The Secret to Getting More Out of Your Exercise Class

by Coach Stevo
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The Secret to Getting More Out of Your Exercise Class

Do you have a really big/silly/scary goal that you haven’t told your trainer yet? Have you ever wondered why your trainer or class instructor was telling you to do a particular exercise? Have you ever wondered if there was a different movement you could do? Maybe one that didn’t hurt or was less scary to try?

You can totally ask that. Your instructor wants you to ask!

We know this stuff is scary when it’s new. In fact, one of the most comprehensive studies that examined people’s barriers to exercise published in Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise found:

  • the most looming fears people have about exercise are social
  • these fears are especially prevalent among older populations and the obese.

These fears essentially boil down to: “I’m afraid I’m doing it wrong and look stupid.” And that’s OK. I’m here to tell you that we all look silly! Pretty much all exercise looks ridiculous. Do a Google image search for “deadlifter face.” Watch the finish line of a marathon. Even yoga has a pose that translates to, “the breaking wind pose.”

Self-consciousness is no reason to avoid talking to your instructor about the things that are on your mind. It really is OK to ask us questions, tell us that you like (or don’t like) certain exercises and, most important of all, tell us that something hurts.

Here are some tips for how to talk to your instructor about what’s up with you and your body.

  1. Tell us what you want. Tell us why you’re here. No goal is crazy. No goal is wrong. Instructors took this job to help people reach their health and fitness goals and are aching to hear what you want to do with your body for the same reasons that Santa is dying to know what you want for Christmas: because we just might be able to help you get it.
  2. “What’s up with that exercise?” Great trainers are movement nerds. We are dying to tell you why exercises are awesome and how practicing them can help you reach your goals.
  3. “I don’t understand that.” Great! Then I didn’t explain it well and you have probably said what a lot of other people in the room were thinking to themselves. You have helped prevent me from looking like a jerk and I’m stoked that I can take the time to explain it better. That’s my job!
  4. “I think that’s too much weight/too hard/too fast.” Then you’re right. Because the most important factor in learning something new is confidence and if you think it’s too much, it probably is right now. Just let us know and we can work with you to find a load or speed that’s appropriate for you today.
  5. “I don’t like this exercise.” Awesome! What don’t you like about it? Is it weird? Does it hurt? Do you not feel like you’re very good at it? A good trainer can fix any of these problems with a simple cue or modification on the fly. It only takes a second and we’re happy to do it if it helps you feel awesome.
  6. “That hurt.” Thanks for letting me know. The last thing we want to do is hurt a client or cause them pain. Please let me know where it hurts and when it hurts during the movement. Chances are we can modify things, but we might need to refer you to a professional with a more specialized skill set and just really need to know before it becomes an issue.

Working with a trainer or instructor should feel just like that—working with them. You will have a better experience when you feel listened to and you will more likely keep coming back to meet your goals. If you do not feel listened to, then there is a very simple way to talk to your trainer or instructor in that situation: “You’re fired.”

About the Author

Coach Stevo

Coach-Stevo-Logo.pngCoach Stevo is the nutrition and behavior change consultant at San Francisco CrossFit. He is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist, holds a BA in Philosophy from the University of Chicago and an MA in Sport Psychology from John F. Kennedy University. He teaches habit-based coaching to wellness professionals all over the world and he contributed to Intervention by Dan John in 2012. 



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