If you’re planning on keeping up a regular running schedule during the cold winter months, there’s one important thing to keep in mind: be sure to warm up your body before hitting the trail or road. During these cold months when winter traction is uncertain, the chances for a pulled muscle or muscle strain is much higher if you don’t warm up ahead of time.
Moreover, if you’re making quick lateral moves to dodge patches of ice or avoid hard packed snow, you’ll want to be sure that you’re plenty stretched out and agile. With that in mind, here are four classic running exercises you should definitely plan to do before hitting the trail in order to capture all the advantages of running without any of the risks…
Exercise 1: The quad stretch
Your quads are one of the most likely places to get a muscle pull while winter running, so you’ll want to give them plenty of attention before your running workouts. With a quad stretch, you’ll want to stand tall and then slowly bring your right heel to your glutes area. As you do so, take hold of your running shoe and bring it the rest of the way, so that your heel is resting against your glutes for a brief second. Then lower and repeat with your left leg without pausing between legs.
Exercise 2: The hamstring stretch
There are plenty of benefits of running in the morning before the sun is up, but one of the risks is a hamstring pull that can result when you alter your stride too quickly, such as when you try to avoid an unseen icy obstacle. To stretch out your hamstring, bring your right heel forward, as if you were taking a real step forward, and then pause when the heel is against the ground. Then, slowly raise your toes. You’ll feel a gentle stretching sensation and perhaps even a slight burn. But you’ll be plenty loose and limber, even when winter traction is not great.
Exercise 3: The knee stretch
To protect your knee area, one classic exercise is known as the walking knee hug. First, raise your right knee up high into the air. As you do so, grab hold of it with both hands, and then gently raise the knee even higher. While raising the knee upward, also pull it into your body very gently. Then lower and repeat for the other knee.
Exercise 4: The full body stretch
This full body exercise is called the “tin soldier” – and for good reason. You will emulate a tin soldier, with perfectly straight back, arms and legs. When you move your leg forward to walk, lift your leg straight out, flex your toes, and then extend your arm to meet your leg. Depending on how limber you are, you might be able to touch the tips of your hands to the tips of your toes with every step forward.
The benefits of running every day are well known. What is less known, though, is the importance of properly warming up when winter traction is uncertain at best. These running exercises for you will help keep you limber, agile and ready to deal with any road hazards the winter might bring your way!