Thursday, November 20, 2008

Grumpy and in Pain

Yesterday, I went to a class at my gym. I had actually attended the class the week before, but it was being taught by a substitute instructor, so I wanted to go back and see if the class was any better when taught by the "real" instructor. 

I'm not sure if it's something about this gym or what, but all three of the instructors were awful. So this rant will serve as the rough draft of the letter of complaint I now feel justified in writing (I wanted to write after the first class I attended, but felt like I should attend a few more before complaining).

I've been really lucky to be a member at some incredible gyms in the past. My favorite, the JCC in San Francisco, was just a block and a half from my house and had the most incredible instructors I have ever experienced. They were full of energy and enthusiasm and watching them stand up there in front of us doing everything they were asking us to do was inspiring and motivating. They also used the music as a way to pace the class - we lifted weights to the beat and did lunges to the beat. I like that, as it gives me something to concentrate on, other than the pain in my legs/arms/stomach/wherever.

The classes at my current gym are nothing like that. In none of the classes did the instructor make use of the beat of the music. In only one of the three classes did the instructor demonstrate what he wanted us to do.  But even then, he demonstrated and then stopped to watch us all.

Two out of three instructors did the exercises too fast. When you're in a conditioning class that involves lunges and squats and such, form is pretty important. Also, it is my understanding that if you do the exercises more slowly, they will challenge your muscles more, which is a good thing. These instructors had us doing things so quickly that form was completely ignored. 

All three instructors barked orders to the class attendees. There was no description of what they expected us to do, and no demonstration. The instructor said something like "Ok, it's time for Jackknives now!" and the people in the room who had attended class before and knew what the hell a "Jackknife" was would start doing it, then the instructor would yell at the class for not all doing it, and then we'd have to start over again. 

In all classes, instructors did not clearly delineate the various levels of difficulty of each of the exercises. In any good gym class, instructors start off by saying "this is what I'm asking you to do" and they demonstrate. Then they often will say "this is a modified way to do this that makes it easier" and "this is a modified way to do this that makes it more difficult" and THEN the good instructor will say "you choose which of these fits your level and do it."

In all classes, instructors recognized that there were new faces in the class, but then did nothing to modify the teaching style to accommodate the new people. For example, in my first awful class, we were asked to do lunges... on not one, but TWO Bosus. We were expected to have our back foot on a Bosu with the ball-side-up, and our front foot on a Bosu with the flat-side-up and to balance and lunge at the same time. For the six of us who were new (for the record, about 1/3 of the class), just balancing in that position was difficult. Some people managed to get a few lunges in, but none of them had good form. How hard would it have been for the instructor to have offered us a choice of how we could do our lunges so that we could actually do lunges instead of balancing for the entire time?

Tonight, at a class in which the instructor did not demonstrate a thing and just yelled instructions to everyone, I got yelled at for doing leg lifts on my right side before my left. When I informed the instructor that the woman in the front (who he had used to demonstrate sit-ups earlier, so I thought she was a good person to watch) was doing leg lifts with her right leg first, he shrugged and then went over and stood above her and shouted "LEFT leg first!"

Does it really matter? As long as I'm switching legs, I'm working them both out equally, right?

I realize that there are many more important things in the world to be outraged about, but I'm paying good money for my gym membership I want to be able to enjoy going there. Exercise is my most effective self-care strategy, and I don't want my gym to be a place that brings me additional stress. Too much to ask? Perhaps, but I'm not ready to give up quite yet. 

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