Warming Up for Winter Running
Although it may not be as comfortable as running in warm weather, winter running is just as safe. It does require a bit more thought and preparation though. Wearing the right clothes is super important, and tricks like drinking something hot before or after a run and changing into warm clothes immediately after getting home can make a big difference for your comfort. Warming up inside before venturing outside is also crucial for succeeding on runs during the cold months.
In truth, integrating a warm up into your running routine is important during any time of the year. Movements that mimic those used to run are best as they prepare muscles for similar motions under more pressure. Mimicking the movement of running is also good for increasing the neuromuscular connection. All athletic movement originates in the brain, and bad form is hard to change while you are pushing yourself to run faster or farther. The slow movements utilized in a warm up are a much more effective space for cultivating proper form. Even if you run with proper posture, warming up can help you kick-start the mind body connection.
Warming up also helps prevent running injuries. Muscles are more susceptible to damage when they are cold and tight. Warming up creates elasticity, which makes it safer to push yourself right away. Although an indoor warm up is recommended in the winter, it is also possible to soften your muscles on your run. Start with a slow, easy pace and increase it as your heartrate begins to rise and any tension in your legs subsides. However, spending ten to fifteen minutes doing dynamic stretches indoors is preferable to this on the go type of warm up.
To some it may seem counterproductive to warm up indoors before setting out on a run, but getting your warm up out of the way before venturing outside actually allows you to start your run at a better, more powerful pace. It is also safer, not only for the reasons mentioned above, but because a faster pace and greater neuromuscular connection often translate to a wider stride. This means your feet meet the ground less often, reducing impact force on the knees. Furthermore, warming up inside is more comfortable during cold weather runs since the temperature of your core has been elevated before you leave the house.
Before getting into the what a warm up for winter running actually involves, there are a few considerations you should be aware of. Firstly, the difference between static and dynamic stretching is very important. Static stretches are movements that stretch muscles without creating heat. These movements are still and are most effective when done for thirty seconds or more. This type of stretching is important to do at the end of a work-out, however research has shown that it can be dangerous when done beforehand. The types of stretches you should incorporate into your warm up are dynamic, meaning they utilize active movements and create heat. The creation of heat brings up to the second consideration, which is that you should always make sure your clothes are dry before setting out on a run in cold temperatures. Wet clothes can freeze during in the winter, which will not only be uncomfortable but greatly increases your chances of developing hypothermia. If you sweat during your indoor warm up quickly switch out any wet clothes before heading outside.
Winter Run Warm Up
Start your warm up with a series of rotational movements that will warm up your joints at an even pace.
- Arm Rotations – Hold arms out to the sides. Rotate them in one direction 10 times, then repeat in the other direction. After that swing them in front of your body 10 times.
- Head Rotations – Make a full circle with you head, touching your chin to your chest, your ears to each shoulder, and the back of your head between your shoulder blades. Rotate in each direction 10 times.
- Trunk Rotations – Keep your knees shoulder width apart and your legs straight while moving your upper body in a full circle. Try to get your chest, sides, and back to make a right angle with the floor. Repeat 20 times.
- Knee Circles – Stand with your feet three inches apart and with your knees touching. Move your knees in a full circle while keeping them together. Repeat 20 times. Placing your hands right above your knees can increase stability.
- Ankle Rotations – Lift one foot off the ground and rotate your ankle in a full circle, from flex to point. Do 10 rotations in each direction then switch feet.
After you have done this initial warm up, the following dynamic movements will work to warm your core and ready your body for running.
- Jumping Jacks – Start with your feet next to each other and your hand by your side. Jump up in out, placing your feet two feet apart and your hands above your head simultaneously. Jump back to starting position. Repeat 20 times.
- Leg Swings – Stand on one leg and swing the other leg front to back 10 times, then side to side 10 times. Repeat with the other leg. Lift each leg as high as you can while making sure that there is no pain.
- Lunges – Start with your feet together. Step one foot three feet in front of the other then bend the knees, making sure the front knee stays above the ankle and the back knee doesn’t touch the ground. Try to make a 90-degree angle with the front knee. Straighten and return to starting position. Do 10 repetitions on each side.
- High Knees – Jog in place, lifting your knees to a 90-degree angle or higher. Do 20 repetitions on each side.