For many of us, dragging our bodies out of bed in order to face a workout first thing can take a bit of motivation. As the cold weather moves in and our muscles are stiffer, the challenge is even greater.
While many of us feel that the best way to warm up the muscles before a workout is to stretch, this is only true if you're stretching properly The wrong kind of stretching can not only hold you back but it could also cause you harm.
As temperatures fall, it takes longer for our muscles to be prepared for exercise to the point that they are safe to use in a workout without risking injury. The types of stretching we often associate with a warm up, such as static stretching (sitting on the floor and trying to touch your feet, for instance) are actually more useful as a type of cool down exercise. If you do this type of stretching ahead of a workout while your muscles are still tight and cold, you can actually harm them, which can be painful.
Therefore, when you're facing a cold morning or when you're having a day when your muscles feel especially stiff, it's a far better idea to use dynamic stretching. This type of stretch focuses on blood circulation and range of motion. This naturally leads the muscles to warm and be prepared for more use. They're also quite easy to do as they typically consist of repeating fluid motions that don't require you to hold static positions. Gentle walking and progressing to skipping can be a great way to get things going.
Other types of dynamic stretching that are great for getting cold muscles warmed once the temperature drops outside include the following:
• Arm circles
• Butt kicks
• Foam rolling
• Lunges while walking
• Downward-facing dog to a plank position
As you can see, these are all exercises that involve motion instead of deliberately holding a position in order to try to stretch out a muscle or joint. These help you to ready the muscles you'll actually be using without overdoing it. You'll ease your body into being prepared to take on your full workout.
Often, simply taking on a gentler version of what you actually intend to do is more than enough to warm up your muscles for your complete routine. That said, don't forget to cool down once you're done!