Thursday, March 27, 2008

Treading Lightly

While I was at the spa, I took a class called, "Tread Sweat," a group exercise class on the treadmills, consisting of speed and incline intervals. While I don't really do any treadmill walking, I decided to walk the class (rather than run) because it was early in the morning, and I thought I'd use it as a warm-up, a segue into more difficult cardio classes.

Boy, was I off.

See, I'm not the most efficient walker in town. I tend to bounce (to the point when when I'm in physical therapy, other therapists take pause with their patients to watch me walk). I'm a bouncing curiosity. When you spend so much time and energy going up and down, there's less of both to propel forward. It's basic biomechanics. So, I'm slow. I'm a (pretty) fast runner, but a really slow walker.

So, here I was on the treadmill, warming up, trying to take the class at my own pace, when the instructor approached me and said, "Pick up the speed!" I told her I'm not really a walker and was using the class to warm-up. She walked away. Phew.

Take two: she approached me again and said (and, to clarify, this all occurred over the microphone): "C'mon, you can pick up the pace!" Having done so since her last visit, I replied, "I'm doing a couple of other classes today. I'm fine." The coast was clear for now.

But, then she came back again, looked at my heartrate (broadcast on the treadmill) and said AGAIN, "Let's pick up the speed!" And, that's when I decided to pick up the (verbal) pace: "That's the third time you've asked me. I'm taking other classes today. Can you not ask me to speed up again?" Thankfully, she didn't return.

It's frustrating this go-all-out mentality, particularly in a population that might not be so accustomed to exercising. She didn't know who I was or what (if any) medical conditions I have, nor how to motivate me to perform. She didn't know that I am confident in my level of cardiovascular conditioning. She didn't know that I have a fitness background, and that I know it's not good instruction to approach someone three times (she had singled me out for some reason, perhaps because my heartrate was lower than it "should" have been) when she's clearly walking to the beat of her own drum.

I had to assert myself. But, how many people would do the same? How many others would feel that they couldn't keep up, that they weren't doing it right, that they really were out of shape, that they should be ashamed for this? How many others would leave the class feeling dejected, like they had failed the task?


Anonymous said...

"How many others would leave the class feeling dejected, like they had failed the task?" Indeed. Also, is it really necessary to always get the heart-rate up so high to be "fit"? How about endurance (which does not necessarily require a high heart rate), the fact that you had high-intensity classes later in the day and the fact that, as you wrote, there are many who would Not be able to "speed up"!? I could write it off as that instructor being clueless, stupid and intrusive (all quite true). And yet, culturally, we are always "going for the burn". I thought this mentality died out with those 1980s, Jane Fonda workout-videos. But no, it's still alive and kicking! It's really intimading for those, like myself, who are not really into exercise. We start to feel like our "pathetic" 30 minutes of quite low intensity exercise is just, well, pathetic. (Can the solaces of much junk food be right around the corner, then? Oh yeah). With food and exercise, a "good enough" approach is never really good enough. (BTW - check out the April issue of Vogue - there's an interesting article by a woman who "gave up" on her excessive exercising for a while - with quite interesting results).

Palmtreechick said...

Wow, I can come at this from several different positions here.

First, as a competitive person. I think I probably would have gone all out because I don't feel good about myself if I don't. However, with that said, knowing that I was taking a few more difficult classes later in the day, maybe I wouldn't have. I have been known to "slack" in situations like that.

Now as a fitness instructor myself: I would NEVER approach a person more than one time, unless I knew them well and knew that they weren't working to their potential. I actually try NOT to single anyone out while I'm teaching classes because I want to avoid the person possibly feeling embarrassed. When it comes to using correct form, if the general "check out your profile, see if your backs are nice and flat" doesn't work and there is still someone with a "rounded" back, I will go over, MOVE the mic AWAY from my mouth and correct them (in a nice way).

Now, I have taking a few classes at my new gym here in NY. I've never walked out of a class until I joined this gym. The instructor (who was doing so many things wrong, by the way) felt the need to point me out indirectly. I had already decided that I was leaving the class because of his incorrect teaching style. (it was a weight class and he was doing everything at mock speed). So, I went at my own pace as we did 30 reps of everything. I had put must of my weights aways (as I was preparing to walk out) and took part in one more exercise (an exercise that is usually not done in class because most don't have correct form when doing it). Again, he was going 100 miles per hour so I went at my own pace and he said "Keep up with me! Keep up with me!!" I was so angry at this point. He didn't know anything about my capabilities or possible injuries, though I didn't have any. He just sucked as an instructor.

