Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Don't Pick up Your Bike and Throw It

Ok, so I was going to write this blog post about the things you shouldn't do in group exercise classes. Then I changed my mind, and thought I'd paint that with a veneer of what you should do, just to be more positive. But, well, heck, it just comes across as funnier to talk about the crazy things people do (and what they should be doing), rather than say what they should do (and off-hand mention those wacky people who didn't). Now I'm getting my semantic panties in a wad. But here we go anyway...

10. Wash your gym clothes. Seriously. And remember to bring them.

a) Friend K went to spinning one night. She was seated behind one of those serious riders (or at least, he seemed serious, since he was decked out in bike shorts with padding, bike shirt with pocket and advertising, the works). Now, if you've never been to spinning, basically the class consists of sitting down and standing up as you pedal at various speeds and resistances. And every time he stood up, a massive cloud of noxious BO fumes enveloped her. This isn't hyperbole. It was so bad, she actually got off her bike, took the time to set up another bike, and got on. Then the instructor, in a well-meaning effort, turned on the rotating fan, and the smell blew her way again. Rule of thumb: you can get away with wearing pants or shorts a couple times, but they start to get bad after about a four or five (unless they're really tight, you work out A LOT, or you have bad odor).

b) No, you may not come to class shirtless. If you're a woman, you can sometimes get away with wearing one of those sports bra tops. But if you're a guy, no way in hell. Nobody wants to see that. Because seriously, the guys who ask are not the guys you'd want to see without their shirts.

9. Don't give the evil eye to the instructor trying to correct your form

I'm a certified group exercise instructor. That doesn't mean I know everything, not by a long shot. But I do know what movements are safe, which are liable to cause injury, and what modifications you should use if you need to. If you're in a weight class and the instructor comes around and suggests a correction, then it's not just because I'm on a high horse getting you to do it exactly how I want. It could be because you aren't really hitting the muscle group well, or because you could injure yourself. If I say something to you, off the microphone, don't just look at me balefully. It might make me go away, but it's not going to help you any. Rule of thumb: we're really just there to try to help you, so help us help you!

8. That said, don't injure yourself just to do what everyone else is doing

I'm not a mind reader. I don't know that you have carpal tunnel/plantar fasciitis/recovering broken bones/bad back/bad knees/etc. If you have time before class, mention to the instructor that you have some restrictions. If it's a spinning class and you have back or knee problems, there are some definite form cues you want to follow (don't lean forward on the bike, don't pedal really slowly with high resistance). If you're in weight lifting, the instructor will need to know about your restrictions so she can either give alternate exercises or modifications. You can mention this during that exercise if she comes around to correct you. Rule of thumb: if something hurts (and I don't mean muscle pain, I mean bad "this is gonna send you to the doctor" pain), then don't do it. Ask the instructor if you don't know another way to hit the muscle group.

7. Everyone loves upbeat, but manic? Not so much

There's this one very friendly man who goes to the group exercise classes at my gym. He's a tad on the older side, and a tad on the portly side. It's great that he's in classes and that he truly seems to enjoy them. That said, ooh boy. Before class starts, he's in the group ex room dancing around to the music in his head (not in a crazy-I'm-scared-of-my-safety way, but in a quite a bit over the top upbeat way). Then in class, he's very vocal. Now, normally I like vocal. Gives me great feedback if people are liking class.

Case in point - I'm teaching a weight class one day. We have our hips on the bosu our hands on the gliders, and we're gliding our hands out in front and back (lower back and gluts). He's modifying by just lying on the floor instead of the bosu (perfectly fine, I love when people are confident enough to modify on their own). He starts flailing his arms around and saying (loudly) stuff like "this isn't so bad!" And he's just trying to be funny, really I know he is...but it's one of those situations where someone's trying so hard to be friendly and funny that it's just too much. Rule of thumb: friendly is good. Super friendly, "I'm your best friend so I'm going to laugh like we have an inside joke now" is not.

6. You may have the attention span of a gnat, but save the reading material for the cardio machines

I never thought I'd see this. It shocked me when I did. I was teaching a weight lifting class and we were doing glut raises (tabletop position, one leg up, push through gluts) and one of the women in class had a magazine down on the floor that she was reading while doing her glut squeezes. On the one hand, I guess it's something to do with your eyes. But honestly, she couldn't spent the time of maybe 16 reps on each legs (probably about 2 minutes) without some form of extra stimulus (apart from the music, the exercise, my cuing, etc)? Is it the fast paced city-world we're in? Yikes. It makes the instructor feel superfluous, and it may mean you're not listening to the cuing. Save the magazines for the cardio machines on the main floor.

5. Don't stop and stare

There are two categories of stop and gapers.

a) The "holy shit what the f*&( are these people doing, I can't do that?!" types. This happens mostly in step class. And I totally understand. Step can be daunting, especially because at my gym, there are no basic step classes, they're all advanced. A good step instructor will give basic options for the beginners, but none of the classes are going to be easy peasy. So they stand on their step, or beside their step, and they just stare at what the rest of us are doing. They might try a little more. Then they sometimes pick up their bench and leave. The thing is, step is a foreign language. You can't expect to be dropped in Paris and understand what "allez faire une basique, L-step, sautez sautez sautez" ("do a basic, L-step, jump jump jump") means, would you? So it takes time to learn. Do the basic stuff (what the class starts with) and don't worry about doing what everyone else does. If you have gotten your heart rate up, and you stop moving completely, you risk fainting. Rule of thumb: everyone feels silly the first time, nobody knows what they're doing. Just try it.

b) The "you want me to do what now?" people. These generally come in in January. They don't want to be there. They're generally there with friends. They feel very awkward and uncomfortable and silly with the exercises we're doing, especially in weight lifting. This gets even worse when I try to correct form, because if I go over, they'll completely stop and stand there not moving even if I try to get them to do the motion so I can correct them. Rule of thumb: again, everyone feels silly the first time. Just do it.

