Reduce your risk of winter sport and exercise injuries, improve performance and fast-track recovery with these cold weather warm-up tips.

Fact: Australians experience more sport and exercise-related injuries in May, June and July than in the warmer months. Why? One risk factor is cold muscles, tendons and ligaments, which are especially prone to sprains and strains. Simply, they are less flexible and elastic than warm muscles, tendons and ligaments. So what’s the best way to warm up before exercise to prevent winter injuries? Try these simple safeguards.

1. Boost your warm-up and cool down

While you may be able to get away with a brief warm-up in the warmer months, winter demands a more disciplined and prolonged approach to warming up before sport or exercise. A good warm-up should simultaneously prepare the body for your activity, increase core temperature, elevate heart rate, increase breathing rate and stimulate flexibility and power. Moreover, it should improve nerve conduction, which assists with fluid movement, and prepare the cardiovascular and metabolic systems to deliver blood and oxygen to working tissues - which assists with both injury prevention and performance.

Warm-up/cool-down ground rules 

Broadly, your warm-up should include movements that mimic those you’ll perform during sport or exercise and include a combination of aerobic activity and stretching. For structuring your warm-up, perform the aerobic component of your warm-up before stretching as stretching a cold muscle may cause damage. For duration, consider doubling your usual warm-up period (e.g. 10 minutes instead of five). Similarly, you’ll need to factor in a considered cool down period and regimen to help muscles, tendons and ligaments to recover and acclimatise to stopping the activity and to the cool temperature. A cool-down returns muscles to resting length. You can replicate exercises from your warm-up and/or low-intensity movement such as walking or jogging. Aim for a minimum cool-down period of five to 10 minutes.

2. Adapt your wardrobe

When you’re dedicating such effort to your warm-up and cool-down, it doesn’t make sense to undo the effects or increase the effort required by wearing clothing that exposes muscles, tendons, ligaments and joints to the cold. (It would be much like having the heater on and leaving the door open.) Consider investing in full-length compression skins or leggings and a fitted long-sleeve top, ideally with moisture-wicking properties. Remaining dry by wearing clothing that wicks perspiration will also help your body to maintain warmth.

3. Prioritise hydration 

It may sound counterintuitive, but winter brings a greater risk of dehydration due to factors including not feeling thirsty and drinking hot caffeinated beverages, which have a diuretic effect. For athletes and exercise enthusiasts, even minor dehydration may cause muscle cramps. Strive to drink water continuously throughout the day and boost your intake during and after exercise.

If you’re not sure how to optimally warm up and cool down for your sport or exercise type, consider a consultation with a physiotherapist, who can recommend a personalised program to prevent injuries and improve performance. (If you suffer from asthma or a heart condition, consult your medical practitioner before undertaking outdoor exercise in cold weather.)

Kids’ sports activities are back. As a parent, of course you’re relieved that they're spending less time on video games and more time on physical movement. In fact, you may be tempted to shuttle them to every available physical activity to make up for all those lockdown video game hours. (More is better, right?) But here’s the thing: While widespread panic about childhood obesity and encouragement to promote increased physical activity are valid, there can be an opposite risk, of pushing children too far or too fast. The caveats that apply to adults returning to exercise also apply to children, with extra cautions to account for their developing musculoskeletal system. So where’s the tipping point between ‘healthy’ exercise that strengthens growing muscles and joints, and the type that may compromise development (or lead to burnout and dropout)? Here’s a cheat sheet for children aged 5-17.

THE ADVICE: Encourage at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous intensity activity daily. Encourage children to undertake both aerobic activities such as cycling, swimming, circuit training and dance or aerobics AND exercise that strengthens muscles and bones, such as crunches, push-ups and squats -- which may be factored in to fun activities such as obstacle challenges.

THE WARNING SIGNS: Despite the guidelines, each child’s threshold is different. Once they’re into a routine, gauge their physical and mental wellbeing and adjust activity as needed to avoid injury or burnout (i.e. ‘I quit!’). Mixing up types of exercise across the week will help to build comprehensive and balanced fitness and minimise injury risk. If a child suffers pain or discomfort, exhaustion or can’t recover fully after exercise, participation may need to be reduced. For organised sport, including training and competition, factor in at least one rest day.

If you're concerned about your child's physical activity level or want specific advice for combining types of physical activity for optimal development, consider consulting a children's physiotherapist for personalised and age-appropriate recommendations.

