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How longer warm-ups and a warm facility will protect you through the winter months

You know who you are: The group of people who are always uncomfortably hot—even when there’s frost on the ground in the middle of a cold winter.

“Can we turn the heat down, please?”

“Turn the fans on!”

“It’s so hot. Can I open the bay doors?” they urge.

If you’re an easily-overheatable human like the beautiful Caron and strongman Tony, here’s why we’re not going to let you bully us into turning the heat off and opening the bay doors in the cold months of the year: 

A cold facility will not only hurt your performance, but it actually increases your chance of injury!

Why? Because your muscles need to be WARM for physical exertion! That’s the whole point of warming up…

In the summer, getting the blood flowing isn’t quite as crucial because your muscles are already relatively warm. But in the winter, a warm-up literally means working to increase the temperature of your muscles and connective tissues to make them more supple and elastic. This will also help increase nerve conduction, which helps you move more fluidly—decreasing your chance of getting injured from poor movement.

So when you show up in the cold months, especially in the early morning hours as you come in from the cold, your body is nowhere near ready to go. And if the facility isn’t warm, it’s like throwing fuel on the fire. Danger town for injuries.

Here are some tips for the cold season:

1. Start every day with longer than normal get-the-blood-flowing continuous movement:

Skipping—single skips, high knees skips and throwing in some double-unders—is a great way to increase your body temperature fast. Rowing and cycling also work, but may take a little more time than skipping.

Consider doubling the amount of time you spend on this “continuous movement” portion of your warm-up when it’s cold outside. An easy guide is to keep going until you feel the urge to rip off a layer of clothing.

2. Layer up!

Every winter, I see someone walking from their car to the gym in shorts and a T-shirt when there’s snow on the ground. Sigh.

Don't be that guy!

Wear multiple layers, long sleeves, or even wool socks and a hat to the gym. If your extremities are cold to the touch, your muscles are way too cold to train effectively. You can always start removing layers throughout the hour when your body warms up.

3. Avoid static stretching

Although it’s temping to come in and flop down to start stretching because it’s nice to ease your body and mind into gym-mode, stretching cold muscles does nothing in terms of preparing it for exertion. In fact, it’s more likely to do damage than good.

One last tip: While I haven’t read any science behind this claim, I find a hot drink before a workout goes a long way in warming up my insides!