Oh wow, clearly I have some pent up aggression towards that class. Sorry to go off on a tangent.

I'm glad you spoke up and said something to that instructor!

Melissa said...

Hmm... i prolly would have felt crappy about myself and never went back. But thats how i am.
It seems so unprofessional to do that... why does that place put up with it?

Jeanne said...

I would have been one of the ones who if I didn't pick up the pace, would have felt like I had failed. I'm competitive and perfectionistic by nature...

I'm so glad that you did speak up... I'm getting better at doing that as I get more experience.


bananapants said...

The instructor sounds insensitive and not very well informed.

Several studies have shown that moderate exercise leave people feeling better than pushing too hard.

I would have been so turned off by her "technique" that I would have never gone back to her class, and avoided any others taught be her.

Active listening is an exercise everyone can do!

Jaime said...

hi there.....I just found your blog and think it's so interesting - I have a background in clinical health psych (and will actually be interning in nyc this summer), and struggle with disordered eating myself. Great posts!

Tara said...

Hence the reason many people stay out of the gym...And that's really too bad because just working out can make a person feel better about themselves physically and mentally without losing a damn pound.

azusmom said...

I was at a Pilates conference yesterday, and one instructor, who is a baby-boomer, was saying that the fitness industry has had to evolve since the early 80's, because the "no pain, no gain" attitude has left a lot of them with injuries. Hence the growth of functional fitness, yoga, pilates, etc. Instructors like the one you had need to realize that going all-out, all the time, is NOT good for the body! If she can't recognize how bad it is for a person's morale, she should at least know enough about their physicality to teach a class.

Janet said...

I suppose, from the instructors perspective, that she probably thought you should be keeping up with the rest of the class, or why be in the class at all? But that's part of the problem... If you can't encourage or respect someone's pace then you pose your class as having to meet some sort of bar [fitness level]--or else! and that's not encouraging to people who might need to simply be more active but are afraid to do so because of the kind of ridicule like that...

OS said...

I was with a friend in a yoga class when the instructor approached her during down dog and smacked her bottom and said "Down doggie!" then tried to more appropriately correct her posture. She was humiliated, never went back and didn't renew her gym membership. Absolutely not okay for an instructor to behave that way.

FatLady said...

Thank you so much for posting this. I have so many issues about my size and my fitness level; it's a catch 22--I don't go to gyms because I'm ashamed of how I look, and I'm this size primarily because I don't exercise. If this woman singled me out, I probably would have been so shamed, I would have cried and slunk away. I would never go back. This is EXACTLY my worst nightmare--well this and the dressing room.

I;m happy you had the sense to speak up for yourself.

dawn said...

Wow, how unprofessional that instructor was! It's instructors like her that make people fear doing group ex. I think I would have been insulted if I was in that position and definitely wouldn't return to her class.

drstaceyny said...

fauve--to answer your question, no. Cardiovascular endurance is more important. Thanks for the article rec.

ptc--sounds like you're a great instructor! And, the classes you've taken sound really frustrating. . .

melissa--sometimes, that's part of the fitness culture (though it's bad psychology!)

jeanne--I think I was too tired that morning to be competitive. Plus, her style irked me, probably inspiring some rebellion.

bp--good point! The funny thing is, she just happened to teach the next class I took that day!

jaime--thanks! I hope you enjoy your time in the city.


am--that's right.

janet--everyone's fitness level is different. Besides, I WAS keeping up w/the class. I was probably going at avg. speed in the class.

os--oh, no--that' horrible!

fl--thanks. Maybe it'll help someone else speak up. . .

dawn--yeah, it's hard. I was at the spa, so I don't have to make a decision abt returning or not to her class. If she was at my regular gym (and I enjoyed her class besides this), I would probably talk to her some abt what style would work better for me. I don't mind being pushed or encouraged--I do mind having the same thing said to me three times when I'm clearly not up for it.

Moe said...

Wow, what a frustrating experience. I probably would have had two responses depending on my mood. A- I would have left. B- I would have told her to sod off (but not so nicely).