Have you ever shown up to a group fitness class or started a home workout DVD only to find yourself unable to keep up with the speed and intensity of the workouts? Do you miss the fun of the workout because of frustration with what you can’t do? Would you like to be able to do more, but can’t figure out how to get from where you are to where you want to be?
If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, then you may be missing the importance of understanding exercise modification? See, we are all at different places in our fitness journey, so not all of us are able to do the exact same moves at the exact same speed (especially if it’s a new class you’ve never attended before). It’s so important to learn how to modify your workout so that you do not get frustrated or quit. Here are a few things to remember when starting a new workout or class where you may be unfamiliar with the routine or the movements.
1. Keep moving! – As long as you’re moving, it doesn’t matter if you are doing the same thing as everyone else or something completely different. When you get tired, lose your place, or get lost in choreography, try marching in place until you catch your breath or can jump back into the groove of things. As long as you’re moving, you keep your heart rate up, and you’ll get a great workout.
2. Don’t be afraid to ask questions! – If you’re in a class and you find you can’t master a certain move or exercise, ask the instructor to give you a one-on-one demonstration after the class is over. If you find that there is a particular move you simply can not do, ask for help finding an appropriate modification that will work the same muscles without requiring as much intensity. If you’re using a home workout DVD, you may be able to find assistance on message boards from others following the same DVD program you are and they can help too.
3. Know your body! -This is super important, because there are legitimate reasons why you may not be able to do a particular move. For example, people with knee problems or history of back problems can not jump the way some people can. There are ALWAYS modifications for those moves.
4. Try, try, try again! -Sometimes, everyone else in class may know what they’re doing simply because they’ve been to the class several times and know the routine, the choreography, and the combination of moves. You may feel like a fish out of water until you get used to it (hello, Zumba!) but once you do the routine a few times, you’ll get the hang of the flow as well. And don’t worry, no one is watching you or judging your coordination. They’re too concerned wondering if they look like a fish out of water too! Move, and HAVE FUN!
5. Practice at home in front of a mirror! -This sounds like a worst-nightmare situation for some, I know, but when you practice in front of a mirror, you can check your form and accuracy. If something hurts or just doesn’t feel “right”, watch how you execute the move and see if you are performing it safely and correctly. It is better to NOT do something than to do it with poor form, risking injury. If you can’t do a move correctly, find an acceptable modification that you can do until you work up the strength or flexibility to do the more advance one.
- Push Ups: Push ups can be done on the toes, on the knees with a flat back, or on the knees in a table top position. You can take that modification even further by standing up, and doing wall push ups as seen here.
- Jumping Jacks: Jumping jacks and other forms of jumps are not practical for every individual, so it can easily be modified by staying grounded and stepping out instead of jumping out. You can see what that looks like here.
- Lunges: Lunges are a difficult move for even seasoned athletes and can really cause damage in the knees if done incorrectly. The key to lunges is to make sure the toe is always further out than the knee when you step forward. Lunge modifications can be made easier by doing back lunges (stepping back instead of forward), staying on one side for an entire set, or holding on to a chair or bar for extra support as seen here.
- Planks: Planks are the single most beneficial exercise for developing core strength. They are like push ups, except you hold the position at the top instead of pushing up and down. They are also extremely difficult for people with week abs and tired shoulders. Like push ups, they can be done on the toes, the knees, or modified further. The higher your upper body is in relation to your lower body, the easier it is to do this exercise. If you can’t hold a plank on the floor, try this.
Those are a few common exercises that can easily be modified, so if you find yourself struggling with something, stop and think “What body part is this supposed to be working” and “What else can I do that will work that same body part?” It also helps to do a quick Google search for “modified exercises for knee pain” or similar searches.