Recently, I was asked by a fitness professional and health and fitness writer friend of mine (Linda Melone) to explain some of the challenges of doing home workouts. I thought that this would be something I could add a little more depth to here.
Working out at home seems like a perfect solution for many people. There are no crowds, no travel, only music that you like, etc., which is true of course, however, it’s never that simple. Here’s a partial list and explanation of some of the drawbacks of trying to work out at home.
- You bought the equipment, but don’t really know what to do with it. Not having a well-constructed program will cause you to pause and to pause is to put off, possibly indefinitely. Hire a certified personal trainer to create an individualized program that you can follow.
- You bought the equipment, but people often think they will get the workout in when they get a break in their daily routine. Unfortunately, things come up (Phone calls, chores, kids, pets, etc.) and the workout never happens. Don’t assume the window of opportunity will magically appear. Schedule your workouts ahead of time and stick to the schedule. Treat it as an appointment that you must keep.
- You think you will simply follow a program you found on the internet. Well, the challenge here is that the program is not specifically for your needs/wants and, while it might be difficult to do, it may be completely inappropriate for you and your goals. It could also be dangerous or just plain pointless. I found this wall-sit workout online. The only sane reason for possibly doing it would be if your old high school rival challenged you to a “sit off”. Then, well, maybe there’s a reason for doing it. What’s the answer? Once again, hire a certified personal trainer to create an individualized program that you can follow.
- You bought an exercise video to use at home. Just because someone produced a video, doesn’t mean they know what they are doing. Even some fitness celebrities are grossly misinformed. Also, as with videos from the internet, it may be completely inappropriate for you. If you want to use a video, at least get a recommendation from a certified personal trainer.
- Sticking to a program at home can be challenging. At a club you develop friendships that help to keep you accountable. At home, it’s just you reporting to you. To stay on track, use a calendar to check of the days you completed your workout. Reward yourself when you reach a certain goal, such as after 20 workouts you reward yourself with a massage.
- Another reason people don’t stick with their program is that they become bored and/or they plateau. The biggest culprit here is doing the same program without change. Of course it becomes boring and less productive. Every 4-6 weeks, rehire your personal trainer to create a new workout for you with new exercises and new progressions. This will help keep you interested and the gains will keep coming.
Home workouts can and do work for many people. If you want to be successful at it, start by engaging a certified personal trainer to create a program based on your own individual needs and goals. (This can be with whatever equipment you may have, just body weight, or they may recommend specific equipment you should have.), create a workout schedule and stick to it, and have the trainer come back to revamp your program every 4-6 weeks.
Flexibility, as with any aspect of fitness, if you don’t use it, you lose it. And, as we age we tend to challenge our full range of motion less and less which allows our muscles, tendons, and fascia to tighten. Our decrease in going through full ranges of motion may stem from injuries, arthritis, or simply becoming more sedentary.
“You know you’re getting old when you stoop to tie your shoelaces and wonder what else you could do while you’re down there.” – George Burns
If an injury has got you moving less, get it checked out by your doctor. Do what you need to get it fixed or let it heal, then gradually stretch the area to regain any lost mobility.
Arthritis, and the pain associated with it, can definitely cause us to move less and through smaller ranges of motion. The guidelines, however, whether it’s rheumatoid arthritis or osteoarthritis, are to exercise through as full a range of motion as is tolerable. This includes working through pain. Contrary to what many people believe, a well-designed and performed exercise program will not make the arthritis worse. The result is actually less pain overall and greater strength, stability, flexibility and function of the joint.
Loss of mobility from being sedentary is common because many people are less active as they get older. It’s lost over time and it will take time to regain it, but you can regain it with work.
So, when it comes to aging and loss of flexibility, know that with some stretching and strengthening, you can improve what you have lost and possibly regain it all.
Push ups have long been a standard for assessing strength, muscle endurance, stroking egos, and now even serving as a way to bring attention to the 22 veterans that commit suicide every day (started by a group Honor Courage Commitment). One of the big reasons is that it is great exercise that challenges the chest, shoulders, triceps, and core muscles and requires no equipment. The problem is that if you are just starting out with strength training, your body weight will probably be too much to do an effective push up. Even modified (from your knees) push ups may be too much. Well, there’s another way to create the push up progression that’s right for you.
It’s about the angles. Without getting into the physics of it, the more inclined your body is, the less you are directly opposing gravity and the easier the movement is. So, by adjusting the body angle, you can select the challenge level that is appropriate for you.
Start your push up program at a staircase, with your feet close to the bottom step. Lean forward and reach out placing your hands on the step that allows your body to be in a strong, straight plank position. Space your hands so they are just outside of shoulder width. Pick a target number of repetitions that you want to be able to do on the floor (let’s say 22). See how many push ups you can do at this angle. Do one set of as many as you can every day (yes, you can do them every day). When you can do 22 reps, move to the next step down on the staircase. With each completion of 22 reps, continue the progression to the next step until you are doing them off the floor. Et voila! Push up king!
Of course you don’t have to stop there. Once you are doing full push ups on the floor, you could then go back to the steps and start working on your one-arm push ups.
Before we know what we need to change, we need to know what we are doing. Unlike going on the new popular diet, a lifelong solution to health and fitness is finding changes that we can sustain. It’s about tweaking what we are currently doing until it meets our needs. So, how far off that mark are we?
From a dietary standpoint that means we need to do a diet diary. Many people like to use the app myfitnesspal (myself included). Lose It is another highly rated diet tracker. For three days simply enter what you eat and don’t worry about any particular goals. We’re just trying to see where we stand at this point. From there we can look at our calories and macronutrients and make changes as needed. (I’ll get into more nutritional specifics in a later post.)
As for exercise, we want to measure not just what we do (or don’t do) in the gym, but also how much we move around all day. While there are some great tracking devices like Garmin Vivosmart HR+ ($219.99) and Fitbit Charge 2 ($149.95), they can out of the price range for many people. LifeHacker recommends the free smartphone app Moves for tracking walking, running, cycling as well as mapping your route. If you don’t have a smartphone and don’t want to spend the money for the high-tech options, you can pick up a simple pedometer such as the highly rated Ozeri 4x3sport Tri-Mode Activity Tracker ($19.45). Once we evaluate our current activity level, we have established a level to improve upon.
Now, of course there are many more elements that we could measure and establish as a baseline, such as weight, body composition, cardiovascular endurance, strength, flexibility, etc. These are great to have, but sometimes finding the qualified individual to take you through these assessments can slow you down and act as a barrier to getting started. The diet and activity levels can be easily done on our own.
Remember that we can’t map our journey toward reaching our goals if we have no idea where we are starting. Establish your starting point and from there you can chart your progress.