Why warming up matters
To perform at the highest levels, athletes need muscles to extend and flex repeatedly. These muscles must be ready to fire, twist, and stretch at a moment’s notice. Cold, stiff muscles would hamper performance. Furthermore, athletes are more likely to acquire strains and other muscular injuries. The risk is even higher in colder temperatures. Warm-ups should be no more than 15 minutes and should happen in multiple directions and forms. Here are 3 that helps to prevent injury.
1. Start with jogging, jump rope, or spin
Warm-ups should aim to get the blood pumping and slowly raise the heart rate. Spend at least 5 minutes jogging, skipping, or on a stationary bike. These exercises get blood to the calves, hamstrings, and glutes. The hand movements involved also help with the chest and arm muscles. The goal is to start slowly and gradually raise the intensity so as not to deplete energy.
2. Move to the stretch
Stretching is a crucial part of warming up. Sports demand muscles, tendons, and ligaments to be elastic. Stretching gives the limbs a headstart to go through the full range of motion. Proper stretching improves blood circulation and reduces the chances of injury. Make sure to stretch under the supervision of a coach or expert. Athletes should cover critical areas like the calf, hamstring, arms, neck, and shoulders. Hold each stretch for 20-30 seconds with gentle tension. Note that stretching is only part of a complete warm-up.
3. Try dynamic shuffles
Shuffle exercises prepare the body to move in all directions. The goal is to move within a small square footage of space. Athletes should complete the activity off the ice. To start, place 4 markers, equally distanced in a square formation. Then starting from one marker, bend slightly while looking forward. Move the body with quick shuffle steps toward the first marker. Then, while facing the same direction, shuffle to the marker to the side. Move backward to the next, then finish at the starting position. Repeat this drill 10 times to help with balance, agility, and coordination.
Get fired up before hitting the ice
Without warming up before cold-weather sports, injury can happen. Warming up not only prevents damage but can give athletes an edge in the sport. As a side note, cooling down is just as important, gradually slowing the heart rate and muscle activity. Speak with a coach, physical trainer, or orthopedic specialist for more safe, practical warm-up exercises.