As a PSA from a former Waiter and a present day Fitness Coach, I have two requests from the restaurant and fitness industry respectively. If you are allergic to anything, tell your server before you order. Don’t make an assumption about the recipe of the dish. If you’re allergic to kiwi, tell the server. “Oh, but, I just ordered a steak a la carte, that should be fine. I don’t have to tell them about my allergy.” You’re right, you don’t. But, that means that if the chef chooses to garnish your steak with a kiwi slice you should learn a lesson from that. Don’t make assumptions. If you have any unique physical challenges, tell your group exercise coach. You don’t have to tell the entire room, just pull him/her to the side and give the reader’s digest version about your condition. “Oh, but, we shouldn’t be doing any running in this class. I don’t need to tell them about my ankle injury.” Unless you know the exact workout that’s been planned for that class, don’t assume. I try to ask the question before every group exercise class. I ask everyone in the room to speak up if they have any injuries, pregnancies, hangovers, tourette’s, irritable bowels, assholism, $6 million dollar bionic limbs, or hangnails. When no one responds, I remind myself that not everyone wants to divulge what’s going on with their bodies with a stranger (me). So, I follow up with a spiel that seems to work. “I’ve created this workout hoping that everyone in the room will be able-bodied and capable of doing each of these exercises with minimal modifications. If I look over and see you not attempting the exercise, I’ll be left to assume* that you’re not trying. Then I’ll come over to you and kick you in the ribs as I bust your chops on the microphone in an attempt to get you up and moving. Now, to avoid all of that, just tell me about any physical challenges you may be experiencing. That way, I can modify exercises based on your individual needs.” (*-Quick side note: In the confines of 30 seconds, while coaching 30 people, I often have to break my no assumptions rule to make a fast decision.) When I say that spiel, people (thankfully) laugh and understand that I’m exaggerating to drive home the importance of telling me how I can help them. (More on that later.) I also get a few hands to fly up when I finish my spiel. It’s like pulling teeth, but they finally tell me about what they’re body is going through. Why is it so hard to get people to tell me about their bodies when I’m about to guide their workout? One word. Pride. Marsellus Wallace said it best, “…you may feel a slight sting. That’s pride fucking with you. Fuck pride. Pride only hurts, it never helps.”
I keep saying it because I keep seeing it. There’s a thin line between pride and injury. It’s a scientific pontification that *insert made up number here to make it sound official and shit* percent of all injuries happen because of pride. Don’t believe me? Think about how many overuse injuries occurred after the athlete was warned to take a break. Think about how many non-athletes fell and hurt themselves because they didn’t do something as simple as ask for help. “I can get it mysel… OH SHIT!” Think about how many times something wasn’t quite right with your body and you chose to ignore it instead of getting it checked out. (If you’re in a shitty/no health care situation, you obviously get a pass on this one.)
“Jet, my leg has been bothering me for three weeks, what do you think is causing it?” As a fitness coach, I get requests to diagnose all of the time. I’ve spent enough time in business law classes and I’ve read the fine print on my liability insurance so I know not to diagnose anyone. However, despite their asking, people rarely want to follow the advice I give. I’m not always right. I’ll be the first to admit when I’m wrong. But, when people ask me a question after already deciding to be set on an answer, it just wastes everyone’s time. A friend described three of the primary symptoms for plantar fasciitis. She asked what I thought was the issue. I told her that it sounded like PF and that she should get it checked out to make certain. She responded, “but, I don’t feel like that’s it”. I’m glad that you have feelings. Feelings are another word for pride. Fuck pride. Knowing is better than feeling and denial ain’t just a river.
One of my favorite responses to one of my suggestions is, “I should be fine”. A pregnant woman came to my plyometrics class. I encourage exercise during pregnancy. I don’t encourage jumping during pregnancy. She told me about her bundle. I told her to regress all of the jumping exercises and avoid leaving the ground. “I should be fine”, she said. Okay. Someone came to a different plyometrics class and had sprained his ankle one week prior. I told him, in no uncertain terms, “you should not be in here. You should leave.” There are no modifies in a HIIT Plyometrics class for a sprained ankle. “I should be fine”, he said. I laughed. Why wouldn’t he just sit out the workout? One word. Pride. Fuck pride.
Someone told me after a class that he had stitches in his foot. I encouraged him to tell that to any coach at the onset of class so that we could modify his exercises. He responded, “well, it didn’t hurt”. I told him that even if it didn’t hurt, he could still be hindering the body’s ability to heal properly. There’s a thin line between pride and injury. I understand when pro athletes play through an injury for millions of dollars. If you’re just working out for long-term health benefits, it becomes an antithetical effort when you choose to play through your body’s loud and clear message to STOP. I walk up to people all the time, during a class, when I see them getting light-headed. I remind them that there’s nothing to prove here. “Sit down, no one will judge you. If they do judge, they can fuck off.”
Remember that help is a two-way street. As a fitness coach, we attend all sorts of trainings on how to modify for special populations and injuries. If we’re not told about those injuries, how can we use what we’ve learned to help. If you want to have a positive experience in a group fitness class, read this post on the matter, most importantly arrive early and talk to the coach. We can modify the workout for you. But, if you don’t say anything and quietly struggle in the corner (leaving us to figure out what’s wrong while simultaneously coaching 20+ other people) it won’t be a pleasurable experience for you. You could exacerbate your condition and/or place the facility’s liability at risk (in the event that you get injured in a class). Just speak up and help others to help you. If something doesn’t feel right, attend to it. Remember that a fitness program requires just as much self-care (massages, rest time, nutrition, etc.) as challenges. Remember, humility keeps you safe, pride over extends. Don’t get hurt because your pride wrote a workout plan your body couldn’t complete. Fuck pride. Embrace humility.