Points of Interest
- What happens to our bodies in the cold
- Synovial fluid and joint impacts
- Getting warm pre-run
- Joint mobility first, then running
- Now start your run... Gradually
In this article we're going to outline some cold weather warm up considerations that could be the difference between a great run or an unnecessary injury. As the conditions change, our bodies response to exercise does too. With a little knowledge of physiology we can adjust our warmups in response to what we're about to put our bodies through.
Winter running can be a perfect mix of the best and worst of running conditions. On one hand we have to consider the weather – how cold is it outside? How wet is it? Is the surface muddy or slippery? How are we feeling?
On the other, we have the benefits of the cooler weather – it helps prevent overheating, the air is crisp and purer, and less sweating means reduced dehydration. It's a balancing act that we need to stay aware of throughout our winter run training.
What Happens to Our Bodies in the Cold?
As the temperature drops, our blood vessels contract, reducing the blood flow to our extremities. This process is known as vasoconstriction and is the reason that our hands and feet are vulnerable to the cold. More of the blood is diverted to your body's core for the vital organs, leaving the extremities colder and less mobile.
Our joints suffer at the expense of vasoconstriction also. Our connective tissues such as ligaments and tendons have a relatively poor blood supply of their own, receiving most of their blood flow osmotically. This means as a joint is moved, they receive blood thanks to an increase of blood in the general area.
If there is a low blood flow in an area due to vasoconstriction the joint becomes less supple and more susceptible to injury. With this in mind, it's imperative to warm up the area thoroughly before running in the cold.
Synovial Fluid and Joint Impacts
Our joints contain a substance known as synovial fluid. This has a number of roles – lubrication of the joint surfaces being one. In the cold weather though, the synovial fluid changes. According to joint surgeon Dr Benjamin Domb …
"In cold weather the synovial fluid which acts as a shock absorber within the joint may become more viscous and not flow freely resulting in stiff and creaking joints".
Essentially this means that in order to improve the mobility, lubrication and shock absorption properties of our joints, we absolutely have to focus on getting the joints warm before we can progress on to our actual running. With impact forces in running being significant, we need all the help we can get to prevent injury if we want to continue pain-free running in the long term.
Getting Warm Pre-Run
It's particularly helpful if we can prepare our bodies before actually warming up. We do this by improving blood flow to the muscles and joints ahead of time. The question is though, how do we promote blood flow to an area before embarking on an actual ‘warm up'?
Well the best place to start is with some KYMIRA Clothing. Our infrared clothing promotes localised blood flow, so by simply wearing our KNergy fabric on your skin you are already passively increasing your blood flow. You can see our running range for run-specific clothing, and a video explaining the science can be found below...
A pair of running leggings and compression socks can help significantly with the pre-warm up blood flow.
Joint Mobility First, Then Running
When you're outside, you have to start moving the joints before you embark on the run. To do this, you need to start with some basic joint mobility drills. Follow these exercises in the order they're written, because they increase in intensity and dynamism. They'll also increase joint warmth, mobility and blood flow gradually.
Calf Raises: Start with your feet flat on the floor and raise your heels to stand on your tip toes. Slowly lower yourself back down. Repeat this for 4 sets of 15 reps.
Air Squats: Put your hands out in front and perform a full squat, making sure your thighs break parallel. Repeat this for 4 sets of 15 reps.
Hip Rotations: Rotate your hips around in large circles. Perform the first 10 in a clockwise motion, the next 10 anti-clockwise. Repeat for 2 sets of 20.
Jump Squats: Perform a dynamic jump squat. Drop to below parallel, then explode up. Repeat for 3 sets of 10.
Plyometric Lunges: Assume a lunge position, then dynamically jump into a lunge on the opposite side. Repeat for 2 sets of 10.
Now Start Your Run… Gradually
You're now free to start your run - but do so carefully. Don't pile into your full pace straight away - spend the first 3-5 minutes running at a slow, gentle pace. Gradually build up into full run pace only when you feel comfortable, supple and flexible. Increase stride length and turnover bit by bit. Marathons and sprints come to mind!
It's better to start slowly and gradually increase into full pace, rather than go for broke straight from the off. We're interested in keeping you fit, healthy and running for the long term. Warm up sensibly in the cold and you'll avoid a whole host of completely unnecessary injuries. Follow these warm up tips, wear your KYMIRA Leggings and you'll manage cold weather runs without issue!