Former Irish rugby international Heather O'Brien's 10 tips for working out at home

Former Irish rugby international Heather O'Brien's 10 tips for working out at home
Thomas Barr recently launched Focus Ireland’s Next Step Campaign! 30 days in April to walk or jog 26.2 miles and fundraise for people experiencing homelessness. Visit Picture: INPHO/Dan Sheridan

The final part of our weekly series on how teams and coaches are managing to keep their teams and players fit and healthy comes from physio Heather O'Brien.

The former Ireland rugby international gives us 10 tips on how to keep ourselves safe and in good health while exercising...

Children doing virtual karate training during lockdown. Picture: PA Photo.
Children doing virtual karate training during lockdown. Picture: PA Photo.

THE recent restrictions and closing of gyms has seen an explosion in home workouts.

It’s fantastic to see so many people staying active even in these difficult times.

The priority at present is everyone’s health and safety and, for many, exercise is a way to maintain their mental health as well as physical health.

If you have not felt motivated or able to get involved in this exercise craze it’s understandable.

These are really challenging times and, for some, adding training on top is simply too much.

If you are in this group, including walking or another gentle movement will help.

Of course, always adhering to the guidelines, social distancing and hand hygiene remains imperative.

10 things to remember:

1: Pick a level that suits you

2: Include a warm-up

3: Build up gradually

4: Focus on technique

5: Quality over quantity

6: Be specific to your goals

7: Add variety

8: Use equipment you have

9: Involve the family

10: Enjoy it

Pick a level that suits you:

It is important to pick an exercise level that suits you. If you are new to exercise be cautious jumping into a high-intensity exercise class. Start gently, pick a beginner’s level option and work at your own pace. With so many to choose from aim for a coach/trainer with the proper credentials. If you have never done a boxercise class before, don’t try to keep up with Katie Taylor’s training session.

Include a warm-up:

Most people are sitting more than they normally would. The incidental movement throughout the day is reduced. So a warm-up before any exercise is crucial. Give yourself an extra few minutes to prepare for exercise. Working from home can mean we are sitting in a less than ideal position so make sure to include regular movement breaks from the desk.

Build up gradually:

Many people suddenly have more free time on their hands than ever before. That, combined with the recent good weather and brighter evenings, means it could be easy to increase your exercise volume. The general rule of a 10% increase each week will still apply. This rule is to allow your muscles and joints adjust gradually to this new volume of training and reduce the risk of injury. Aim to increase your time training, or distance by approximately 10%.

Focus on technique:

The correct technique will increase the effectiveness of any exercise. Focus on your trunk stability and posture when performing strength movements. Exercises should never cause pain. Yes, you will feel your muscles working, maybe even that burning sensation as you are working, but you should never feel pain. Adjust any exercise that cause pain. Aim to stick with classes where you can contact the person conducting the class for advice.

Quality over quantity:

Five repetitions of an exercise done well are far better than rushing through 10 repetitions. Follow fitness professionals rather than celebrities and take the time to learn the technique of the required movements.

Be specific to your goals:

If your goals are just to maintain some fitness and enjoy the stress-busting advantages of exercise, then pick a class you look forward to. If your goal is to build strength, focus on time under tension in the exercises; adding a pause or longer tempo to a movement will increase the workload on the muscles involved.

Also remember that the bigger a range of movement that you work a muscle under will help to increase the stimulus on the muscle involved.

Increasing the number of repetitions will help in the current conditions where you may not have access to heavier weights.

For endurance sports, now is an excellent time to increase that aerobics base with some slower training sessions you may neglect in race season.

Many race organisers are offering virtual events to provide a nice focus during this time.

Add variety:

Now is an excellent time to add variety to your training.

Maybe add the yoga or Pilates you have been meaning to do for years. There are some excellent options online and many of us finally have more time available to devote to flexibility or core work to complement our other training.

Improving core strength and flexibility is an advantage to all sports and so often put on the back burner during the busy times of the season.

Establish a good routine with it now so that it is easier to maintain when you return to the competitive season.

Use equipment you have:

Always be safe with any equipment you are using, the video clips of falls, broken windows and furniture do not need any more additions. However, simple household items can be very useful, adding books to a backpack for squats, step ups or walking lunges is an easy and effective addition. A simple skipping rope can be an excellent workout that will have your calves burning very quickly.

Involve the family:

Dust off the bikes, the runners and get the whole family involved.

A video link dance off is a great option to entertain the kids.

We all remember obstacle courses from our childhood. Plan one around the house or garden, kids are fantastic at thinking these things up.

Enjoy it:

These are difficult uncertain times, make sure exercise is enjoyable. Exercise is a powerful a mood enhancer. Some exercises assist mindfulness. So pick something that you enjoy or that helps you cope wit the current situation. It might be as simple as dancing in your kitchen or walking in your garden. Movement is medicine and it’s more important now than ever.

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