Knowing how to warm up for a winter run is a big deal. Without doing it properly, I just wouldn’t run. Getting muscles properly prepped before heading out into the cold to be active is one of your first lines of defense against injury. That’s why I decided to make it the focus of this week’s blog post.
Why Warm Up for a Winter Run?
One of the best questions I’ve been asked about why to warm up before a winter run has to do with all the gear we wear when we head out. When it’s below freezing out and we’re wearing cold weather gear, shouldn’t that do the job for us? What’s the point of taking the extra time when the added layers are supposed to do the job for us?
This sounds as though it makes sense. That said, it’s not quite on the mark. The key isn’t necessarily to make sure the muscles are warm in the temperature sense. That is a part of it, but it is more a symptom of having moved around. The expression doesn’t just refer to temperature, but also to boosting blood flow and getting muscles, joints, tendons, ligaments, and the rest of your body ready to move.
Running when it’s freezing out is challenging enough. The last thing you want to do is set yourself up for reduced performance or injury simply to save yourself five to ten minutes of prep time.
This Step Changes in the Winter
A warm up for a winter run is absolutely vital. While I recommend this step year-round, when it’s very cold out, it’s all the more important. All you need is five to ten minutes inside before heading out to take off. This is longer than I generally recommend for summertime running, because I genuinely believe that more is needed to prepare the body to perform well and perform safely in frigid temperatures.
I’m extremely aware of this, because I can tell you that after growing up in Australia and living much of my time in the United States in Texas, cold snaps definitely took me off guard for the first while. I knew the theory behind workouts in cold weather, but when you try them on for size, it’s a lot different than learning about them in a kinesiology class
Great Options to Warm Up for a Winter Run
Here are a few of my favorites to warm up for a winter run:
- Foam rolling
- Dynamic movements
- Walking and then light jogging on a treadmill
- Slow and then moderate spinning on a stationary bike
All these should be done indoors immediately before you get your outer layer on and head outside.
Skip Static Stretching
I know there is a lot of controversy about static stretching in the running world. I’m not saying that I don’t think it has its benefits, but I don’t believe it’s appropriate for a warm up before a winter run.
Static stretching cold muscles before heading out into cold weather is a recipe for disaster. It could increase the risk of injury in many ways. I prefer easing into the movements I recommended above to get everything properly warmed up.