Who else is pinning their hopes on being able to hit the gym again or return to sports training and competition?
Maybe you’re already making the most of every minute of the new two-hour exercise window?
Even if you were previously training regularly and consider yourself ‘fit’, it pays to take precautions after a prolonged period of little or less activity.

Our physio Nav recommends these 3 ‘slow and steady’ steps to not only return to your peak performance or previous activity level, but maintain that level while minimising injury risk.

Slow down. That plan or ambition to ‘go hard or go home’? Dial it down a few notches. Even if you were at peak fitness a couple of months ago, prolonged periods of little or less exercise naturally result in some deconditioning. The effects may include factors such as greater fatigue than before, which can lead to compromised form and increased injury risk (which is why fast gains often don’t last).

Rely on science. If you don’t have the knowledge or confidence to stage your own progressive return, consider consulting a physio, sports chiro or personal trainer, who can help you to set goals that accommodate your current condition and work to strengthen weaknesses and leverage strengths to help you to safely and sustainably reach your fitness goals.

Go with what you know. It may be tempting to announce your return with a bunch of new workouts or a 12-week program. However, it is wise to wait a while before expecting your body to accommodate radically different moves. On your return, give your body a chance to adapt by following your familiar or regular routine. Once you’ve built up strength and stamina, you can safely explore new exercise types.

Have a question about your post-lockdown fitness goals or need advice for gradually preparing your body before training resumes? Ask us in comments! #keepsoaring

Imagine you’re a muscle knot (or ‘myofascial trigger point’). You’re like a ball of squeezed up tension that limits fresh blood supply, causes niggling discomfort and may even restrict movement. No wonder anyone who spends time with you tries to press and massage you away. But you’re too stubborn to let go so easily. 😬Sound familiar?  

Fortunately, our physiotherapists are able to bypass this stubborn resistance and cause tightness and knots to release (‘I surrender!’). The treatment technique known as ‘dry needling’, which involves single-use, fine filament needles being inserted into affected muscles, can rapidly decrease pain and restore free movement. It’s science, but it often feels like magic. 💫😊 

If you’re curious about whether dry needling could bring relief from knots, tightness and pain (hello, lockdown body), we’re happy to answer your questions. Either ask us in comments or call our clinics. #keepsoaring  

Are you already feeling the effects of returning to days at a desk or hours spent driving to client appointments?

If you can’t avoid being deskbound in the workplace, the next best thing is learning to sit in a way that protects your spine and prevents back and neck pain.  Here’s a quick sitting tutorial to set you up for a pain-free work year.

SITTING MISTAKE 

Most of us automatically sit in a ‘C’ shape (shoulders rolled forward and pelvis tucked under), which compromises spine health and can lead to dreaded back pain often seen by our physios and chiropractors.

SITTING FIX 

First, untuck your pelvis. When you sit, bend at the hips and imagine you have a piece of string from your tailbone out behind you with someone gently pulling it. Your large leg muscles should relax and allow the tailbone to naturally untuck. Be careful not to forcefully arch your back and stick your tailbone out as this will strain low back muscles.
Uncurl your shoulders without either sticking your chest forward or arching your back to ‘push’ back your shoulders. It should be a ‘relaxing’ rather than a forceful effort. It’s a good lesson to teach the kids for school too.

Activities such as yoga and Pilates see our group therapeutic yoga and clinical Pilates can help retrain the body towards optimal seated posture.

https://soaringhealth.com.au/wellness/clinical-pilates-yoga

#keepsoaring

1. Stretch and 'Roll Out.'

Athletes rarely sit still for a long time and neither should you. Get down on the floor and go through a stretching routine. Spinal, upper legs and hips are most important. Everyone should have a foam roller handy to further 'self-massage' those tight spots.

2. Replace energy stores and stay hydrated:

Eat nutrient dense foods post training to help recovery. A banana and some nuts would be perfect. Then 2 hours later a well-balanced meal.
Drink water. All the time. Every day. Especially after training.

3. Flush out the waste

Low-intensity exercise and movement helps shift the waste products that exercise leaves in the muscle cells, Lactic acid for example. Going for a walk or bike ride will help speed up post training soreness and recovery.

4 and 5.

Ok, I lied, here's two more. Get 8 hours of Sleep! And see your Chiropractor stay in soaring health!

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We honour the strength and resilience of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and pay our respects to all Elders, past and present.
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