You may have noticed some things as the calendar switches to December. Your old collarbone injury seems to be acting up. Your knees are popping more when you bend down. Your lower back refuses to budge. Your shoulders have become stuck to your ears. And you're pretty sure you pulled your hamstring getting out of bed this morning.
Are you really that out of shape? Did you fall that far off your plan over the weekend? Have you gotten that old?
You're just cold.
Do you remember that experiment in science class where you would stick an inflated balloon in the freezer, take it out five minutes later, and find that it had shrunk?
Well now that balloon is your body, and the freezer is your entire world. Your bedroom is cold, your living room is cold, your bathroom tile is even colder, and of course, it's cold outside. Your muscles, tendons, joints, and skin are all being held tighter because of it.
So what you need to do, is warm up. And I don't mean turning up the thermostat, or getting extra blankets. Partly because I'm guessing your are already doing that, but mostly because the typical response to being cold is to move as little as possible. Which means all your extra curling up is reinforcing any mobility issues you already have.
Remember that the biggest focus of exercise is always about maintaining or improving your day to day well being. Part of that is making sure to modify your exercise to fit with your environment. If you're cold in the morning, you feel stiff in your joints, and moving them can be unpleasant. If you overly stress your body with heavy weightlifting, the following morning you feel stiff in your joints, and moving them can be unpleasant.
So what do you think will happen if you overly stress your body with heavy weightlifting while you are cold in the mornings?
Your joints will be even more stiff, and moving them will be even more unpleasant.
Does that sound like it maintained or improved your day to day well being?
I'm not saying you shouldn't be lifting heavy weight when it's cold out, just make sure to take extra precautions. Here are some modifications that will help keep you less stiff, and sore, and maintain or improve your day to day well being while it's cold out.
- Emphasize your warm up and cool down. The overall duration of your workout does not need to change, but spend more of it getting loose and sweaty, and more of it stretching after your peak intensity. This is crucial if you are planning to lift heavy when it is cold out. (Regardless of how warm or cold it is, you should always be sweating a little by the time your warm up is finished.)
- Focus on using bodyweight exercises. Most bodyweight exercises are compound movements. Which means they recruit from more than one joint, or range of motion at a time. This will help keep your mobility functional.
- Workout more frequently but with low impact exercises. For example, going for a brisk walk every day, versus a five or six mile run, once a week. The more you use your joints, the less stiff they will be. The lower the impact, the more frequently you can do a movement or activity.
- Implement circuit training into your workouts. Switching between two, three, or four exercises in succession allows your muscles to rest, but keeps your heart rate up. Your heart rate being elevated is one of the biggest factors for being warm.
Comment of email me If you have any questions on what to do for warm ups, or cool downs, or any other information on keeping warm this winter. Or stop by the Superhero Field Training class on Sunday for some first hand experience!