Linda Melone
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How to avoid home workout injuries before they happen

Since gyms are closed due to the pandemic, some now offer home workouts free to the public until this apocalypse runs its course. 

Free workouts for everyone sounds like a great idea.

And for some people, it is. 

My own gym is one of those giving access to complimentary workouts.

Since I’m always looking for new exercises to try, I thought, “Why not give one of these workouts a try?”

I soon had the answer.

I watched a few different ones before trying any because – like a chef who can taste a dish by eyeing the ingredient list – I can do the same with an exercise list.

I can tell if:

  • … I can physically do the moves without pulling, breaking, or otherwise ending up on a gurney
  • … it’s effective for my goals and involves weights
  • … the instructor is too perky for me to listen to for longer than 30 seconds and I’ll never complete the whole thing because I’ll be too annoyed
  • One was a dance type workout.

I love to watch people with this kind of coordination, mainly because I can’t think of anything that makes me feel more awkward. 

The only time I tried something remotely gymnastic was when I did a somersault in grade school gym class.

During the tuck and roll, I bit my tongue so badly I had to be carted off to the nurse’s office in front of all the other kids, which only further ingratiated me into the Nerd Hall of Fame.

So tumbling? Not my strong suit.

Ditto for learning a dance routine for the sake of burning calories.

Plus, the dance steps would take me a month to master, let alone do it rigorously enough to consider it a workout.

Every other option wasn’t much better… too high impact, too fast, joints won’t allow me to do a maneuver, and so on.

In the end, I went back to my usual (actually, new, home quarantine) routine that I know and love.

This exploratory research was why I began Ageless After 50 in the first place.

[SIDE NOTE: Have you signed up for my Ageless Body 12-Pack of total body workouts for only $24.99 yet? If not, check it out HERE so you’ll be ready when we can party again.]

Workouts for 20 and 30-somethings don’t cater to issues that tend to crop up over time. 

Okay, as we age.

Of course, there are exceptions. So if you’re one of those lucky people, I tip my hat to you (just don’t look at my grey roots since I haven’t seen my stylist in two months).

And yes, I know there are outliers to every bell curve of us mere mortals, like a woman who contacted me last year. “I’m over 50 but in ‘pretty good’ shape,” she wrote.  “I recently biked across China and regularly do 100-mile bike races. Would your workouts be intense enough for me?”

My answer: No, probably not. In fact, almost certainly not.

I’m talking about the rest of us on the major part of that bell curve, the one where arthritis, achy joints, fatigue and tightness — and maybe balance issues — throw a wet blanket over these types of routines.

After age 50… or 60 (me), our body doesn’t like surprises. New twists and random extreme workouts are as welcome as a surprise party for an introvert. 

                                                  The only fun surprise party for an introvert

So if you’ve been walking around the block or doing the treadmill for any length of time, and you’re accustomed to this type of workout, diving straight into a workout created for a millennial with the flexibility of a Cirque du Soleil performer will likely tick off many muscles you’ve come to depend upon to get around.

Over the years, I’ve seen several very common exercise injuries. Most can be easily avoided if you know how they start. 

Here are a few of the most common owies… and what to do before they happen to you:

(Disclaimer: These tips are for when you are no longer in pain and have been cleared by your doctor to exercise. Never “push through” pain!). 

SHOULDER PAIN 

Fun fact: Did you know the shoulder joint is the only one that moves in 360 degrees? Try doing that with your knee. On second thought, don’t. The joint is literally held together by four muscles called the rotator cuff muscles (or as one of my clients calls them, “rotar cup muscles”).

Most common culprits: push-ups, dumbbell flyes, overhead presses, poor form

Prevent with: dumbbell presses, lateral raises, front raises and ensuring you use perfect form on all of them

LOW BACK PAIN

Most common culprits: a weak core is overall the biggest issue, followed by squats, bent over exercises using a rounded back (the worst!)

Swap out with: planks, front and side, bird-dog, and, of course… learn proper form 

KNEE PAIN

Ah… my favorite love-hate relationship…

Most common culprits: lunges, deep squats, landing improperly, high-intensity workouts, poor form where your knees are not aligned with your feet properly, e.g. bowing out or turning in while your feet go in the opposite direction

Swap out with: step-ups, modified squat (halfway), stick with low-impact workouts and, of course… always use perfect form

And now a few general tips… 

(NOTE: Always warm up thoroughly for about 10 minutes before starting any routine.)

1. Try a new angle

Tendonitis becomes way more common as we age. Tendons literally become more “brittle” and less hydrated, making them more prone to injury. If doing a particular biceps or triceps exercise hurts your elbow joint, change your hand position. This shifts the emphasis to a different part of the muscle and can ease the discomfort.

For example, instead of palms-up curls, try hammer curls like these:

A cardio note: If back pain ails you, keep the treadmill on a flat; inclines can trigger pain.

2. Stick with two-legged versus one-legged moves

Putting all your weight on one leg can be too much, as in my case. So doing a two-legged maneuver can take some of the pressure off the weaker leg – e.g. squats versus lunges and double-legged hip raises versus single (for hamstrings), like this:

3. Use less resistance, more reps

This not only pertains to strength training but resistance or cardio as well. If your knees bother you, avoid heavy resistance on the pedals. Go easier but spin faster. Ditto for elliptical or stair steppers. For weights, decrease the poundage or go easier on tubing and just pump out the reps.

4. Exercise at a different time of day

If you wake up achy, try working out later in the day when your body’s warmed up. You may find your strength is less or more, depending on when you usually exercise. I used to train a couple of clients in the afternoon who had arthritis in their hands because they could grip better then.

5. Use props

Don’t be afraid to use blocks if you do yoga, to help ease your body into postures you may not be able to do on your own. Same goes for traditional exercises such as crunches. If neck pain prevents you from being able to support your head during crunches, try this: Take a medium size towel and, holding on to it on both ends, cradle your head in the middle of the towel as you do your crunches. Gently lean on sturdy chairs or walls for balance moves, etc.

Other posts you may enjoy:

Common exercise mistakes that slow results

7 Ways to burn more calories walking

3 Thigh Toners that Work – Even for Painful Knees

Until next time… stay safe!

About the Author Linda Melone

Linda Melone is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist, certified trainer and award-winning health and fitness writer. She specializes in helping women over 50 get in shape and lose weight.

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