In 2020, not having a gym accessible is not a problem. The trend of working out at home has transformed how most people exercised daily. Yet, health and safety are still the priority and working out from your house should not compromise that.
Dr. Michael Suk, chair of the Geisinger Musculoskeletal Institute and the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, says that “It’s important that you continue to live an active life while practicing social distancing, also known as physical distancing. But there are some key things you can do to make sure you don’t hurt yourself during an at-home workout”.
Whether you are keeping up with your exercise routine or starting a new fitness journey, here are 10 things to avoid for a safe workout at home:
- Small spaces
Working out in your apartment or house can be challenging, especially if it is not big. Small spaces can be tricky when working out, but if you do not have a bigger space, the recommendations below will help you out.
A clear area with nothing on the floor and enough space for spinning around with extended arms is the specific recommendation of Dr. Derek Ochiai, from the Nirsch Orthopaedic Center. You have to beware of toys, books, shoes, and anything that can make you trip.
The British Columbia Institute of Technology (BCIT) published Home Workout Safety Tips and number one is finding a space suited for exercising. It can be an area where your yoga mat sits perfectly and you can do the workouts without stumbling with anything. In a small space close to furniture knocking out objects can be a hazard.
Health.com emphasizes that when doing a HIIT workout or exercise that need a lot of space you can move the furniture if needed. Also, if you use weights, keep them where you can see them at all times.
- Skipping Warm Up
Warming up is essential for a great exercise. The American Heart Association (AHA) explains why you should warm up:
“A good warm-up before a workout dilates your blood vessels, ensuring that your muscles are well supplied with oxygen. It also raises your muscles’ temperature for optimal flexibility and efficiency. By slowly raising your heart rate, the warm-up also helps minimize stress on your heart”.
Dr. Jonny Lee, from the Asian Heart Initiative at the New York University Langone Medical Center, summarizes that warming up prevents injuries and prepares your body. Do it for 5 to 10 minutes before, depending on the intensity of your exercise.
- Forgetting Cool Down
Likewise, Cooling down is needed for a safe work out. The cool down helps your heart slow down and come back to its normal rate. If you stop suddenly or too fast you can feel sick or even pass out because of a rapid pressure drop.
“It’s good to stretch when you’re cooling down because your limbs, muscles and joints are still warm. Stretching can help reduce the buildup of lactic acid, which can lead to muscles cramping and stiffness”. (AHA, Warm up, Cool Down)
With a proper cool down your body will thank you later and will be ready for the next day’s work out.
- Not listening to your body
One of the biggest mistakes anyone can make is ignoring what your body is telling you. It is important to understand that the exercises you should be doing are the ones at your fitness level, all the way from beginner to pro.
BCIT recommends that you understand pain vs discomfort. Exercising can be uncomfortable but it should not be painful, “pain when working out could be a danger sign of muscle exhaustion or even a torn ligament.”
Knowing when to stop and what exercises are right for your level helps keep your body safe.
- Forgetting your shoes
Depending on what style of exercise you will be doing it is a principal thought of what should you wear. Sneakers or barefoot? Long-sleeves? Shorts? If you are doing yoga, barefoot is the move. While if you are using a treadmill, you have to use running shoes.
The important thing is you should dress as if you were going to the gym. BCIT explains that using your gym clothes motivates you before and through the work out.
“You want to make sure you’re not bringing in outside germs,” says Tatiana Lampa, CPT, about using outside shoes when exercising at home. Mayoclinic.org emphasizes that you should not forget your shoes, “Shoes that protect your feet and provide good traction can keep you from slipping or injuring your feet”.
- Risky new moves
A difference from working out at home vs the gym I that you do not have a trainer or spotter to support you with new moves.
Dr. Suk recommends, “Stick to what you know. If you’re a more advanced athlete and want to advance in your routine, watch videos on any new exercises before you try them,”.
Make sure whatever new exercise you will try is within your level. New moves can result in injuries, which in turn will lead to not achieving your goal. If you are going to practice any new exercises, have some family member spotting you or make sure you know what the dynamic of the movement is.
- Ignoring technique
With that comes another risk, not achieving good technique. Why is form important? Mayoclinic.org explains it like this: “The better your form, the better your results, and the less likely you are to hurt yourself”. If you are a beginner, start without weights and build you way up.
If you don’t go through the whole motion of a movement your joints will suffer. You can end up with strains, sprains, fractures and other painful injuries. Mayo Clinic suggests to decrease weight or number of repetitions.
Hurrying to finish a movement or a set can also be harmful. It can affect your technique, compromise your form, and risk injuries. Slowing down the movements isolates the muscle, working it deeper. It is more important the quality of the movement over the quantity.
Jeff Bercovici wrote Play On: The New Science of Elite Performance at Any Age where he said:
“the most successful athletes today are not the ones who work out the hardest but the ones who avoid the insidious buildup of fatigue. They’re the ones who recognize the difference between beneficial and harmful training stress and adopt methods that maximize the former and minimize the later. ‘Work smarter, not harder’ have replaced ‘No pain, no gain’ as the motivational slogans on the walls of pro sports weight rooms”.
- Going over your limits
Do not forget to take care of yourself. Staying at home can make you want to exercise more and harder than normal, just make sure you are not hurting yourself.
Geisinger.org reminds us that recovery is part of working out. Dr. Suk says, “If you have two intense days in a row of vigorous exercise, you may want to take that third day as a rest day,”
Exercising your body is for making it stronger, if you have a cold or are feeling sick, do not force the work out. Take medicines and get better, once you are, get back on your routine. Taking care of yourself is the first rule.
- Boring routines
Motivating and fun. That is how your routines should be. BCIT says “be present and enjoy the movements”. Do virtual classes, have zoom calls, make support groups or talk with your friends. The idea is that you enjoy it.
Being happy or excited to work out works better than starting the routines just because you have to. If you think that it is a chore rather than something you want to do, you will not want to do it. And you will not see the best results.
Health.com recommends to switch up your routines. Dr. Ochiai says not to repeat the same movements every day. Also, Tatiana Lampa adds “I think a great way to make sure you’re not overdoing it is to create a weekly schedule—write it down and map it all out. This will keep you accountable, ensure that you’re not overtraining, and bring some normalcy in your life.”
This list of 10 things to avoid when working out at home will help you stay safe. Keep up the good work and enjoy the feeling of slowly getting stronger.