It may not get as cold in Southwest Louisiana as it does farther north, but winter can derail your normal fitness routine. Dr. Alex Anderson, primary care sports medicine specialist with Center for Orthopaedics says you shouldn't let cooler temperatures be an excuse not to exercise. “Although research has shown that athletes are more likely to suffer muscle and joint trauma when exercising in cold weather, there is no reason you can’t safely maintain a workout schedule in the winter.”
According to Dr. Anderson, the injuries that occur more often in cooler weather are usually muscle and tendon strains that result from the muscles and tendons being cold; or muscle, joint or ligament injuries that result from slipping on wet or icy surfaces. “That’s why it’s important to make some changes to your exercise routine to prevent injuries in winter weather,” he explains. “Outdoor activities like running and walking, for example, are excellent ways to stay fit year-round if you take the proper precautions.”
Dr. Anderson offers the following tips to prevent injuries while maintaining your fitness level during cold-weather workouts:
Layer your clothing. Wear several light layers, including a jacket or windbreaker, to keep you warm during the early part of your run or walk, then take it off and tie it around your waist after you are warmed up.
Don't forget your hat and gloves. Vital body heat is lost through the top of your head and through your hands, so cover them up.
Always warm up. Begin your workout slowly when running or walking in the cold to allow muscles to warm, and take extra time to stretch before.
Skip short, fast speed, interval workouts. Cold temperatures will cause your muscles, ligaments, and tendons to remain very tight and you won't be able to loosen up adequately, resulting in a lack of efficiency in your motion and possible injury.
Cool down. The cool down period is extra important when exercising in the cold. Be sure to include a good stretch after your workout. If you are running, keep jogging to prevent tightening up, and then head for a warm place. Remove all wet clothing and replace with dry things if you are not going home immediately. As soon as possible, take a warm bath or shower, but not until your body has fully recovered from the workout and your heart rate is back to its normal level.
Beware of windchill: The actual air temperature is often not the concern - the windchill factor matters more. Start your workout into the wind and finish with it behind you to minimize windchill.
Choose the proper footwear. Proper tread is important to prevent slipping on wet or icy ground surfaces.
Stay safe in the dark: Consider running with a partner and always wear bright, reflective gear.
Take advantage of indoor exercise opportunities. When winter weather is severe, work out indoors at home, a gym or indoor track.
“And as always, listen to you body and use common sense when exercising in cooler weather,” adds Dr. Anderson. “Suffering an injury because you failed to exercise caution will more than likely put you on the workout sidelines for a longer period of time than our brief Southwest Louisiana winter.”
For more information about any fitness or sports injury concern, call Dr. Anderson at Center for Orthopaedics, (337) 721-7236.