Smutty Fitness: Group fitness and injuries
I've always been a class-based person because I love having an instructor and the energy of the group to feed off of. But... I have a tendency to push myself too hard in classes, which led to tendonitis in my shoulder. I went to PT for it and am cleared to exercise and have generally been pain-free for the last few years, but I’m mindful of not pushing myself too hard, especially when it comes to planks/pushups/etc. In general, I find that instructors are fairly understanding about my injury, but I find that some offer bad advice that goes against advice from my physical therapist. In those instances, I note the instructor’s name and don’t go back to her class. But I’m having trouble navigating how to balance well-meaning instructors who want to push me as far as I can go with keeping myself from pushing myself past my limits and re-injuring myself. I'm currently recuperating from a pretty nasty bout with the flu/bronchitis and will be able to resume classes in two weeks and will need help navigating returning after a month off and with (somewhat) reduced cardiovascular capacity. Is there etiquette for navigating these things in a group setting?
I am going to be honest with you here, and tell you that unfortunately you are the one that is going to have to monitor how hard you push yourself as well as how to modify exercises that you should not be doing.
I am a very well-educated instructor, and I work a lot with physiotherapists, but even the best of instructors cannot keep track of everyone's injuries in their class. I know I do my best to make sure I ask at the beginning of each class how everyone's bodies are feeling, but when you have 8 or more students it is hard to watch everyone all the time. Also, it is important for us instructors to make sure that the classes we teach are not modified for other people's injuries. Yes we can offer quick alternatives for exercises, but we cannot center an entire class on one student’s injury.
Here are my suggestions for you. You need to ask your physiotherapist exactly what types of exercises you need to stay away from and then ask what exercises you need to do to strengthen the injured areas so eventually you are strong enough to do all of the class again. Until you reach a level of being injury free and you are back to 100% health, when an exercise is prescribed during a class that you are unable to do, you do the exercises recommended to you by your physiotherapist.
For example, I have a regular student who comes to all of my classes who is battling a rotator cuff injury. She wants to work hard, so she does as much of the class as she can and when I know she can't do something I am about to make everyone do, I tell her to do something else. I usually have 2 or 3 exercises ready for her to do throughout the class whenever she can't do what everyone else is doing.
It is also hard on an instructor when a new student comes to class and presents all their ailments to them moments before class starts. If you are going to a new class, get there early and explain to the instructor what injuries you have and let them know that any time there is an exercise that you can't do, you will resort to your own modifications. Also, let them know that due to an illness you haven't been active in the last month so you may have to take more breaks than will be offered during the class. A good rule to follow is go to the same classes with the same instructors so that they can get to know you and your injuries. This may take some time, so be patient.
As instructors we want to do our best to accommodate everyone who comes to our classes, however that is difficult to do so we do rely on our students to know their own bodies and understand their own limitations. Personal training, although expensive, could be an option for you to try while you are recovering, as this will ensure that your workouts are specified to your needs.
Just make sure you don't give up! And be kind to yourself throughout the journey back to health.
Attached - Jennifer Garner heading to the gym yesterday in LA.Photos:
AKM-GSI / Splash News