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How to prevent muscle injury during winter

Ever wondered why you always seem to injure yourself during the colder months? Well, it could be down to your stretching routine – or lack of one! Let’s face it, many of us skip essential parts of our workout, such as stretching, warming up and cooling down. But, believe it or not, making time for some simple stretches could prevent those unwanted aches and pains, as well as more serious injuries.

We caught up with Osteopath and exercise specialist Adam Whatley to find out more about stretching and why it’s so important, especially during the chillier months. He’s even given us a little demo of some of his most recommend stretches so no excuses!

Dynamic stretching with Adam Whatley


“Winter is upon us and, with this in mind, it is now even more important to warm up and prevent those unwanted injuries. Many of us have unfortunately experienced injury while performing exercise in the winter, whether it be minor or major. Aside from specific exercise, personal injury during the colder weather can occur when performing the simplest of activities, especially if ill-prepared.

But, fortunately, we can work to prevent injuries during the winter months, and you can enjoy the season without unnecessary pain and stiffness. Here in this post, I will cover some easy to follow information about winter back injuries and winter joint injuries, and tips on how we can work to avoid and prevent dreaded winter aches and pains.

Popular winter outdoor sports may include hitting the ski slopes, ice skating, sledding, ice hockey and more. Unfortunately, common winter sports injuries that could have been prevented with the correct precautions are far too frequent. In many cases, these injuries could have been avoided by following important winter guidelines - whether it be indoors or outdoors.

If you like braving the cold, don’t forget to follow these basic winter sports injury prevention tips and follow a FULL warm up exercise plan. It is important to stay healthy so you can have more fun in the snow and on the ice! Here’s why warming up will reduce injury risk and improve performance.

What effect does the cold have on our muscles?

Cold will tighten our muscles and make them feel sluggish, which is detrimental in many ways:

  • Increases risk of injury – Muscles are tighter and less responsive in the cold. Too much too soon can cause tearing, which is why you should warm up slowly. Getting blood into your muscles will make them more pliable, more responsive and they’ll be able to load more effective
  • Cold muscles perform slow – Cold muscles do not stretch to full range of motion and therefore do not gain full potential strength. Your warm up will act as a gentle wake up call for your sleepy muscles

How do I promote full-body functional strength?

A throughout warm up will increase all-over core body temperature, allowing your systems to work effectively together. The key is to promote functional full body strength while also staying injury free.

As an osteopath, you discover that the muscles respond to what the skeleton is doing. Just like cold muscles, cold joints do not function as they should, which impairs the function of everything else. As a result, the surrounding muscles cling on and reduce movement of that joint even more.

Think of the fluid inside your joint as a tin of paint - when you first open it up, it’s thick and gloopy. Then you find an object to stir the paint and it becomes thin and easy to manipulate. This is the same as what happens to the fluid inside our joints - it is thick when it is cold and not warmed up, consequently causing poor movement. But when we warm the joint up, this allows for thinning of the fluid, which, in turn, allows for better movement and muscle flexibility. Our joint receptors also become much more responsive again. The lower intensity warm-up is far more effective, bringing the desired increased body temperature without the pre-routine fatigue.

What kind of exercises should I introduce into my warm-up routine?

Bodyweight mobility exercises are perfect for effective warming up. Dynamic stretches will also wake everything up, gently increase heart rate, mobilise your joints and prepare the mind for exercise. For an effective warm up, begin your workout with the dynamic mobility exercises in the video above.

These exercises are designed specifically to help you gently ease into your workout during the winter months. Start slow, gradually increasing speed as you warm up. More focus and time should be spent on these exercises than you normally would to fully loosen muscles up. Also, focus on the muscles that will get the most use. For example, work out your arms more when you’re planning to ski or play hockey.

What should my warm-up routine include?

- Stretching your arms, legs and back
- Arm dynamics
- Spinal rotation of your upper body
- Squats
- Square hops or running on the spot

More focus and time should be spent on these exercises than you normally would to fully loosen muscles up. Also, focus on the muscles that will get the most use. For example, work out your arms more when you’re planning to ski or play hockey.

For the reasons explained above, it is important to remember that a dynamic routine should be done prior to your workout and static stretching following your working.

Want more information on stretching and warming up before your workout? Head over to Adam’s website for more tips and advice. You’ll also find an array of training tips over on our blog, including 4 reasons you’re not getting stronger and our top 5 fat burning exercises.