If you’re an outdoor runner in winter (instead of working out at home or at the gym), you need to make sure your muscles are sufficiently warmed up before you head out into the cold. The frigid temperature means muscles are even colder and tighter than usual, which can increase your chance of injury — especially if you have preexisting conditions like arthritis or osteoporosis.
Warming up your muscles will increase muscle temperature, flexibility, and mobility before you tackle your run. In addition to preventing injury, warm muscles are also more responsive. This means they contract and relax more quickly than cold muscles, which improves your athletic performance. Use these three dynamic movements to warm-up indoors before heading out for your winter run.
1. Leg Swings
Front-to-Back Leg Swings
Stand next to a wall or another very stable object. Using a hand on the wall for balance, plant your right foot into the ground, and swing your left leg from front to back. Make sure your right knee doesn’t completely lock out, and that it remains positioned over your right foot (instead of caving inward). Complete 10 repetitions, then switch sides.
Lateral leg swings
Face the wall or stable object, using one hand for balance. Now keep your left foot planted into the ground as you swing you right leg from side to side, in front of your body. Complete 10 repetitions, then switch sides.
2. Lunge Matrix
The lunge matrix gets you moving in three different planes of motion, increasing blood flow to your lower body while loosening tight muscles in preparation for your run. Start all your lunges from a standing position with feet hip width apart. Complete 10 repetitions of each lunge variation (on both sides) before moving on to the next variation. Do the matrix once before your run.
Take a big step backward with your right leg, dropping your right knee toward the ground and bending your left knee to 90 degrees. Push off with your right foot to return to the starting position, and repeat for repetitions.
With your right leg, take a big step directly out to your right side. Bend your right knee and keep your left leg straight. You should feel your right glute and quad muscles working, and your left adductors (inner thigh muscles) stretching. Push off your right foot to return to the start position, and repeat for repetitions.
Posterior Lateral Lunges
Step your right leg behind you at about a 45-degree angle. Turn your torso to the right as you step, and bend your right knee as far as you can comfortably go. Your right foot should remain flat on the ground during this lunge variation. Push off your right foot to return to the start position and repeat for repetitions.
3. Mountain Climbers
Mountain climbers are an excellent exercise for warming up your whole body, especially your core. As the highest intensity exercise in our warm-up series, we do them last.
Start in a plank position, with hands and toes touching the ground (a push-up position). Hands should be directly under your shoulders, and your torso and legs should form a straight line. Brace your abs and bend your right leg so your knee is close to your elbows, toes touching the ground. Keeping your upper body in place, jump your right leg back while jumping your left leg forward. Both feet should touch the ground at the same time. One jump with the right leg forward and one jump with the left leg forward counts as one repetition. Aim for 2 sets of 30 repetitions.
To prevent falls on slippery ice (which can be especially harmful for older adults), try taking shorter, faster steps. Your feet will land underneath your body instead of slightly ahead of your body which makes balance and stability easier.