Winterize Your Body

Rick Weinstein, MD, MBA

Cold weather and icy conditions are not only a risk factor for your car in the winter but also for your body. Just as you need to warm up your car before you drive in the winter you need to do the same for yourself if you will be pursuing outdoor activities in the colder months. Before you exercise you need to increase circulation to your muscles and get your heart pumping. I advise my patients to do a light jog or jump on an exercise bike for 5 minutes indoors before going outside to exercise. Once you are warmed up, a good stretch will help prevent injuries. For skiers and snowboarders it is very important to stretch calf muscles, hamstrings and quads.

To stretch calf muscles, do the runner’s stretch. Bring one leg 2 feet behind the other and keeping your back knee straight, lean against a wall. To stretch your hamstrings, sit on the floor in a V and reach for your toes one leg at a time. And finally stretch your quads, lie on your stomach and bring your foot your butt pulling using the arm on the same side. Do each stretch for each leg for 20 seconds and repeat 3 times. If something else feels tight when warming up, stretch that out as well.

In the winter, you may put snow tires on your car for optimal driving. This is also a good idea for yourself. You should wear the appropriate clothing for the winter. Typically you will start out your winter work out feeling very cold, but over time you will start to sweat and even fell warm. Being able to loosen clothing such as unzipping a jacket or opening vents will help you from getting too hot. Layers are important and being able to loosen or remove these layers is key. You lose a lot of body heat through your head (especially children), so I recommend starting with a hat but overtime you may want to remove this. Of course if you ski, always wear your helmet.

Even though you are feeling cool during the winter work outs, hydration can still be an issue. Try to drink enough water before you work out and keep drinking while you are exercising. If you will be exercising for less than an hour, you only need to drink water. If you are going for more than an hour, you will need to replace the electrolytes you are sweating out. Drinks such as Gatorade can replace the lost electrolytes as well as lost water.

If something is hurting, don’t make the mistake of pushing through it. If it continues to hurt or you have a real injury, call your local orthopedic sports medicine specialist’s office number. Keep that doctor’s number on your cell and don’t hesitate to call and get checked. My office is very busy Monday mornings from the weekend injuries, but I always get my patients in to see me the same day for urgent injuries. Try and prevent injuries before they happen, but if you need to be seen see a local specialist ASAP.

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