The season is just around the corner, but the winter weather hasn’t lightened up. During these dry, cold weather months, your training, recovery and game performance are affected by both mental and physical challenges. Try these tips to be ready to perform at the highest level even in the lowest temperatures.
Because your cardiovascular system pumps less blood to your extremities in cold temperatures, a proper warm up gives your body the ability to elevate your heart rate and raise your internal temperature before hitting the field. Incorporate a dynamic warm up and reaction drills to prime your body for competition and prevent injury. Try these exercises to get you moving and your blood flowing.
- Windmills - Split
Movement: Start standing with your arms overhead. Perform the movement by moving your right arm in a forward circular motion and your left arm in a backward circular motion for the prescribed reps. Switch the directions of each arm and perform this movement for the prescribed reps.
Bridge tip – This exercise is basic in nature, but requires some focus, coordination and practice to move smoothly in opposite directions at the same time.
As with ALL warmup exercises, especially in the cold weather, start each movement slowly for the first couple of reps to get your muscle groups and extremities prepped for the exercise, then speed up if needed.
- Reverse Overhead Lunge Stretch
Movement: Start standing hands at your side. Step backward into a reverse lunge with your right foot while simultaneously raising both arms overhead. Push through your left heel to stand back up. Repeat alternating sides for the prescribed reps.
Bridge tip – Keep the movement controlled and be sure to engage your midsection throughout to prepare you for the game.
- Toy Soldiers - Skip
Movement: Start standing hands at your side and your feet hip-width apart. Raise your right foot, keeping your leg straight. Extend your left hand, touching your fingers to your right toe. While you lower your leg and hand, skip with your left leg and raise it to touch your extended right hand. Repeat alternating sides for the prescribed reps.
Bridge tip – Be careful with this exercise if the surface is slippery. The skip between leg raises helps with balance and blood flow, but can be unsafe on a slippery surface.
Although it’s winter, you need to keep drinking water and recovery drinks because dehydration is possible even in cold weather when you don’t think you’re sweating. Athletes undergo vasoconstriction in the cold to maintain body temperature. Balance out your hot beverages with greater water intake, and be sure to always carry a water bottle around with you. Drink fluids before, during, and after every practice or game. These simple changes in the winter months will leave you feeling more energetic, recovering better and ready to perform.
Before a historically cold NFC playoff game, then Minnesota Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer commented on how his team prepared for the single-digit temperatures stating that, “you can deal with the cold as long as you don’t let it affect you mentally”. Much of the physical challenge of playing in the cold is psychological, even at the professional level. Train your brain to overcome these thoughts by redirecting your focus from the freezing weather to the game on the field. Rehearse these skills in practice much like you would any other drill and encourage your teammates to stay positive and focused on the game so the weather doesn’t become a distraction come game day.
As always, focus on the things you can control such as your warmup, hydration, and mental preparation rather than on the things you can’t control like the weather outside. Employ these tips when faced with colder temperatures and be ready to dominate the competition that doesn’t have the same preparation advantages.