As I mentioned in my column last month, mini home gyms and virtual workouts have become the new norm.
There are pros and cons to this.
Working out at home removes a lot of the annoying logistics of battling the rush hour jam, getting to the gym, finding parking, booking classes ahead of time, etc.
If you’re new to home workouts, you may be wondering if you’re doing it right – and whether your fitness has improved or deteriorated.
Safely working out at home requires some planning and forethought.
Here are some common sense safety tips to consider.
Not many of us have the luxury of big spaces in our homes, so organise the objects in your makeshift workout area to prevent your limbs from bumping into something.
You definitely don’t want to trip and fall in the middle of your routine!
Move the sofa and pets aside, stack your things neatly, check the exercise surface and use a mat with traction if it’s too slippery.
For cardio workouts, I always wear my indoor sports shoes because they give my feet added grip and protection.
If you only have one pair (which you use outdoors as well), clean it thoroughly before using it inside the house.
If you’re tall like me, a low ceiling can get in the way, especially if you’re jumping with your hands raised high.
Unfortunately, there’s nothing much we can do about our height.
Perhaps don’t raise your hands or jump as high – learn to make modifications to suit the space (and avoid exercising under the ceiling fan or low-hanging lights!)
Personally, my arms would always smack the ceiling at most of the studios I patronised prior to the pandemic.
Now I take my workout outdoors so that I can swing my limbs freely.
If your kids are present during your workout, be sure to caution them about the heavy equipment you might be using.
Minimise your distractions as much as possible.
The fewer distractions you experience, the more attention you can devote to your workout and the less likely you will suffer a mishap or injury.
Also, ensure there is adequate ventilation so that you can breathe easily.
Always warm up prior to working out.
Breaking into a slight sweat before you start your workout is a good indicator that your body temperature has increased and that you’re warmed up.
Lifting weights or stretching with “cold” muscles is a recipe for an injury.
You want to slowly activate your muscles and prep them for serious training.
Some quick and easy warm-ups to do are brisk walking, jogging on the spot, jumping jacks and squats.
Just because you’re working out at home doesn’t mean you have to do it in your pyjamas sans undergarments!
Wearing proper workout attire can get you in the mood for a workout and you will actually train your body harder.
A good old cotton t-shirt with a basic pair of shorts that are above your knee will work fine.
More importantly, women, please wear supportive sports bras, and men, lifting or hernia belts if you’re carrying heavy weights.
There are plenty of exercises that can aggravate, or even cause, a hernia in men if not performed correctly.
Never try to do too much too soon.
When you first begin to work out, start at a sensible level, then progressively adjust how much you do as your body adapts to the demands imposed on it.
Training too hard and too often can lead to overuse injuries, stiff joints and sore muscles.
When you’re feeling fatigued or sick, hold off on exercising.
Cut back if you cannot finish a routine, feel dizzy or suffer persistent aches and pain after exercising.
Never ignore what your body may be trying to tell you, and do respond to signals such as sharp pain, nausea, headache, etc, by stopping your activity.
Physical activity can exacerbate your illness if you’re sick, and possibly expose you to an increased risk of being injured if you’re extremely tired.
There is no need to have a warrior mentality and plough through – it serves no purpose.
Sufficient rest is safer – trying to push through the pain will cause more damage to soft muscle tissue and delay healing.
The basic rule of exercise and life is to keep breathing.
But many exercise enthusiasts tend to hold their breath when the exercise becomes too tough and subsequently complain of feeling lightheaded.
We tend to hold our breath as a way to stabilise the torso and create pressure around the abs.
“If the exercise gets intense, we hold our breath as a way to get extra strength out of the core, so it then becomes a crutch, ” points out Galina Denzel, co-author of Eat Well, Move Well, Live Well: 52 Ways to Feel Better in a Week.
Holding your breath, particularly when lifting weights or planking, can cause a build-up of inner thoracic (rib cage) pressure, which then inhibits the return of blood to your heart.
This action compromises the amount of blood flow (and subsequently oxygen) to your entire body.
There are two different avenues of oxygenating your muscles for a workout during cardio and resistance work.
With cardio, the main goal of breathing, e.g. while running, is to be able to breathe in and out consistently.
Once you start to hyperventilate, i.e. breathe in and out very quickly, it may be time to slow down a little bit.
While there are many trains of thought when it comes to breathing and strength training, the most widely accepted option is to exhale on exertion, i.e. when the going gets tough, you exhale.
When it’s easy, you inhale.
For workouts that are either push or pull like squats and bicep curls, you usually breathe out when fighting gravity.
If you don’t know where to begin and don’t want to join the gym, reach out for help on the rudiments of exercising safely.
There are tons of free information available on the Internet via personal trainers, coaches, sporting associations, exercise physiologists or physiotherapists, who will be more than happy to offer advice regarding your journey to fitness.
Don’t be shy because as the saying goes, it is in asking that you receive.
Just like the standard operating procedures that are followed in the gym, make it a point to tidy up and wipe down your equipment after use.
This will help kill the germs that may thrive in a warm, humid environment.
This is particularly important if more than one family member uses the same equipment or area.
Wiping down the equipment ensures that your germs do not transfer to other family members.
Open the windows and allow the air to circulate in the area.
And remember to stay hydrated throughout your workout.
As always, consult your doctor if you suspect you may have an illness that might interfere with an exercise programme.
Unlike at gyms and wellness outlets where emergencies can be attended to immediately, the downside of working out at home (especially if you live alone) is that no one can speedily come running to your aid.
If you fall and can’t move or reach the phone, pray that your screams are loud enough for someone to hear.
Revathi Murugappan is a certified fitness trainer who tries to battle gravity and continues to dance to express herself artistically and nourish her soul. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org. The information contained in this column is for general educational purposes only. Neither The Star nor the author gives any warranty on accuracy, completeness, functionality, usefulness or other assurances as to such information. The Star and the author disclaim all responsibility for any losses, damage to property or personal injury suffered directly or indirectly from reliance on such information.