What do you do to warm up when the temperature drops? A hot cup of cocoa or green tea can make a big difference. Or gloves and a scarf if you have to be out in the frigid weather.
But what about your muscles? How does the cold weather affect them?
This is an important question if you’re hoping to lose weight and build lean muscle. Once you understand how the change in temperature affects your muscles, you can adjust your fitness approach accordingly.
The temperature has a major effect on muscle contraction. In cold conditions, everything gets tighter. It’s harder for muscles to contract. And your joints tighten up as well, leading to a reduced range of motion. Tight joints can also lead to pinched nerves and severe pain and discomfort.
Consider the results of one study on grip strength under hot and cold conditions. After cooling participants’ forearms for 30 minutes in 15 degree Celsius water, strength was measured. Researchers found that “cooling resulted in a significant decrease of 20%” in maximal grip force.
Many people find that they experience extended soreness when working out in cold conditions. Again, this is because of the negative effect the cold has on muscle contraction.
Amy McDowell, a physical therapist in Chicago, told CNN that “it is normal to feel muscle soreness for a few days after exercise…” Even so, she recommends that “if you feel more sore in the winter after the same level of exercise than you do the rest of the year, it could be that your body needs a longer warm-up period.”
Warming up helps your body fight the cold weather contractions. It loosens up your joints and opens your range of motion. Doing a warm up before getting into more strenuous workouts is always good. But during the winter, it’s downright essential.
Think you’re in too much of a rush and just want to skip it? Don't. Just suck it up and take some time for a warm up. It’s critical.
But it doesn’t have to be a major event. Here are some easy ideas:
Your warm up is critical. But so is an effective cool down. Don’t just ditch the gym as soon as you’ve finished your final lift.
Take about 10 minutes to follow a routine similar to your warm up. This will prevent muscle soreness and help you stay at your peak all through the winter.
The cold weather can tighten your muscles and lead to soreness. But you can prevent much of that with a smart routine.
Remember, your cool down matters too. Make sure you’re getting plenty of protein by using a whey protein supplement. Your post-workout drink can help prevent soreness as well by supplying the muscles with essential nutrients.
Staying fit through the winter can be a challenge. Keep motivated and nail every workout. You’ll feel your best and be proud of your hard work during the tough season.