With access to gyms still being limited during the pandemic, exercising at home is becoming a popular option for those still looking to stay fit during the pandemic. Although exercising at home has its benefits, a major downside is the inability to get feedback, either from a personal trainer, a more experienced friend, or another gym-goer.
A lot of beginners fail to grasp the importance of proper technique, warmup, and cooldown. Executing certain exercises incorrectly can lead to serious injury with potentially long-lasting effects.
One of the most important but also overlooked aspects of working out is the warmup. A five- to 10-minute warmup is necessary to send oxygen-rich blood into the muscles as your body prepares to put more strain on the body. Most warmup routines should include some simple cardio and a range of motions, simply walking in places and swinging your arms can make a huge difference.
A warmup will often be skipped as it feels less important or unnecessary compared to the main exercise routine. However, a good warmup will allow your body to retain better results from the workout. Perhaps more importantly, it will help avoid injury.
Second-year computer science student Rudi Basak is a big advocate of warming up, and explains how it gets him in the right space both mentally and physically for his actual workout.
“I try to do low reps with light weights before each workout. It really allows me to concentrate and gets me ready for the lifts I’m about to attempt. I personally believe it enhances my workouts as well as prevents injury. This is because my joints aren’t stiff and I feel there’s enough blood flow in the muscles that will be engaged during the main lifts. I heavily recommend warming up for compound exercises,” says Basak.
“Warming up reduces injury risk, and this is due to the fact that our muscles have viscoelastic properties. When thinking of viscosity, think of syrup — it’s very adherent and doesn’t move freely … If we don’t raise our body temperatures in our warmup, our muscles stay cool. If we warm up syrup, it’ll run more smoothly…”
A study was performed where 44 men were asked to perform high-intensity exercise on a treadmill for 15 seconds in order to see the effect on the heart; 70 per cent of participants’ bodies could not adequately supply oxygen to the blood, meaning their heart was not prepared for the sudden intense workout.
York kinesiology graduate and former Lions Athletic Therapist Arshpreet Deol had some pertinent advice to share on the topic of warmups.
“A lot of debate goes on towards how you should warm up. Should you just stretch passively, foam roll, or run? I would say do activities that will get your heart rate and body temperature up, and to mimic movements that your workout will entail.
“Warming up reduces injury risk, and this is due to the fact that our muscles have viscoelastic properties. When thinking of viscosity, think of syrup — it’s very adherent and doesn’t move freely. Elasticity is the ability to stretch and recoil back into shape. Think of an elastic band when you pull on it, it snaps back. If we don’t raise our body temperatures in our warmup, our muscles stay cool. If we warm up syrup, it’ll run more smoothly, if we warm up an elastic band, it’ll stretch further before snapping,” says Deol.
Injury from exercise can come in many different ways. One of the most common is overuse or excessive exertion, without proper pacing. Getting into an exercise routine is important, but understanding your own ability and properly pacing yourself is just as crucial.
Overuse injury can come from extensive workouts, improper technique, or hyperfocus on a muscle group. By simply using equipment properly, following technique, and pacing yourself, you will allow your body to slowly adapt.
“And for those who do have weights at home, have a safety plan in place if you can’t move the weight and need to put it down safely with no one around.”
Running is perhaps the most common and most accessible form of cardio that exists, yet many don’t realize it is very easy to harm your body while running. Common injuries such as shin splints can be avoided by stretching and warming up before a run. However, if you do get shin splints they are very painful and can last from days to a few weeks.
A cooldown, just like a warmup, can seem like a tedious task that is not all that necessary. Yet, the benefits of a 10-minute cooldown are far too great to skip, not to mention the potential consequences.
“With regards to cooling down, I would advocate for some light active recovery, which can be a light jog or walk after your workout, to help metabolize any free flowing lactate (a byproduct of metabolism during exercise), and keeping blood flow going to your muscles,” says Deol.
A 10-minute cooldown consisting of 10-30 second stretches will avoid soreness and dizziness after a workout. It will also help with flexibility, relax your body and allow your heart rate to return to normal.
The journey to staying fit through the pandemic is not an easy one, but to ensure people are on the right track and not overcomplicating things, Deol shares some closing recommendations.
“Exercising safely during quarantine with no gym access and little experience does not have to be difficult. YouTube and phone apps have great bodyweight beginner workouts to do at home. I would encourage people to do bodyweight workouts first, and really master having control of their own bodyweight before considering buying weights. And for those who do have weights at home, have a safety plan in place if you can’t move the weight and need to put it down safely with no one around,” says Deol.
To begin exercising is an accomplishment in and of itself, but doing so carelessly or without properly researching your workouts can be very dangerous. As important as it is to a healthy lifestyle, it must be done properly to truly benefit your body.