4. Don't wear high heels to step class (or kickboxing, or cycling, or hell, any class)

One of my fellow instructors was visiting LA and went to a step class on the Sunset Strip. There was a lady in back wearing high heels and looking very much like she was exotic dancing on the step. You'd think that this kind of footwear wouldn't logically make it into the gym wardrobe in, say, Boston. But you'd be wrong. One of my other colleagues was teaching kwando (which includes lots of jumping, kicking, and all in all pounding on your feet) and there was a woman who came to class in high heels. So she tells the lady she can't take class in high heels (can you imagine? I'd be surprised if she didn't twist her ankle). The lady complains. Management (get this) tells her she has to let the lady into the class in heels. So she quits and goes to another, more reasonable gym. Rule of thumb: shouldn't management NOT want lawsuits? Don't wear unsafe gym gear to class.

3. Grunting is best left to your own private pursuits

I don't have a problem with grunting out on the weight floor. And I'm not talking weight machines, I'm talking the man-gym (not that women don't lift there too, the area with all the free weights and scary looking ripped muscles. To lift that amount of weight, you kinda half to grunt or groan or whatever. No problems there.

But not in class. If you're in a weight class, we're probably doing each muscle group for about 2 to 4 minutes, with lots of reps. If you're grunting, you may have too much weight. Or you just need to learn what it's like to exhale without making noise. Because grunting makes people uncomfortable. Or, in some cases, enraged beyond belief.

2. If you feel the need to talk every second, go for drinks instead of exercise

I understand, you've had a hard day, a hard week, you just started dating someone, you just broke up with someone, your sister just got admitted to rehab, your cousin go suspended from school, your mother won the Pulitzer Prize. Whatever. Class. is. for. exercise.

If you're in a spin class, you can get away with chatting through the recovery (if you're chatting during the rest of class, you're not working hard enough).

If you're in any other kind of class (and I mean any class whatsoever), then zip it. It's distracting for other members, it's distracting for the instructor, and if you're talking, you're not listening to important cues to what we're doing and how we're going it.

1. We all love to stay connected. Connect to class, not your cell phone.

People bring cell phones everywhere they go. Work, the bathroom, the gym, the group exercise room. I don't have a problem with cell phones being in the room (though having them on vibrate would be nice, especially when they start ringing during the quiet stretch), but do NOT talk on the phone while you're in the room. If you're a doctor/psychiatrist/whatever on call, then use a beeper and take your cell in the hall.

Case in point: I was teaching spinning one day at a small gym. I only had one or two people taking class that day, and there's a stretch of floor that's clear next to the bikes. I don't mind if people come in and use the area to stretch, as long as they don't mind the loud music and are respectful of class. So when this girl came in, it didn't immediately hit me. Then I realized she was talking on her phone. While I was teaching class. And it wasn't that she walked in to stretch and said "oops, sorry, didn't realize there was class." She was so oblivious, she just kept on talking. And talking. Now, I could've gotten off my bike, gone over to her, and asked her to leave or finish her call. But I felt like that would have interrupted class and would have taken a lot longer than the option I chose.

So I turned up the music. Loudly. She left.

0. Your tales of bad group exercise etiquette?


MizFit said...

so many thoughts but only to say how well youve nailed it.

there are some seriously HILARIOUS outfits going on in my gym. Im waiting for the day theres a man/woman working out in a full on business suit because what Ive seen is pretty damn close. is it forgetting? trying to expedite the morning? I have no clue.

and number 6 is ALL OVER as well.
the mags on the leg extension machine (?) the mag reading on the hamstring curl machine.

I HEART my mags people but theres a time and a place, huh?

loved this....

The Lethological Gourmet said...

All in all, my gym has some pretty tame outfits going on. There is the one lady in the leotard and tights. There's the instructor who cuts his shirts off at the nipples and rips them up to a thread at the armpits. But for the most part, they're pretty good. But every once in a while, you just see something that makes you blink. Then drop your jaw.

Charlotte said...

I kinda love bad gym ettiquette. It makes my day that much more entertaining. But I can see how as an instructor this kind of thing would get awful, fast. (a MAGAZINE?!?)

My favorite transgression? Farting in a closed environment (like a group fit room) and then pretending you didn't. Oh I giggle just hinking about it.

I take that back: my fave - that I can never blog about because she reads my blog - is the woman who keeps getting plastic surgery and lying about it! "Um, I can't lift my arms because I sprained my back." (Funny, your back sprain also gave you huge boobies!)

The Lethological Gourmet said...

llloooolll! That's hilarious Charlotte! It's amazing the lengths people go through to cover up what they don't want other people to know!

therapydoc said...

Cute. I keep telling people, don't just shower, change clothes, too, and they seem to get it.

Missicat said...

Definitely #10 and #1. If you are stinky when you start working out, what do you think you are going to smell like when you are done??
And the cell phones - don't even get me started. The gym is one place where folks know they cannot reach me!

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