1: Include longer warm-ups
No matter what sports or training you plan on undertaking during the winter, remember that the colder outdoor temperatures and slippery road surfaces can increase the risk of muscle strains, slips and falls.
Make sure that you include a longer warm-up before you start exercising or set off and ensure that you dress properly to suit the weather conditions. It pays to buy the right training gear and layer up for extra protection against the cold weather.
Warm-up indoors in a warm room to flush your muscles with blood and to warm up tight muscles and tendons. Never start a winter run with cold muscles – this will reduce your proprioception – or ground feel, making muscles and tendons more vulnerable to strains and injury.
Try to include large range-of-motion warm-up exercises such as leg swings, lunges and gentle jogging on the spot.
2: Build on what you’ve already achieved
If you are a runner the winter can be a good time to establish a strong running base level or pushing the limits on your existing one. The winter weather can also encourage you to focus on slower-paced running that can help to improve your endurance levels and give you better control over your breathing and pace.
Base runs are generally easy-paced runs where you are not actively pushing the envelope to break speed records or to set new personal bests. The pace should be comfortable and you should be able to manage to hold a conversation throughout the whole of your run. Base runs are great for increasing your average distances.
Think along the lines of pushing yourself between 60 to 75% of your maximum heart rate. Pounding out base runs during the winter helps to develop slow-twitch muscle fibres, strengthen and condition your muscles, ligaments, tendons and connective tissues making your body all-around much stronger and resilient and reducing your risk of sustaining an injury.
3: Dress appropriately for colder temperatures
Many sports apparel providers use high tech fabrics that wick away sweat while at the same time help to keep you warm. Never underestimate the wind-chill factor during winter, so always make sure you wear gloves and a hat that covers your ears to keep your extremities protected from chilblains.
Chilblains are small, itchy, red patches that develop on your skin that can appear after your skin has been exposed to the cold. Chilblains develop on your fingers and toes, can be quite painful and can affect your athletic performance.
While chilblains usually clear up by themselves, they can persist if you are training regularly in the cold without protection. You may need to see a GP if they don’t go away.
Insulate your knees, shins, ankles and feet to reduce the risks of joint tears that can hamper your training and performance. Leave the running shorts for summer! Instead layer your legs up with running tights, leggings or flexible sports base layer clothing underneath a pair of jogging bottoms.
4: Switch to a winter running shoe with more traction
With the increased chances of slipping on icy or wet surfaces, it can pay to switch to a running shoe with more grip and traction that is built for winter weather.
Remember that it only takes one misaligned slip to ruin your season, and even if you don’t fall over, a slip on an icy surface can increase the risks of sustaining a lower-back or hip injury during the winter.
5: Know what to do if an injury occurs
Whilst preventable, sports injuries do happen. And the key to minimising ‘down time’ is to seek professional advice and/or treatment for a sports injury as soon as possible.