Exercising and playing sport in winter requires a slightly different approach to help avoid injury, illness and make the most of the daylight hours. Let’s dive into Revive Physio’s Top 7 Tips for Exercising in Winter.
It’s an obvious one but WARMUP!
NEVER skip your warmup, especially in winter, otherwise you put yourself at an increased risk of injury. Just like your car in the morning, the body also takes longer to warm up in winter. A cold start can result in injury, and training without an adequate warm-up will result in less blood flow to your muscles. Your muscles will be less flexible and your joints more stiff. This is not a good combination for any physical activity!
Once you have started exercising, keep moving to stay warm. If you have rest breaks through your training or sport, make sure you don’t stand still. In cold weather, you cool down a lot quicker. Again if your muscles and joints cool down and stiffen up, you put yourself at risk of injury once you recommence training or running back out onto the field. If you have to stop because of a break in play or you are interchanged, keep moving on a stationary bike or do some run throughs along the boundary line.
Wear warm layers
Another obvious one is make sure you wear warm clothing or layers of clothing if you are going to train or play outdoors in the cold. Dressing for the cold is best done according to the well-known onion principle, which suggests you dress in easy-to-remove layers to allow for changes in body temperature. On top of cold weather, wind and rain cool your body at a quicker rate. Be sure to wear something waterproof and have your extremities covered – that means thicker socks for your feet and a beanie for your head. A wise investment for your lower half is a pair of good quality compression tights. These can be worn under running shorts or even under trackie pants and again, help retain heat in your legs.
Breathe in through the nose, out through the mouth
The colder the air, the greater the stimulus to the bronchi, lungs and mucous membranes. The cold can cause the bronchial tubes to narrow and reduces the capacity of mucous membranes to stay moist. The typical burning or irritation of the throat is felt when a lot of cold air is inhaled. As much as possible, inhale through your nose and exhale through your mouth. Breathing like this gives air a longer route to the lungs, and so more time to be moistened and heated through the nasal mucosa and mouth. The airway that passes through the mouth is moistened and heated during exhalation, enabling efficient breathing through this channel when necessary. Sometimes it can be helpful to wear a breathing mask or a handkerchief over the nose and mouth, to further warm and moisten cold air during inhalation. Asthmatics should consult their GP for individualised advice regarding training in cold weather. For some asthmatics, cold air can be an irritant which leads to an exacerbation of their asthma.
Don’t leave yourself vulnerable
After training or playing sport in the cold, make sure you retreat indoors to warm up as soon as possible and replace any wet clothes or dry clothes immediately. Your immune system is particularly weak and vulnerable during winter. The stress that training or playing sport takes on your body also makes you more susceptible to getting run down and catching a cold or infection.
Exercise around lunchtime
When possible, choose morning or noon to schedule your training. This time of day it is not only the warmest, but is also when the sun is best positioned to stimulate the production of vitamin D, a vitamin which is particularly important for strong bones and joints. In winter, many people suffer a vitamin D deficiency. Consult your doctor to see if you should be taking vitamin D supplements during these dark winter months.
Eat your fruit and vegies
Fruits and vegetables should already be the focus of your diet but they are doubly important during the colder months to help support your immune system. Any form of root vegetables, all types of cabbage, spinach, silverbeet or radicchio should regularly appear on your plate. Winter fruit like mandarins, and all-season varieties like pears and apples, provide you with an extra dose of vitamins to make you resistant to the cold.
If you’re looking to develop or adapt a winter training program, speak to your physio, coach or trainer with these 7 key points in mind.