We live in interesting times, to say the least. Life has changed. With the closure of gyms and fitness studios, more and more people are exercising at home, with whatever they have access to. Often this means nothing but body-weight exercises. While I love body-weight exercises, many of them are quite difficult and can cause repetitive strain injuries if overdone. Even a simple move like a push-up requires decent upper-body strength, good scapular movement and a semi-functional rotator-cuff to be executed properly. The proliferation of various movement challenges is adding to the risk, because they often require daily repetition of difficult moves.
If you are thinking about taking on a fitness challenge to alleviate some of your lock-down boredom, pick one that has reasonable goals. 100 pushups for the average person who does not exercise is not a reasonable goal, but 25 might be. The most important thing is to listen to your body and go at a pace that allows you to recover between sessions. Here’s a few pointers on how not to hurt yourself while training at home:
Warm up Before Exercising
Getting yourself loose and ready to move is especially important now that we sit basically all day. Here’s a good warmup routine for most exercise sessions:
- Run in place for 2 minutes. The first minute, lift your knees up to your hands that you hold in front of your hips. For the second minute, kick your heels up so they touch or get close to your butt. This should get your legs and your heart-rate going nicely.
- Standing in a lunge position, circle one arm forward-to-backward with the biggest circles you comfortably can make. Switch legs and circle with the other arm. Repeat 8 times per side.
- Stand on one leg. Lift other leg in front of you, then turn it out sideways and bring it behind you. Try to not lose your balance. Do 6 circles per side.
- Assume a wide stance and squat side-to-side slowly, stretching the inner thigh muscles and warming up the quadriceps and hamstrings. Lean forward a bit as you descend.
- Warm up the specific muscles you will be using in your workout: if you are doing a boxing class, warm up your rotator cuff, neck and core. If you are doing a squat challenge, stretch your quads, hams and calves.
Take 48 Hours Between Repeating the Same Class, Challenge or Routine
Two days is a general recommendation, and you may need more to recover from very intense routines, especially if you are just starting out or are not a young person any more. But 48 hours is a minimum, as your muscles take time to rebuild themselves. This is why daily challenges for the same type of exercise are not usually a good idea. However you could alternate two challenges that are complimentary. For example, do a squat challenge on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and a pushup challenge on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. This advice also goes for something as chill as yoga, by the way: overstretching the same muscles can be just as damaging as overusing them.
Listen to Your Body
Sometimes even 48 hours may not be enough rest, and you may end up over-training. This happened to me a few weeks ago. I was attempting to practice handstands regularly every two days or so and I inflamed an old biceps tendon injury. Considering I haven’t done any handstand practice in at least a year, it is safe to say that 48 hours was not enough rest between sessions at this particular time. Tendons and ligaments take longer to get accustomed to new loads than muscles, and they are easily damaged through over-training. Take care of them!
Consult a Fitness Professional
If you aren’t sure how to set up a productive home exercise routine, now is a great time to talk to a good personal trainer through Zoom*. On-line training is a great way to get a solid program. Just make sure you hire someone with experience training clients similar to you. If you have knee issues, for example, a fitness pro specializing in training people with injuries is your best bet. If you want to do something difficult, like handstands, there are specialists for that, as well.
Whatever You Do, Keep Exercising
Exercise is probably the single best way to deal with the stresses of life. Making sure get some daily movement is important, and challenges and on-line workout routines can be a great way to motivate yourself. Just keep the above points in mind about staying safe.
*I’m one of these great personal trainers. Contact me if you need help: [email protected]