No matter what you think of Mike Tyson, it's impossible not to grieve for him after the death of his daughter, Exodus, this week. The 4-year-old was taken off life support on Tuesday, a day after catching her neck in a treadmill cable at her home in Phoenix, Ariz.
The accident was all the more tragic because it is the kind of horrific, split-second situation that could occur in countless homes every day, where exercise equipment often shares space with children's play areas.
If you're rethinking your home exercise area this week, you're not alone. Here are a handful of quick, easy suggestions on how to keep your exercise space as safe as possible.
Tips for a Safer Home Gym
· Keep equipment out of reach. Many of us have a treadmill or stationary bike in the living room or family room. If you have the space, try to find a new location for your equipment that is more “off-limits” to your children. (Yes, even if that means moving it away from the TV.) If you don’t have the space, try to place safe barriers around the equipment to keep children away.
· Talk to your children about exercise dos and don’ts. Discuss your workout routine and explain the potential injury that can occur if children play with or near equipment. Just make sure you explain this in a way that does not scare them. We don’t want our children to be afraid of exercise!
· Don’t leave children alone near equipment. Children of all ages should be supervised while they are near the home gym equipment.
· Be conscious of open weight stacks. Home gyms with open weight stacks create the opportunity for crushing little (or big) fingers. Consider buying equipment with an enclosed weight stack or purchasing a protective cover designed specifically for that piece of equipment.
· Be aware of loose equipment pieces. Pins or screws that can be found on certain exercise equipment might be tempting for young children and could present a choking hazard. Keep all small objects out of reach.
· Consider purchasing smaller equipment. Choose gear that can be easily stored in a child-safe closet, such as a stability ball, free weights, a Both Sides Utilized balance trainer (BOSU), jump ropes, body bars, balance disks, etc. These items are good for functional training, which is a great way to workout. Afraid that out of sight is out of mind? Install a shelving unit that is in plain view for you, but out of the reach of the little ones.
· Keep ropes and bands stashed away. Jump ropes and exercise bands can be just as dangerous as cords. Make sure those are stored out of reach.
· Avoid heavy exercise equipment. Small children seem to love to try to play with bulkier items such as free weights and medicine balls. Make sure these are stored safely.
· Consider hiring a babysitter during exercise time. Having someone watch your youngsters while you exercise may be hard on the wallet, but it’ll certainly put your mind at ease while you focus on staying fit.
· Create a co-op of exercise-loving moms and dads. A recession-friendly routine where a different parent (or two) watches the kids each day while the other parents exercise might be something to consider. This keeps the children engaged so you can get a good workout, and they are less likely to run into the room while you exercise. Younger children can be put into a swing or exersaucer while you workout. Exercising while children are napping is another option.
· Separate workout space and play space. Items that look fun and can be easily climbed onto (spin bikes, steps) and bounced on (trampolines, BOSUs) should not dominate play space. If a piece of equipment has too many bells and whistles, just say no! It’s always better to err on the side of caution and trust your instincts than to run the risk that your children think your toys are their toys.
Vionna Jones is a fitness professional and owner of The Hot Mama Fitness Studio in Bethesda, Md.