Nearly two years on from the first lockdown, many of us are still exercising from home – and with Omicron now doing the rounds, it’s fair to say that home workouts are here to stay. Here’s how to stay safe and injury-free.
Many months on from the initial Covid lockdown panic, many of us are still working out from home. For some, those FIIT or SWTC workouts are an ideal way to get a sweat on when it’s too grim to schlep to the gym; for others, home strength and cardio workouts will have replaced in-person classes entirely.
That’s not a bad thing, particularly if stumbling a few steps from bed to yoga mat offers fewer excuses to bail than having to travel to a studio does. You may not have access to the same range of weights but if committing to an at-home situation means that you’ll do 25-minutes of bodyweight movement four times a week compared with one or no gym sessions, then it’s clearly the better option.
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However, that’s not to say that home workouts are less dangerous or require less consideration than those in-person classes or weights room sessions. They’ve been responsible for a load of injuries in the past couple of years, with Bupa reporting that during the first lockdown last year, billing depo testosterone 7.2 million people ended up injured, with “those doing online classes or PT sessions, weight lifting and using home gym equipment most likely to report injury”. The most common injuries included pulled muscles, damaged knees and rolled ankles.
And when it comes to the most high risk at-home activities, it’s yoga that comes out on top. Far from being the gentle flow you might think it is, research by the University of Duisburg-Essen has found that unsupervised yoga is associated with injury, particularly with poses like headstand, shoulder stand and lotus pose.
Why is yoga so perilous?
Yoga is something many talk of as a ‘light’ form of exercise. We do flows on rest days, as warm-ups, when we’re feeling full of PMS. Despite the fact that there are tons of different types of yoga, it’s only really the relaxing, stretching kind people tend to talk about. But some asanas can be brutal; power yoga, for example, is highly strenuous and involves as much strength as a bodyweight strength session. It’s no wonder, then, that you run the risk of doing yourself a mischief if there’s no one in the room to guide you through inventions and other moves.
“Without a teacher or instructor supervising the activity in person, it’s much easier to adopt ‘bad’ habits, such as incorrect form or poor technique,” explains Dr Brian Cooper, yoga teacher and co-founder of Yoga Alliance Professionals. “Even with platforms like Zoom where the instructor can see participants, it’s more difficult to observe their exact movement.”
And then, of course, there’s the fact that many of us like to keep our cameras off when doing virtual classes so that we can better see the teacher or to avoid having our arses on show in happy baby. We may be able to see and hear the teacher, but they have no means of telling how safe we’re being.
The most common reason for injury? Pushing too far and being overly ambitious.
Home workouts do have their benefits, if you’re careful
Of course, as previously mentioned, working out from home has so many benefits (ease, reduced anxiety, more comfortable and accessible etc) and Dr Cooper agrees that “it’s been amazing to see how many people have been able to take advantage of online classes, whether that’s because their schedule doesn’t allow them to attend studio classes, or didn’t feel comfortable entering that space.”
However, when it comes to practising yoga safely, he says that doing a mix of at-home and in-person classes are “the most effective way to ensure that (you are) carrying out the poses safely and really making the most of your practice.”
Perhaps one of the biggest benefits to exercising in a studio, aside from the injury prevention aspect, is the communal aspect of moving together. “A regular face-to-face check-up to make sure you are carrying out the postures properly will strengthen your home practice, and you may even find you enjoy being with others.”
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Dr Cooper says: “There are many benefits of attending in-person classes, not least a sense of community and shared energy which can really add to the experience.” In other words, practising at home can make you better in the studio and vice versa.
How to make home workouts safer
With the festive season just around the corner and Omicron rearing its ugly head, many of us will be planning more – not fewer – home workouts. Yoga Alliance Professionals has noticed that while online numbers are dropping, in-studio numbers haven’t recovered to their pre-Covid levels and they probably won’t for some time. With that in mind, here are Dr Cooper top tips for staying safe at home.
Leave your camera on during live classes
Dr Cooper says: “If you’re doing an online class, leave your camera on so that the instructor can see and correct you if necessary. Platforms like Zoom have tools to blur your background to protect your privacy, and you can also ask the teacher questions directly through the chat feature.”
Choose to practice with professional instructors, not influencers
We’ve all been sucked into doing a HIIT session with an influencer who has an app or a book to push but no qualifications. This time around, go for PTs and yogis who have diplomas or are accredited with a professional body. “This verifies their teaching so that they have the necessary training to instruct you safely, and can provide you with guidance for your home workouts,” explains Dr Cooper.
Steer clear of moves you’ve not tried in-person
He warns that while it’s great to be ambitious, it’s safer to try new moves out in a class rather than attempting them on your own. That goes for inventions like headstands or trying for a PB in your home weights set-up.
Listen to your body
It’s boringly obvious, but Dr Cooper insists that “one of the best things you can do is to listen to your body. If you start feeling pain or discomfort when carrying out a particular move, pull back and rest. This is the time to speak with a trained professional about your form and posture. Don’t be tempted to push through it.”
Not ready to go back to the gym yet? Try one of our at-home video classes which include expert-led form instruction to keep you safe.
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