Melbourne, over the last seven months, we’ve had to adapt. Drastically. From home-schooling to working from home – or not working – to moving our exercise routine from the gym or our CrossFit class to the newly found corner we’ve decided is now our home gym.
For many of us, we haven’t had time to catch our breath, let alone think through this new workout setup and any problems that it may be creating for our bodies. As life is slowly starting to return to some semblance of normalcy, for which we’re beyond grateful, here at the Sole Motion clinic, the effects of our home gym are starting to become more evident every day. The numbers of patients we’re seeing come in with an array of new pains and problems that they’ve never had before has skyrocketed – regardless of whether they’re avid and committed gym-goers, or take a more casual and social approach to exercise.
So, we thought we’d give you the low-down on why this is happening, for the majority of our patients anyway, and what you can do to help reduce your injury risk when working out at home.
Short answer: A lot. From the ground that we’re exercising on, to the downfall of our good habits, even to our mindset. Let us explain a few of the biggies we’ve been seeing.
If you’re used to working out at the gym, you’ll may be used to:
This means that for some of our patients, when they have changed from these surfaces to the asphalt, cement driveway or wooden floors indoor, their bodies have started experiencing greater forces and impact than they were previously, and it’s contributed to their current pains, fatigue or injury.
You know how people talk about the benefits of getting dressed for work even when you’re working from home? This applies 100-fold for your workouts. Yet, a number of our patients have almost unnoticeably chosen to forego getting dressed for the gym – with detrimental consequences.
We already know that non-restrictive gym gear helps support our movement, but it’s also things like the good socks that wick moisture away from our feet so we don’t get blisters – and even the habit of putting on our running shoes. This has, by far, been the biggest injury factor. You see, our shoes do so much more than merely protect us from standing on something sharp or painful. These days, our shoes are packed with a multitude of features to help correct our foot posture, improve our gait, absorb shock, stabilise our ankles, lighten the load on tendons like our Achilles, and much more.
When we choose to not wear them – because we’re in home mode – we forgo all these benefits and potentially expose our feet to loads and strains they haven’t felt in a long time – potentially the last time they were injured. If you have orthotics in your shoes, this is amplified significantly.
Following on from workout gear, for some of our patients, their other good engrained exercise habits have fallen off the radar, and they’re paying the price. This includes getting a good warm-up every time, being mindful about their post-workout cool down and recovery – specifically the amount of time they spend in active recovery versus passive recovery.
Good habits also mean hydration, having the right fuel to sustain your workout, and even your mindset when it comes to exercise. Your mindset is powerful – and for many, out of necessity in these times, it has shifted from focusing on the long-term goal and the right way to get there, to just completing the workout while surviving these “unprecedented” times. Which is totally understandable – though potentially detrimental to our health.
Another big change is that we’ve gone from getting regular feedback on our form and technique at the gym or in our classes, to little or no feedback and almost complete reliance on remembering to be mindful of our posture and correct ourselves. This means the risk of injury is much higher – especially when you’re not sure what the right technique or form is, or no longer have a wall-length mirror so you can observe your technique.
Another thing that’s worth a mention for our patients is falling into the habit of the same routine, day-in and day-out. We may not have our regular exercise crew that challenges us to do something different. We may not have access to our usual mix of classes. We may just have found something that is relatively comfortable and lets us tick ‘exercise’ off our to-do list. Whatever it is for you, when we do the same activities without variation, we risk over-working certain muscles, without giving them the chance to rest and recover.
Every little bit counts when it comes to injury prevention. Here are some easy-to-implement tips to help lower your injury risk and overall fatigue when exercising at home.
Mix up your surfaces and your workouts – don’t do the same thing on the same surface every day, if possible. Mix up working out on the wooden floor or concrete, to the carpet, to the grass outside. Don’t do the same thing every day, either. Just like you would at the gym, alternate days that focus more on strength or cardio, upper or lower body, high-intensity and low-intensity, and even your overall workout time.
Remember that pain never develops for no reason – remember that time that someone told you to push through the pain and to focus on how great you’ll feel after? We want you to scrub this from your mind completely. There’s a difference between pushing through feeling tired and like you don’t want to keep going – and trying to keep going through genuine physical pain. The latter means that your bones, muscles and tissues aren’t coping with whatever you’re forcing them into, and they’re sending signals to your brain to stop before they become seriously injured – or before the injury worsens. If you feel pain, stop what you’re doing ASAP.
Continue with the basics – warm up, cool down, stay hydrated and well-fueled, have rest days and sleep well – you know what we’re talking about. Dress for the gym – with the right gear, socks and shoes every time. These basics are crucial to your ongoing well-being regardless of where or when you exercise. So never ever ignore them or use being at home as a hall-pass to avoid them.
Get that anti-fatigue mat – research has shown that using a mat can lower your fatigue levels by 50%. That’s massive! While making you less likely to develop joint pain. Extra benefits – you can use your mat beneath your feet when working from home too – they’ve also been shown to make you less likely to develop varicose veins, decrease accidents and enhance your productivity. And before you overthink the cost – they’re much cheaper than ongoing podiatry or physiotherapy care – it’s all about perspective!
Prioritise your mindset – we talked about mindset earlier, and actively working on it can help you stay mindful of your goals, your form, your technique – which can help reduce your injury risk. Allocate a dedicated gym time, get your gear on, and “go” to the gym – whichever part of the house or the yard that may be.
Recognise that one-size doesn’t fit all with workouts – using a new training app or online workout video series? Please make modifications to the routine based on your body, strength and fitness level, previous injuries, and what feels good versus awful. Take longer rests if you need, skip movements altogether if they’re aggravating a previous injury, and modify however many moves or days that you need to.
If you take away one thing from reading this, let it be this: having to make adjustments to your workout that deviate from the original plan isn’t ‘failing’. Knowingly putting yourself in a situation where you can come out injured is. Always put your health first.
Then we’re here for you. We’re stoked to be back in action and able to treat all patients, problems and injuries after being on restricted care in level four. More than this, sports medicine, injury rehab and pain relief is our speciality! It’s what we love helping our patients with.
Book your appointment online here or call us on 1300-FX-FEET