COVID-19 has changed the way many of us exercise.

These days, gyms – once easy to pop into for a workout during lunch or before work – often are open fewer hours or have crowd limitations. Locker rooms can make it tough for distancing, and showers may be closed off. Weight sets are expensive, forcing some to create a makeshift gym with items around the house.

And, this is the cold rainy season, which often squashes enthusiasm for outdoor exercise.

Yet, the dedicated maintain their workout regimens, adapting to new running and walking routes near their homes and creating spaces inside for other exercises. It can be done.

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Dr. Adam Culver

Dr. Adam Culver of Novant Health Waxhaw Family & Sports Medicine, answered questions about developing workout plans that don’t require a lot of equipment or space, and how you can maintain them during COVID-19 restrictions.

What types of exercise should I be doing at home that would be the most beneficial?

Resistance training and cardio. In both of those categories, you want to hit every group of muscles that you can. With resistance training, do anything to target all your muscle groups. For cardio, do something where you’re getting a full-body experience. The easiest thing to do is run, which you can do at home. If it’s cold outside, you can layer up with clothing. If running outside isn’t an option, you can run in place while you’re inside. Some people have the option of an exercise bike or treadmill.

Culver suggested three specific exercises that are helpful:

  • Planks, designed to strengthen your abdominal and core muscles
  • Squats, which strengthen lower-body muscles and your core
  • Good mornings, to help your lower back, glutes and hamstrings

What if I don’t have a weight bench, or free weights? How can I still build muscle?

You can use elastic bands. Another good choice is using your body weight, which can provide a lot of resistance that you can use to build your core muscle groups. Do squats, but don't let your knees dip below a 90-degree angle. Another great example is push-ups, where you’re using your body weight for that resistance.

How can I get creative doing cardio, especially if I don’t have a treadmill or exercise bike, and it’s windy and cold outside?

There may be times of the day that you particularly have to work out, let's say 5 a.m., where it may be close to 20 degrees and you don’t want to do it. That’s when you can run in place or use the stairs you may have at home. But, there are people in much colder climates who are committed to getting out and running. It's just about layering up and having that commitment to do it.

Can online workouts help me?

Definitely. There are many videos on YouTube and other apps that are strictly dedicated to working out. They remove that excuse of `I don't have anybody to tell me what to do.’

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In online videos and apps, there is somebody giving you a demonstration, and often an instructor leading you through everything. There is a range for whatever you want to do, whether it's yoga, Pilates, resistance training, high-intensity interval training, etc. It’s all there whether you're a beginner, intermediate or experienced.

Here are three popular YouTube workout videos:

Are people struggling to work out at home because of COVID-19 restrictions? Has it helped others enhance their workouts?

I've run into people all across that spectrum. I have some patients who were avid gym-goers and they are struggling with figuring out how they can get their workouts in at home. I've talked to others who were not avid gym folks, but as the new year has come around, they’ve taken the approach that `I'm not going to let COVID-19 take 2021 from me, too.’ They’ve just gotten after it.

How can we keep the workouts from becoming boring?

Make a workout plan. A lot of people are working, sleeping, eating and everything else all in the same place. You need to take breaks and be able to go to another environment. Create your workout area in another part of your home, if you can. Think of three main areas of exercise – resistance, cardio and flexibility – and mix things up to keep it interesting. Start slow because you don’t want to get injured.