Watch Your Form while You Watch that Screen

Exercise Videos

One of the worries that people have when going to work out at the gym is that they may do an exercise “wrong;” in other words, the form may be off. To the casual exerciser, this may not seem like such a big deal…”so what if my foot is in the wrong place or my back isn’t straight?” Not having the correct form is not only a problem in terms of possibly not getting the full benefit of an exercise, but also it can lead to injury.

This is one of the reasons why people like to work out with a personal trainer–especially if they have injuries or are older. A trainer will ensure that exercises are done properly and help prevent injury. Of course, there are dozens of other reasons to hire a personal trainer, but this is really at the heart of it for many; no one wants to end up worse off than when they started.

It is hard enough to figure out the way to do an exercise correctly at the gym (where you might be able to ask a fitness staff member for assistance, or watch someone else’s form, or even have someone “nicely” correct you). With so many of us avoiding gyms and working out at home, the risk of performing a move incorrectly and possibly injuring ourselves increases. Here is a recent article at http://www.cnn.com that addresses this very issue: https://www.cnn.com/2021/01/22/health/proper-form-common-mistakes-online-workouts-wellness/index.html.

When we are at home, we are often less motivated to work out in the first place. Add to this that we may be watching a video or tuned into a fitness class with a bunch of other people, and it may not be the best recipe for success. The instructor–whether the workout is live or recorded–will often give instructions to help keep form the way it should be, but it is not the same as one-on-one on-line or in-person. S/he cannot see everyone all the time. Unless you are an experienced exerciser, it is important to be cautious.

I teach group fitness on-line. It is a challenge to instruct and keep an eye on participants in a gym setting–how much more so on a small screen. How to address this?

–Meet with the instructor one-on-one outside of class time. Many will do this for a fee, or if you are a regular participant in the class perhaps for free. Use that opportunity to ask questions and have your form checked.

–If you are unsure about an exercise, there are many videos available on-line by certified fitness professionals; if they are done well, they will show the move from different angles and give detailed explanations that may not be possible in a group setting.

–Watch your own screen or have a mirror nearby to check yourself. As you do an exercise, does your form match that of the instructor? I am a personal trainer and even I look at the screen to make sure my form is correct so that I am modeling properly for my participants.

–Engage the services of a personal trainer to help master the correct way to do exercises. This can be done in-person or virtually. I can do a much better job of ensuring proper form working with a client one-on-one than in the group setting. Do not think that working with a trainer in this way means that you have to be a client forever; it is not uncommon (and it is OK) to work with a trainer for a limited time.

Despite these warnings, virtual training can be an excellent option–especially for those who are more concerned about the spread of infection, as well as for older adults for whom getting in the car and going to a class might be more challenging. It is important, however, not to be lulled into thinking that form does not matter because “no one can really see me.” No one wants to be involved in an exercise regimen that will ultimately do more harm than good.

Fitness as the Leaves are Starting to Turn

Autumn

I don’t know what it’s like where you are, but here in Cleveland, the leaves are just beginning to turn colors. The forecast for the next 14 days also shows a downward trend in daytime temperatures. Within 3 weeks, autumn will officially be here.

What does this have to do with fitness? Many of us use these warmer days to get exercise outside: running, swimming, biking, etc. As the weather gets cooler (and, yes, snowier), these activities will be affected. We just won’t be able to be active outside as we are during the summer months.

This is nothing new, but this year with COVID-19, there are added implications. Even though many gyms are open in some form or other, many folks (especially older adults) have stayed away. I have seen firsthand and heard/read about how lax or strict certain facilities are about mask usage and cleaning of equipment. Those who are in risk categories have every reason to be concerned. And now, the great outdoors–where the risk is very low–may not be as hospitable as it has been.

I have already begun training one client on her back patio and she has propane heaters for the coming months. [BTW, if you haven’t gotten yours yet, it’s worth considering.] This is Cleveland, though, and eventually we’ll either have to go inside or switch to virtual.

