During the past year our homes have morphed into much more than just houses: they’ve become offices, schools and gyms as well. And even though people are slowly trickling back to their workplaces and school buildings, many are opting to continue working out at home.
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Of course, doing a workout at home is much different from hitting a gym full of trainers and other fitness buffs who can help make sure you’re doing the right things to avoid injury and get maximum benefits.
Work out smarter (not harder) to avoid injuries
Warm weather has many of us thinking about how we want to look in our swimsuit, so it can be tempting to grab a set of heavy weights and pump them until we pass out. No pain, no gain, right?
Well, not exactly. PT Zachary Woodley says overuse injuries like tendonitis in the shoulder can be common from at-home strength training workouts.
“One of the most common causes of pain is exercising too aggressively too early on,” he says. “We need to set a foundation of exercise to prepare our bodies for higher-level activities which will handle the stresses properly and avoid (injuries).”
Form is important as well — lifting even a light weight the wrong way can cause inflammation and injury to muscles and joints.
For example, when doing squats, try using a hip-dominant strategy to help alleviate knee pain. And always stay aware of your core.
“When a part of your body is moving, something has to be stationary to stabilize and offset the force,” Zachary says. “If we aren’t conscious of our ‘core’ or trunk, then the risk of injury significantly increases. Be mindful: never sacrifice form for repetitions.”
Heare are a few other common injuries he sees from overzealous or ill-informed at-home strength trainers.
- Shoulder pain: This could be tendonitis, or irritation of a tendon, from overuse and/or poor mechanics. It can affect your rotator cuff muscles or biceps tendon.
- Knee pain: Also known as “patellofemoral pain,” pain surrounding your kneecap can be from a variety of factors like quad weakness, hip weakness or overuse.
- Lower back pain: Zachary says almost everyone experiences lower back pain at one point in their life. There are lots of causes including core weakness, poor form with exercise or lifting too much weight.
Switch it up and rest to stay healthy
So how can I avoid injury and keep my at-home workouts going? Don’t let your routine get stagnant.
“Change up your exercise plan — try to vary your workout so you are not just doing the same thing every day each time you work out,” Zachary suggests.
And don’t even think about skipping meals and working out every single day in an effort to speed up the process of getting fit.
“Take rest days, hydrate often and eat well,” Zachary says. “We need to fuel the body that we are trying to shape and strengthen.”
HIIT at home
If you miss your favorite boot camp class and want to try HIIT (High-Intensity Interval Training) at home, go for it! But make sure you’re doing it safely.
In addition to the injuries we listed above, Zachary also sees ankle sprains and muscle strains from at-home HIIT workouts.
“The higher intensity and more dynamic movements can cause inversion ankle sprains, one of the most common injuries that an athlete can sustain,” Zachary says. “And plyometric exercise commonly causes muscle strains from being weak, overworked, or performed with poor technique.”
Just like regular strength training, you’ll need to start slow with at-home HIIT.
“Master the basics before advancing to more challenging activities,” Zachary advises.
He also says with HIIT, it’s important to warm up and cool down before and after a workout, and to focus on controlling your core.
I’m hurt, now what?
Remember that “no pain, no gain” stuff we mentioned earlier? Some pain is normal, but some is definitely not.
“Muscle soreness is only temporary. After a hard workout, the soreness should only last up to 72 hours and should get better over time,” Zachary says.
So, what should I do if I think I’ve injured myself during an at-home workout?
If you’re just a little sore, Zachary says to allow yourself a few days to see if the pain reduces and symptoms go away.
“Typically most small injuries will resolve without the need for medical intervention” he says.
But if you’re experiencing sharp pain with movement days after your workout, it’s a sign that something has become irritated and you may need to get it checked out to prevent it from getting worse.
And if you’ve been injured before but want to start working out again, you don’t have to do it alone.
“If you have a previous history of injury and are unsure of how to start working out, a physical therapist would be a great resource to help get you started and provide guidance to a healthier lifestyle,” Zachary says.