Emily Jones, PTA
It’s that time of year again when outdoor activities take a cold turn. Fall and winter weather changes bring most of us indoors for treadmill exercise. For those who are brave enough to venture outdoors in the winter months for your daily exercise, we commend you! Here are a few things to remember when gearing up to head out:
A warm-up is essential! Especially, now that the temperature outside is colder. Your heart and muscles require just as much, if not more prep-time for your exercise. A five to ten minute walk as a warm-up is always appropriate but a few things to try in your home are jumping jacks, running in place, high knees and butt kicks, arm circles- these are all good ways to get your heart-rate up and muscles moving before a run.
Hydration also remains very important. You may not feel the need to drink as much water as you do in the summertime because you maybe don’t sweat as much and don’t get as warm. This may be true, but your body is working very hard to acclimate to the cold temperatures that you and you must stay hydrated. Dry winter air can also lead to dehydration.
Running gear: the sun is setting sooner and chances are, if you are getting out before or after your workday, it will be dark outside. Reflective clothing is a must and will help you stand out on the road. Make sure to wear appropriate layers as well. Covering your head is very important as most of our heat escapes our body through here. Be cautious to not over-dress as well! Your body will warm up as your workout progresses and you don’t want to over-heat. Most sporting-goods stores carry winter running apparel that does an excellent job of keeping just the right amount of cold out and heat in, all in a dry-fitting material.
If your exercises bring you indoors to a treadmill, here are some tips for an efficient, injury-free workout.
Warm up AND Cool Down
Run or walk at a slow, easy pace for 5-10 minutes. This allows your cardiovascular system and muscles to get revved up before your workout. Cool down is equally as important for the same reasons; it is a gradual easing up on these systems. It is never good to completely stop mid-run to end your workout entirely. By making sure your heart rate is below 100 beats per minute, you can avoid dizziness and improve your body’s ability to recover from exercise.
Use a slight incline
Set the treadmill inclination to 1% to 2%. Due to there not being any wind resistance indoors, this can simulate being outside. By the same token, don’t make the incline too steep for too long. (Typically more than 7%) – this may lead to Achilles tendon or calf injuries.
Don’t hang on
Handrails are only to be used to help you safely onto and off the machine. When running on the treadmill, use proper form which is, arms at a 90 degree angle, just as you would if you were running outside. This includes using the treadmill display as well. If your incline is too steep for you to walk/run without it, you are walking too much of an incline! (Plus. it defeats the purpose of why you have it inclined in the first place if you are walking slightly tilted backwards.) Also, make sure to adjust your stride as you go. If you feel like your form is breaking down, slow your pace.
Pay attention to your footwork
When running on a treadmill, your feet leave the track and you have to keep pace with the speed you have set, unlike running outside where your muscles have to propel you forward. With this in mind, it is good practice to not have too long of strides on the treadmill. This will activate your muscles more like the outdoors and not be as hard on your joints. Once you are ready to return outside, do so slowly. Again, because your leg muscles work harder outside, it is important to start out slowly with 10 minute jogs to start and slowly progressing each day.
Don’t look down
Even though it’s hard to not look at your feet or at the display while you are working out, don’t do it! This can alter your running form and can cause strain or injury from your neck down into your back.
Mix up your workout
Like the changing terrain of the outdoors, it is beneficial to change your treadmill routine. Slower paced, higher incline workouts are good for building strength, while faster, lower incline workouts build endurance.
Whether you are going to be indoors or out this winter, take good care of your body and happy running!