Two things continually strike me about virtual training, and they are somewhat incompatible. First, a lot of people do not want to do online training because they think it’s not “real;” after all, how can you get a good workout over your computer? I have some clients who I haven’t trained since March and they are “waiting” for things to settle down with the Coronavirus epidemic to go back to the gym; virtual training doesn’t enter their realm of possibilities. As for things settling down soon, “don’t hold your breath.” Literally. Second, those who do train virtually to a person attest to the fact that the workouts are effective and not at all “fake.” I have several clients who tell my how amazed they are at the workouts–especially given the limited equipment they have. It is still possible to work hard and train every muscle group even without the fancy equipment at a gym. This is why you have certified personal trainers; this is what we do.

Autumn is nigh. Decisions will need to be made. Sitting on the couch and doing nothing until it warms up again is not a good option; the less we keep ourselves fit, the more vulnerable we are to infection and illness. There are options–and online training is certainly one of them for those who don’t feel comfortable/safe going into a gym.

How will you get through the cold months in fitness and in health? Start planning now; there will be a rush.

Overcoming the Fear of Virtual Training

Eat garbage, then work it off

Does this picture make you think of what online or virtual training is like? It is true that there is no shortage of online workouts that a person can do featuring people who don’t look like they actually need the workout…and who happen to be shirtless or in a bare midriff. I get why folks would be a little put off by these workouts. The people on the screen look nothing like most of us. Is that why so many of us are afraid of online workouts?

Even so, we are at the point where “waiting out the pandemic” before going back to the gym may not really be an option. Ohio’s governor, Mike DeWine announced yesterday that gyms in the state can re-open after Memorial Day Weekend (not sure what’s magic about that date); on the same day, the Mandel JCC where I work as a Personal Trainer informed us that we would not go back to one-on-one in-person by-appointment-only training at the gym on May 18 as previously hoped. In fact, leadership reported that it could be June before we do this. And, even if a gym re-opens, what does that mean? I’ve blogged about this before; it won’t be the same old gym that you remember from early March.

It is time to get over the fear of virtual workouts. Many personal trainers are depending on their clients (current and future) to do just that since our livelihoods depend on it (no less that other local businesses depend on us). Some people just feel that virtual training is just not the same and they are correct; but post COVID-19, is anything the same?

Guess what? There are some advantages to virtual training.

First, no one else can see you (unless you are in a Zoom group workout) so if you mess up or poop out, no one will judge you…except maybe your dog. In my daily online workouts, I always give modifications so that folks will feel that they can build up to the more difficult exercises. No one knows if your doing the modifications or only 8 reps instead of 12. The downside, of course, is that if your form is off or you’re just plain doing it wrong, there is no way for the instructor to know…and you could end up injuring yourself, which leads me to my next point.

Second, if you are working with a trainer one-on-one, we are well-versed in how to do exercises correctly as well as giving you the kinds of workouts that will help you to reach your fitness goals whatever stage of life you are in. Does a 70-year-old retiree need to do a 30-minute butt blaster? Probably not, but would exercises aimed at balance, mobility and fighting the loss of muscle mass be helpful? You bet. A trainer can provide that–even online–tailored especially to your needs and wants.

Third, you have more equipment to work with than you realize. You may look around the house and think, “I don’t even have a jump rope!” Trainers are able to provide effective workouts even if you have ZERO equipment. I have done workouts using dish towels, canned goods, and rolls of toilet paper, and they were tough! Most can rely on our own body weight…although one of my clients who has no dumbbells used a bottle of Cabernet Savignon and a bottle of Merlot instead of weights–brilliant! I never thought that I’d say the line: “while doing those overhead triceps extensions you may want to have the cork facing up….”

Fourth, when you work one-on-one over a platform like Zoom or FB Live, the distractions are minimized. There aren’t other people in the gym to distract you. You don’t have to wait to get on a piece of equipment and lose your momentum. It is hombre a hombre and it can be a very effective way to get things done.

Fifth, the technology is not as difficult as you think. If you have a tablet or laptop, you most likely have a camera and speakers built right in. If you only have a desktop, there are a number of good and relatively inexpensive webcams for purchase online. The programs are designed to make it so that even a Technorsaurus Rex like myself can make it work. I have clients in their 80s who are using Zoom all the time. Your trainer can talk you through it…and then you can “visit” with friends and family too.

Of course, if you want, you can wait it out. By then, however, how much muscle tone will you have lost? How much will your stamina have decreased? How much weight will you have put on? How will all this affect your mood, your sleep, and your energy levels?

What are you afraid of?