4 Warm Up Tips For Winter Workouts


Research shows that when a muscle's temperature drops past a certain point, it becomes much more susceptible to tearing. This study, which was done on muscle tissue from rats, demonstrates this clearly.  

It study suggests that it's critically important "that all muscle groups are warmed to core temperature in pre-exercise routines", especially before any high velocity activities. 

Most of us who do activity in colder ambient temperatures know this intuitively. I play touch football with my friends on Sundays. We play all year round. Three-sixty-five. The rate of hamstring injuries and little tweaks definitely goes up as the weather drops.

I feel it too. I injured a hamstring badly when I was about 16 years old. I've worked hard to keep it strong and supple, and for the most part, it is. The only times I ever notice it are during cold days when I try to sprint. 

So, what are the lessons?

  1. Make sure your body is warm before doing any strenuous or high velocity activity (sprints, agility drills, weightlifting). This will take A LOT longer in cold weather. Five minutes isn't going to cut it when winter's arrived.
  2. Dress appropriately. Insulate the muscles that you'll be asking to perform, especially the hamstrings, if you'll be doing any sprinting. They seem to be particularly vulnerable.
  3. Recognize that sometimes it's almost impossible to fully warm-up. If you can't get loose and limber that day (i.e. even after a good warm-up, you're still feeling stiff), change your plan. Do a different workout that doesn't involve as much speed (go by feel, but usually a 1500m pace is fine on days where a 100m or 200m pace feel a little sketchy). Or, if you're playing a sport, pick a position that won't require so much running (count steamboats in football, or play goalie in soccer). Be smart. Blowing out a muscle for a pick-up soccer game is never worth it.

    When it's cold, I personally like to do a few warm-up drills at home (where it's warm) before a leave. Then, when I get to the field, I do a general warm-up to warm-up cold muscles until I feel fluid. After that, I run some gradual accelerations over a 50m-70m distance.

    For the first set, start at 50% speed, then gradually build to 80% speed by the end. On the second set, build to 85%. Continue increasing the speed to 'test the waters' (approx 5-8 sets). If each set feels good, add about 5% to your top speed. If you feel stiff, don't push it. Warm-up more and then make a judgement call about your game plan for the day.
  4. If you can, save your high velocity training or sport practice for an indoor venue during cold weather! Work your schedule around access to a warm, indoor space.


If you're considering doing any outdoor sports activities in winter, keep these 4 warm up tips in mind.
If you're considering doing any outdoor sports activities in winter, keep these 4 warm up tips in mind.