Cold Weather Exercise: Surviving the Elements

Posted On Wednesday, 11 January 2017
Cold Weather Exercise: Surviving the Elements

As the temperatures continue to drop outside, we find ourselves cooped up indoors, whether that be at home, at work or at the gym hiding from the painfully cold, wet weather.

As the itch kicks in to get outdoors and get some fresh air, follow the tips below for soothing those cold, wet weather aches and pains during the long winter months.

Improper Warm-up vs. Proper Warm-up

Let’s compare our bodies to that of a car on a cold, wintry day. Many of us allow the car to warm up for at least 10 minutes before we jump in and drive off (although whether this benefits the car or the person more is yet to be determined). Regardless, if you allow your car to warm up, why wouldn’t you allow your body to warm up before exercising out in the cold?

Asking the human (or car) body to perform at a high level when cold, or improperly warmed up, will only lead to issues and injuries down the road. An active warm-up, where you break a sweat and get your heart rate up (high knees, butt kicks, side shuffles) and blood flowing to the muscles, will warm the muscles that are about to be worked and prepare the body for the stressors that will be placed on it during the training session.

This warm-up will lead to fewer sprain and strain type injuries due to increased flexibility and muscle preparedness.

Rain & Snow vs. Aches & Pains

While the scientific proof behind the achy or painful joints before a rain or snowstorm is limited; it is still experienced by many! Barometric pressure, or the weight of the air, fluctuates due to temperature and weather (wet vs. dry). A decrease in barometric pressure, which occurs when the weather changes from dry to wet, can cause the tissues around the joints to swell, leading to nerve irritation and to feelings of muscle stiffness and joint pain.

If you are one of those people who can predict the weather based on old injuries, don’t let it stop you from lacing up and getting in your daily workout. Sore, achy joints can be soothed by placing heat on the affected area and then performing a light stretch after. Getting up and performing an exercise that increases one’s heart rate (i.e. jogging and cycling) may also help soothe the pain, as blood will rush to the muscles, and in turn, warm the body up internally. If the pain persists, and if approved by your physician, use of NSAIDs (Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) will also aid in reducing the pain.

Cool it Down, While You’re Warm

A cool down following a training session, especially a cold weather training session, should be gradual and is as important as a proper warm-up. When coming to the end of a workout, slow down your pace or intensity for a 3-5 minute period, allowing your heart rate and blood pressure to gradually decrease at a more natural pace to minimize the risk of a fainting episode.

Head inside for the static stretching portion of your cool down, so you are not exposed to the colder temperatures while the body is cooling off. Stretching following exercise while your muscles are still warm will help reduce the build-up of lactic acid, which leads to muscle cramping and stiffness.

Don’t let the fear of cold, wet weather and achy joints interfere with everyday activities and exercise regimens. Following the simple tips above will help keep your body warm and injury free while you are waiting for the first signs of warm weather to come.

John Gallucci, Jr., MS, ATC, DPT

The dynamic president of JAG Physical Therapy, John Gallucci, Jr., MS, ATC, DPT, is in demand for his expertise in injury prevention, rehabilitation, sports medicine and athletic training. He has appeared often on radio and television, including ESPN’s award-winning Outside the Lines, Fox 5, PIX 11, MSG Varsity, NJ News 12, WFAN and is a popular public speaker.

Gallucci has made a major impact in his fields throughout the New York/New Jersey area, and holds a national presence in the sports medicine community. JAG Physical Therapy now offers comprehensive orthopedic outpatient centers in New York City, West Orange, Warren, Cedar Knolls, Union, Hackensack, Woodbridge, Princeton, Fairfield, and Old Bridge New Jersey.

Currently, John is the Medical Coordinator for Major League Soccer (MLS), coordinating the medical care of more than 600 professional soccer players. Gallucci is the former Head Athletic Trainer of the New York Red Bulls MLS team and is a Sports Medicine consultant for professional athletes in the NHL, NFL, NBA, MLB, and USA Wrestling.

John has also worked in the Athletic Departments of Columbia University, New York University and Long Island University, and has been a Clinical Instructor at Columbia University, Seton Hall University, Rutgers University, and Dominican College. John is the former Program Director of Barnabas Health’s Sport Medicine Institute and also serves as an appointed member on the New Jersey Governor’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sport. John’s charitable efforts have included a leading role in local fundraisers for Barnabas Health, The Valerie Fund, The LaConti Child Life Fund, The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, The Arthritis Foundation, and The American Cancer Society in addition to supporting more than 100 high schools, college programs and athletic clubs throughout the Tri-State Area.


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