Dealing with cold muscles and cold temperatures
October 18, 2007
It’s cold and the last thing your muscles feel like doing is stretching. You know the merits of pre-stretching before exercise for injury prevention, but how many of you relate stretching to the difference in temperature?
As little as four degrees difference in outside or room temperature can totally change the structure of your pre-stretch program. It may mean the difference between a good stretch and pain.
Static stretches are those types of stretches that extend slowly and hold at the end of the movement. These stretches have their place in the beginning of an exercise program, and at the end for muscle relaxing and cool down.
Ballistic stretches are those that are active, with bounce and bobbing movement. These stretches are usually done in the interior of your exercise program and can often be incorporated with the endurance portion of the program. Both types of stretching have their place in a well-rounded fitness activity.
Taking this information a bit further, when you take your warm body into a cold exercise room, or outside to jog in winter weather, you change the nature of the stretching required to prevent injury. It is a subtle difference and one that most people are not aware of. Instead of starting with static stretches on muscles that are cold and tight, do a little light jogging movement and swing your arms around a bit to increase your circulation.
When the temperature is 50 degrees, I often begin a class with one or two easy running sequences to warm the legs and get the blood moving to all extremities. Then, with the muscles filled with blood and elongated, we do slow static stretches and go back to a warm-up exercise for arms, legs and ankles.
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During warm weather, beginning the exercise activity with static stretches is enjoyable and easy, and your warm-up run can safely be slipped back into second place without the increased chance of muscle injury.
Once you have warmed your muscles to the point of an easy stretch, maintaining them at that level during your exercise is important. To continually cool and reheat muscle tissue increases the chance of injury. Each exercise performed should be a prerequisite for the next movement.
There are other factors that interact with temperature. Age is one of them. As you age, your muscles become shorter and require more stretching. Some people have naturally tighter muscles, and some have uneven body structures to consider. However, two main points relate to all bodies, don’t do ballistic or bouncing stretches on cold muscles and when you do static stretching, consider the temperature of the surroundings. Remember as little as four degrees of temperature difference may change the requirements for your pre-exercise stretching.
• Jerry Vance is owner of The Sweat Shop/Wet Sweat. She offers classes through Carson City Recreation and Aquatics Center and is a fitness instructor for the Carson City Senior Citizens Center.