As for safety, rooms with hardwood floors are going to be better choices than those with carpet. Working out directly on carpet can strain your feet, knees, and ankles, which can leave you more susceptible to injury, says Roser. Using a yoga mat or an exercise mat when lying on the floor can help with this as well—plus, it’ll simply make many of the moves more comfortable.
3. Wear clothes that help with comfort and form.
When you’re working out at home, you might be tempted to start your workout in whatever you’ve been wearing around the house—not the best option if that’s pj’s or jeans. You want to work out in clothing that will let you move freely, support you, and won’t impede your form.
And yes, unless you’re doing a workout like yoga or barre, you’re going to want to put on some shoes, says Roser.
“Be sure to also always wear sneakers when working out at home, or anywhere for that matter, to keep your foot stabilized and also to provide traction so your foot doesn’t slide around on your floor, potentially causing injury,” Roser says. “Shoes with support will also help any foot problems such as overpronation, high arches, or flat feet.”
4. Properly prep for each session.
It can be easy to forget to warm-up before at-home workouts when you’re missing the structure of an actual gym. But don’t do that. Make sure you’re not entering your workout hungry—a carb-focused snack one or two hours beforehand, like a banana or piece of toast with peanut butter, can help, says Roser. And a proper warm-up is crucial for strength workouts, Roser says. That’s because you risk tearing a muscle by going into a workout cold.
“A five- to eight-minute warm-up is ideal for most people. It’ll ensure your muscles are warm before you start moving,” she says. “Just like you would warm up with a slow mile or two before a running speed workout, your muscles need to be loosened up before a solid lifting session as well.”
For strength training, five to eight minutes of jumping rope, running in place, inchworms, or toe touches alternating sides will suffice. If you’re doing a leg-focused workout, moves that activate your glutes, like donkey kicks or clamshells, can be helpful too.
A cool-down of about five minutes is also important, since it will slowly bring your blood pressure and heart rate back down to normal levels. Five minutes of light dynamic stretching should be all you need, though Tamir also recommends deep breathing to calm your nervous system and foam rolling to help reduce soreness the next day.
5. Get creative when it comes to monitoring your form.
Remember that you don’t really have the luxury of walls of windows and circulating personal trainers when you’re at home. It’s easy to mess up your form if you’re not careful, and that can lead to injury [raises hand]. If you’ve never regularly weight-trained before, start with bodyweight exercises before introducing free weights, says Roser. This will help you master the movement pattern first so you can get the form down before moving on to dumbbells or kettlebells.
In pre-pandemic times, the best way to make sure you were using proper form was to seek the guidance of a personal trainer, says Roser. While in-person guidance is not an option for many of us right now, some personal trainers offer virtual sessions via Zoom or other meeting platforms. (You can contact your local gym to see if any trainers are currently offering this.) Even if you can’t commit to their services long term, it’s a good way to help a small business owner stay afloat during these tough times—and it’ll help you start off your strength training routine strong.