How to Warm up Before Exercising in Cold Weather

Outdoor exercise is a great way to stay healthy, both in terms of “fitness” and “prevention of COVID-19.” But as winter approaches, the air gets colder, and suddenly your warm-up takes on new meaning.

Think of the first 10 minutes as “transition time”.

During exercise, your body generates heat. By the time you are done exercising, you will be at least comfortable warm and possibly even overheated, depending on how you dress. But it takes time to warm up, no matter how you train.

I like to think of the first mile of a run or the first 10 minutes of a workout as a transition time – the period when you find your stride, walk into a zone and literally warm up. If you are running, don’t worry about your pace on the first mile . And if you’re doing pavement burpees – or what your workout consists of – you should plan the first 10 minutes more for relaxation than for demonstrating your best performance of the day.

At least ten minutes. Depending on what you plan to do and how cold it is, your warm-up may take longer. If you don’t feel ready until you’ve been there for 20 minutes, so be it.

Raise your body temperature

This is not a warm-up for purely metaphorical reasons. Your muscles literally need to be warm to function optimally. Warm muscles are the strongest and most flexible.

This means that you probably shouldn’t be doing the hardest work – heavy intervals, difficult yoga poses – before you’re fully warmed up. If you enjoy stretching at the start of your workout, do it after warm-up. Stretching is not a warm-up in and of itself.

What exercises to do

The warm-up should be work that gets you moving, but doesn’t require much effort or perfect technique. Several variants:

  • Brisk walk
  • Easy jogging
  • Ski jumping or skipping rope (take breaks if necessary)
  • Light bodyweight movements that involve large muscles, such as lunges and modified push-ups.

If your planned workout for the day is walking or running, you can simply warm up by starting at a lower intensity before reaching full speed. For this reason, runners don’t need to change much; you were either going to do an easy run anyway, or if you had scheduled intervals, you were probably going to jog a little before starting them.

Dress appropriately

Warm clothing will help you keep your body warm as you warm up. This is why sweatshirts and sweatpants are sometimes called “warm-ups” because you wear them during warm-up and then discard.

If you are running the distance, you have to make a choice: do you want to put on additional layers of clothing and then carry them with you – for example, tie a sweatshirt at the waist? Or would you rather start out in sportswear and just freeze for the first ten minutes?

Another option is to warm up with a short loop that returns to a place where you can safely dump excess clothing, such as your home or car. Take off your jacket and go back out.

Consider keeping warm indoors

If you like, you can warm up indoors before heading out to the actual workout. The same recommended exercises (jumps, lunges, etc.) apply, and you can hit the road as soon as you feel warm enough so that the thought of going out into the winter air doesn’t bother you so much.

By the way, if you wheeze from the cold, stretching is even more important and you should ask your doctor if you have exercise-induced asthma . If you do – and this is quite common – a thorough warm-up can help prevent the narrowing of the airways in your lungs caused by cold, dry air. In addition to warming up, a face mask or scarf can warm the air you breathe.


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