essential in regulating your body temperature. Dehydration can lead to chills, nausea, dizziness and muscle cramps.
Fuel your body.
In cold weather, your body temperature drops, your metabolism increases and you tend to burn slightly more calories to stay warm. You need to keep your body properly fuelled to maintain your energy levels and keep your body temperature on an even keel. Proper nutrition helps regulate your core temperature, keeps your body warm and provides enough fuel for your working muscles. Work on getting plenty of fat, protein and carbohydrates as a general rule of thumb.
It's also important to eat continually to replace any carbohydrate stores that you’ve depleted during your workout. If you don't replace this energy, you’re more likely to feel fatigued and chilled once you’ve finished exercising.
Are there any supplements I can take to avoid injuring myself?
Here are our pharmacist recommendations:
Take daily for relief of muscular cramps and mild spasms – without enough magnesium, muscles can’t properly relax, so as a result, they contract too often causing spasms and cramps. upping your intake with supplements helps speed up recovery, reduce fatigue and avoid injuries. It also helps with energy production too, so you'll feel much better, and with less aches and pains, after each workout.
Containing arnica, rosemary oil and eucalyptus oil, this spray helps to relieve muscle pain and inflammation, sprains and strains, and pain associated with mild arthritis.
These heat patches provide instant pain relief from backache, muscular aches and pains, sprains and strains.
This hard-working, anti-inflammatory gel can be used topically to treat pain and swelling of muscles, joints, tendons and ligaments.
Loved our advice sports injuries? We've got lots more health and fitness advice on our Health & Wellness Edit, guaranteed to give your body a well-deserved boost. Are practitioner-only supplements better than over-the-counter? Suffer with back pain? Here's how to tell if it's muscular or spinal.