When the pandemic forced gyms to close their doors last year, many people began exercising at home. Soon, doctors began to see patients arriving with a series of injuries caused by these exercises: low back pain, ankle sprain, muscle strain, among others.
Getting injured while exercising at home is easier than you think. So you need to be aware of potential pitfalls — as the home-workout trend may be here to stay.
An search from the company Gallup, from June 2021, showed that Americans are leaving their homes more often, thanks to vaccination against Covid-19, and that their departures are usually destined for restaurants and shops — not for the gym. This is not surprising, as working out at home costs little (or nothing) and provides greater convenience.
If you’re exercising at home or willing to give it a try, here are some tips to make sure you don’t get hurt.
Important note: Before starting new exercises, consult your doctor. Stop immediately if you feel pain.
Check your space to identify possible risks
Most people don’t have gym equipment at home — nor the space or money to purchase it. And that’s okay, because it’s possible to do a lot of exercises with little space and equipment. But that doesn’t mean you should just start jumping around your living room or garage.
“Make sure you have more open space than you think you need so you don’t hit anything as you move, for example bumping into the table while doing a squat,” says Jumha Aburezeq, trainer at StoopidFit, a coaching platform of lifestyle.
Aburezeq also advises his clients to use a mirror when doing resistance training, such as weight training, as poor posture when performing the movements is the main cause of injuries during this type of exercise. And if you’re going to be exercising on a hard surface, keep a towel around to dry off any sweat that might fall on the floor. Otherwise you may slip.
Robert Herbst, personal trainer and world champion weightlifter, recommends checking your ceiling height if you plan to lift weights overhead or skipping rope, as well as taking away anything that might pose a risk, such as rugs or decorative artifacts that might fall. “Rugs can make someone slip, and some frames can fall off the wall because of vibration if you drop a dumbbell,” he says.
Dress for success (in fitness)
Working out in pajamas can be comfortable, but always wear appropriate exercise clothing. Wearing loose-fitting clothing can limit movement and strain joints, according to Aburezeq, especially when doing high-intensity exercise such as HIIT (high-intensity interval training).
If you don’t want to go barefoot, wear sneakers, as it’s easier to slip if you’re wearing socks or flip-flops. But going barefoot can be a good idea too. Experts say there are benefits to walking barefoot, including improving stability, balance and foot strength.
Also, bare feet may be a better option to help boost certain moves, such as squats. However, you need to get your feet used to being barefoot, and the floor should be free of anything that could cut or scratch your skin. If you are going to lift weights or use other objects that might fall on your feet, wear sneakers during these exercises.
Look for a personal trainer
Hiring a personal trainer might seem like an extravaganza — and unnecessary in this new world of online classes and training videos. But it can also be a smart investment. While there is nothing wrong with online classes and videos, the instructor on this type of material cannot see and assess you. Also, there are some cases where it is better not to do what the instructor is telling you.
“If you’re watching a video and the person is telling you to try harder or put up with the discomfort, but your knees are really hurting, it’s probably best if you stop, rest, modify the exercise or do something different,” says Kaleen Canevari, founder and CEO of Flexia Pilates, which sells pilates equipment and online classes.
A qualified professional, on the other hand, can work with you individually to establish your goals and create a program that will help you achieve them. He can also show you exactly how to do each move, which is essential to avoid injury.
“Having a personal trainer doesn’t have to go on forever,” says Greg Maurer, a professional at the Workout Anytime gym chain. Perhaps only a few sessions are needed.
Warm up and don’t overdo it
It’s important to warm up before you start exercising and slow down before you finish—and don’t get too carried away when trying something different for the first time. The warm-up routine depends on the exercise you are going to do.
For cardiovascular activities such as online classes and HIIT training, Aburezeq recommends dynamic stretches (such as a leg swing) before starting and static stretches (such as touching your toes while keeping your legs straight) when you finish exercises. As for strength training, he advises, before starting, to do several light repetitions of the exercises that will be performed next.
If you are going to do new exercises for the first time, always start slowly and slowly. It’s better to take a few weeks to reach the desired intensity or weight than to get carried away on the first day and stretch something.
Have a safety valve
Accidents happen. You can cut yourself, hit your head or pass out. If you’re training alone, keep your cell phone close by, recommends Bill Daniels, a personal trainer who works in California.
Isn’t there a good place to exercise indoors? So, go to the backyard. Many studies show the benefits of being in nature. The view will probably be more pleasant. Also, natural light is good for you.
“Sunlight passing through the eyes is an extremely powerful stimulus for the body,” says Maurer. “There’s a lot going on, physiologically, when you’re outdoors, whether you realize it or not.”