Cold, stiff muscles need extra preparation before beginning workout

Cold-weather exercise has its drawbacks. Some of them are mental, but a lot of them are physical. Cold, stiff muscles don't lend themselves to quick fitness and sports moves. A person's range of motion also takes a big dip when it's cold.

The human body functions best within a very narrow range of outside temperatures, usually between 65 and 75 degrees, with a humidity reading of around 45 percent.

The further you get from this ideal temperature range, the harder it becomes for your body to compensate.

When temperatures are quite cold, the blood vessels leading to your skin, hands and feet constrict in order to minimize blood flow and body-heat loss through these surfaces.

When the body begins to shiver, it generates heat, but, when these reactions to cold occur, it means that your body is stressed. Your heart and pulse increase, and your body chemistry changes.

When outside temperatures drop significantly, your muscles become numb and stiff.

Body appendages become less cooperative and can malfunction, exposing you to injury.

Other factors affecting muscle control and movement that can accentuate the body's reaction to cold temperatures are alcohol and some types of drugs.

If you exercise indoors during winter weather, wear light clothing, drink plenty of water, and prepare your cold muscles with an easy jog in place.

If you do your exercise outdoors, wear layers of clothing, and remove them as you become warm and loose.

Keep your legs warm, and rotate your ankles before and after your workout. Lightly stretch calf, hamstring and thigh muscles if you jog.

Long, extended stretches before your workouts are not a good idea when the temperature is 30 degrees.

Wear a hat if your exercise is outdoors; 40 percent of heat loss is through the head.

If you are breathing in cold air while you jog, wrap a warm scarf around your mouth, and breathe through it now and then to warm up your respiratory tract.

A little preparation for those cold, stiff muscles is all it takes to keep you sweating through the cold months.

• Jerry Vance is the owner of Sweat Shop/Wet Sweat. She offers classes through the Carson City Recreation and Aquatics Center and is a fitness instructor for the Carson City Senior Citizens Center.

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