Running in the cold weather presents several challenges. Some challenges can be helped by a good selection of gear from running specialists. A hidden challenge that often carries more importance than you might think is what we should call our "muscles in action". Stretching is a vital part of the before and after part of a training run, race, cross training day, or rest day. This becomes a very personal situation. Everyone is different here. Some people require more stretching than others. Some runners can bolt out the door with no other preparation than lacing up their shoes and grabbing their water bottle. Even in frigid temperatures many just make a quick stop to grab gloves and a hat and off they go. I am not one of those.
As mentioned in earlier blog posts, I have a specific routine before each run. One that I feel benefits what my body needs to maximize my endurance and speed. By habit, I have often done the majority of my stretching after a brief warm-up walk of 1/2 mile. With the colder temperatures, I now do a lot of my stretching indoors before I go. I have also at times used a heating pad for just a little while to warm the muscles up prior to the indoor stretching.
How can you get even more help? During the past few months I have been using The Stick, a fantastically simple training tool. The product is available online, at running stores, and at most larger race expos. It is well worth the money. It has been very helpful to me in rolling knots/kinks out of sore muscles. It provides myofascial release and trigger point therapy. Using it increases circulation and encourages blood flow. It has really helped me during these cold months but also helped a great deal during the summer and fall training times as well. I would strongly consider getting one!
Also remember that everyone needs different amounts of stretching time and preparation. Cold months make it even more important. There is no specific rule. Just make sure you are stretching before and after any time you are calling on your muscles to do some work. A very beneficial time is right before bed after you have had that protein shake to help the healing process from your daily training. Get those knots and kinks out, get that blood flow started, and then get a good nights rest.
Forward we go! May your roads and trails be happy and safe!