Don't Make These Mistakes in Your Home Work-Out
Exercise is a critical part of your wellbeing, and every step, jump and lift counts towards your health – whether you’re going for a quick jog, a walk around the neighborhood or are joining a yoga class. As an athlete myself, I know that sometimes you have to fit a workout in quickly, wherever you can. More and more people are turning to at-home exercises to get their workouts in – which is great – but if you are going to work out on your own without a trainer present, it’s important that you use the correct techniques to make sure you don’t injure yourself.
Let’s take a look at some of the most common – and sometimes dangerous – at home workouts, and how you can avoid injury.
Yoga and other fitness classes often include the ever-popular plank as a core strengthening exercise. Planks are great for your core, but if done to exhaustion, they can cause significant shoulder problems. If at any time while in a plank position you feel pain in the front of your shoulders, or a feeling of clicking or instability, you should stop.
Body-weight exercises in general can be dangerous because they are typically all-or-nothing. Regardless of the exercise, if you don’t have the strength to lift your own body, you can cause stress and overuse injuries. Body-weight exercises are incredibly convenient because you generally don’t need equipment, but you shouldn’t jump right in. In fact, body-weight exercises are often the last thing a recovering athlete returns to after an injury. Use work-arounds like resistance bands for pull-ups, and try knees-down positioning for pushups as you’re building strength.
As CrossFit is becoming more popular, high intensity workouts are incorporating Olympic lifting exercises, like the snatch and clean. But these exercises are some of the most difficult maneuvers in the workout world, and they require dedicated training to master. If you are committed to this type of training, consider working with an experienced trainer to ensure your form is perfect. The key is to not push your body beyond muscle fatigue, as this is when form falters, which can cause injuries to the shoulder, elbow, wrist, knee and hip – and with surprising frequency. Don’t push yourself right away. Ease into the workout, be mindful of form, focus on shoulder strength and drive from your heels whenever you rise from a squatting position.
Like many things in life, spinning is a great exercise when done in moderation. But don’t overdo it. Getting up and down out of the saddle dozens of times while peddling quickly seems to cause more knee problems than most other exercise routines.
A common mistake that I see in patients is running with a heel-strike. Running is not just walking fast. Your foot should land flat or slightly forward, not at the heel. When you run tilted back with your heels hitting the ground first and with your knee fully extended, you send a shockwave through your heels and knees and into your spine. It can also cause your heel to collapse inwards, leading to ankle problems and shin splints. When you land more forward, your knees are bent and your strong calf muscles bear the brunt of the impact.
Whether you are training for a marathon or running recreationally, having the right equipment can make all of the difference. Your shoes should be professionally fit at a running store to accommodate your hind foot alignment. Low quality or ill-fitting footwear can lead to injury, in and out of the gym.
Don’t let your fear of injury keep you from working out – just be careful when you exercise at home, and switch up your exercise routine by cross-training regularly to avoid overuse injuries.
Dr. Noah Raizman is an orthopaedic surgeon in the Orthopaedic Medicine and Surgery care center in Washington, D.C. He specializes in hand and upper extremity surgery, with a particular interest in minimally invasive approaches to surgeries for carpal tunnel syndrome, cubital tunnel syndrome and Dupuytren’s contracture. An athlete himself, Dr. Raizman is also interested in sports medicine and has cared for a variety of professional athletes, including players on the Boston Red Sox, Tampa Bay Rays, Cleveland Indians and Cavaliers and the PGA Tour. He has also provided care for George Washington University athletics, D.C. high school football games, Gallaudet University and the Marine Corps Marathon.