I was streaming a workout yesterday from my mat, and—while struggling through a forearm plank—the instructor said to stop looking at her and to instead focus on a spot on the floor six inches in front of my hands. Whoops. The issue? If you continue to look up at the screen during certain moves, you put yourself at risk for alignment issues. And, worse, neck pain.
It’s definitely a thing. I’ve noticed that whenever I’m following an digital workout (AKA practically every single day), I’m always straining to keep my eyes on the instructor. After all, I’m trying my best to imitate their every move. But it turns out you shouldn’t always be looking at them for cues on what to do, particularly when you’re in certain poses that require proper alignment.
“Having to look at a screen while working out is difficult because it can throw off your alignment, and it also takes away from your overall bodily awareness,” says Meghan Takacs, Aaptiv trainer. “Working out is essentially a conversation between your brain and your body—you’re the one who tells your body where to go and how to get there, and so before movement becomes a reality, you have to tell your body what to do, not be shown what to do.”
That’s (obviously) not to say that you need to quit your workout streaming habit, though—it’s just key to be mindful of your movements and not get too hypnotized by your instructor. “Having a screen can disrupt you from that essential line of communication which distracts from the quality of your form, since the movement is not organic in its approach,” says Takacs, which means your form will be thrown off in basically any move that requires a straight spine. “For instance, if you’re doing a push-up and have your head looking up at the screen, your neck is no longer in line with your spine,” she explains. “Your core is also compromised as a result of the movement since your lower back is not as engaged.”
An easy way to prevent the resulting neck pain from compromised alignment? Just watch the instructor do a rep or two of the next move before you try it out yourself. That way, you won’t be straining your neck to stare at the screen. You will, however, be doing your spine a serious solid, which is why we should all be practicing the “stop and stare” method on our mats from here on out.
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