The Joint Ventures' Blog

Cold Weather Stretching

Monday, December 07, 2015

For those of you who are courageous enough to exercise in the dead of winter, or anyone who is afraid of exercising in the cold due to injuring themselves from using cold muscles, we have gathered some information for you.

If you have been doing research online or talking to your personal trainer, you have noticed there is a lot of information that can sometimes be confusing as to how and when you should stretch for cold weather activities.  Here are few pointers to help lead you in the right direction.

There has been a lot of research conducted on how muscles contract (shorten), and how they stretch (elongate).  Muscles are composed of many muscle cells, which are organized in certain directions to create the movements that we make.  What organizes specific muscle contractions to create smooth motions seems like a simple idea, however when considering the amount of cells firing at various degrees it is really a phenomenon.  Adding stretching to your workout routine can prevent injury by allowing your body to move in a more efficient pattern.  Let us review how stretching affects your muscles ability to perform.

When you stretch you have specific nerves in your muscles that are initially activated telling your brain (or spinal cord depending on what neurophysiologist you talk to) it is an uncomfortable sensation, and then your muscles want to contract to a more comfortable and less vulnerable length.  However, if you maintain a stretch long enough these nerves calm down and you actually decrease the amount of electrical output to the muscles being stretched. This is a great response when you are trying to increase or maintain range of motion for a joint to complete an activity efficiently enough to reduce the risk of injury later. 

The only problem with stretching is when we want our muscles to be awake with more electrical impulses (like when we are working out!)  If we static stretch before a workout, we actually decrease the muscles ability to produce more output.  With this mind, we don’t want to static stretch before working out (dynamic stretching that can be taught to you by a trainer or physical therapist is the safest option). 

 You may be thinking it’s important to stretch before working out in cold weather, but it’s even more important that you don’t static stretch in the cold!  Cold weather will reduce the maximal potential output of muscles, so we want our muscles to be as awake as possible before starting the workout.  This might mean increased warm up times before initiating the workout is important, but static stretching pre-workout has not shown in research to decrease chances of injury. 

Static stretching after a workout to calm the muscles down and realign the fascial lines tension is highly recommended, however static stretching prior to cold weather workouts is no recommended.  The muscles need to be warm, stretching doesn’t help with that.  If you have any questions or concerns about stretching just give us a call at 617-536-1161 or stop by any of our 8 convenient location

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