For a long time, I was intimidated by group fitness classes.

I was not unathletic, exactly, but I am clumsy and kind of gangly.  My endurance was not great, my coordination was worse, and group exercise classes just seemed like an opportunity to embarrass myself and possibly cause injury to others.

But I WANTED to try group exercise classes.  Running on a treadmill and hamster-wheeling on an elliptical get really boring. The whole time you’re doing it, you’re thinking “when do I get to stop?”  That’s not a good recipe for sustaining a long-term commitment to exercise.

The thing that finally got me over the hump, actually, was exercise DVDs.  For several months, I let my gym membership languish while I worked my way through Turbo Jam, the infamous 30 Day Shred, and a bunch of the Biggest Loser DVDs.   Doing them in the privacy of my living room let me become familiar with the kinds of moves and routines that are used in group exercise classes, without the actual flailing around in public part.

So when my friend from work joined my gym, and asked me if I wanted to go to group classes together, I said yes.  Now, several months later, I have my favorite classes and favorite instructors, and I feel comfortable walking into just about any class the gym offers- even if I haven’t taken it before, I’m confident that I’ll be able to pick up most of it, and am unlikely to grievously injure anyone else.

But the point is: it took a while.  And I remember, very clearly, when I was too intimidated to go solo to a totally new class.  So today, in Muscle Max, when our instructor asked if anyone was brand new, and the woman in front of me raised her hand, I thought to myself “brave!”

As we went through the class, it became clear that the woman wasn’t familiar with a lot of the moves.  My biggest beef with the Muscle Max format, actually, is that too often the instructors don’t seem too concerned about proper technique, and just let you have at it.  (For a couple of exercises where it’s really easy to injure yourself, like French curls, they do some instruction on form, but even then they don’t really go around to check that people are doing it right.)

So this newbie in front of me was really struggling with stuff like deep lunges, and clean and press, and dead lifts- all exercises where it’s really easy to hurt yourself.  And that would suck- your first experience with a group exercise class and you tweak something because the instructor doesn’t really explain how to do it right?  That would be enough to convince me not to come back.

As class progressed, this woman just started skipping most of the exercises, halfheartedly doing the others, and eventually she packed up her stuff and left class early, which I guess was better than getting hurt, but it still sucked.  I was annoyed that the instructor didn’t really explain the moves, especially after she’d asked at the start of class if anyone was new.

It left me wondering: I’m hardly a fitness guru, but I’ve been going to this class regularly for about 6 months now, so I’m pretty familiar with all the exercises we do.  Should I have helped the new woman out?

I couldn’t decide if it would be helpful or just mortifying to her.  Back when I was still afraid of group exercise classes, I think I would have been horrified if someone in class had corrected my form, because it would have meant that not only was I doing it wrong, everyone was NOTICING that I was doing it wrong, and let’s face it- no one wants to think that people are looking at them when they’re working out.  We’d all rather just pretend that we’re in little private bubbles where no one can see our red faces, our butt sweat, or our awkward lunge stance.

So I didn’t say anything, but I still wonder if I should have.  What do you think?  If you saw someone doing a weightlifting exercise wrong- and not just aesthetically wrong, but wrong in a way that they could really hurt themselves- would you offer to help them correct their form?

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