Thursday, June 24, 2010

Isabel Swift on Sports Clubs--what's is all about?

What works for you?

OK, I'll admit it. I am pheremonally challenged. Sadly, I do not possess the trait that gives me the ability to be filled with whatever delightful pheremones happen to other people that creates voluntary repeat exercise-seeking behavior.

Not only are those those pheremone-blessed types gung-ho, but any shared exercise experience inevitably ends with that fatal (but perhaps actually genuine) earnest post-exercise question: Wasn't it good for you? Don't you feel great/less stressed/filled with energy (whatever)?

No. No I do not. I feel tired and usually sweaty and smelly. The sweaty and smelly part does offer me a sense of achievement, of course. I must have done something! But the tired part doesn't allow for much enjoyment.

I go to a class because it's the only way I can make myself exercise. You have to turn up at a specific time. And the many laughably impossible things you are asked to do by the lithe or muscular instructor are viewed through a humorless haze, for in a class, you can irrefutably see that these activities are, in fact, doable.

Of course, I don't count the instructor--clearly a being from a different planet--though the fact that s/he can do all the activities and talk at the same time does give one pause. But all around you are people like you. Younger, older, fatter, thinner. Remarkably, all of them seem to be able to do the activities.

It becomes very clear very quickly that they are impossible...only to you. Nothing like a little quiet peer pressure to put one on notice. The activities and expectations are, alas, not inappropriate.

Whatever.  But even for me, the experience can be better or worse, and I was thinking about what made a difference.  I've developed a simple draft list of suggestions for instructors. What works for you?

#1. Music:

Having the music link with the movement, so I am moving to the beat.

Amazingly, many instructors think of the music as a kind of background noise.  They know they are supposed to have music, but they don't know how to use it.  Total waste of a major asset!

If I am exercising to the beat, it makes me feel like I'm dancing, not exercising. Much nicer! It gives me something other than tiredness and pain to focus on.

Some instructors have actually figured out specific songs for a particular exercise sequence because the beat speed is right and they actually switch or time changes in their routine to work with a new song. Brilliant. Works for me.

#2. Counting:

Counting in tens--or even eights--to give me a sense of accomplishment (in business language it's called "celebrate the small wins."  The concept of peppering progress with step by step achievements to note, instead of saying nothing until the very end when you have either succeeded--hey, great--or failed--too bad).  Three sets of eight or ten just feels more doable than doing thirty repetitions.

Also count DOWN on the last set (10, 9, 8, 7...).  It just feels down hill.  Surely I can make it to zero.  But I may not be able to climb up to ten!

#3. Benefit:

Tell me what I am accomplishing by putting myself through this agony.  Yoga does this a fair bit and others should pick up the concept.  Let me know that this simple, but remarkably painful leg circling is tightening my butt.  That these tedious sit ups are flattening my stomach. That breathing deeply is helping burn calories (really?).  That my tiredness and agony is strengthening my heart, getting me in shape, and is the reason I joined the gym, so no cheating.

#4. Rhythm :

Alert me if we're concentrating on one area ahead of time, so I feel focussed, not bored. Have exercises flow from one to another, so moving from standing to sitting to lying down feels natural and a progression, not awkward.  Don't have me standing up, lying down, getting back up, lying back down.  It feels clunky and I think you haven't figured out your routine.  I should feel energized, rocking & following the beat of my amazing instructor.

#5. Alternatives:

Always offer/encourage alternatives--both easier and harder--for the various movements so a varied class can find a place for themselves.  Encourage everyone to challenge themselves, but NOT to overdo it.  Better to live to exercise another day.

#6. Pacing:
Create segue exercises instead of having a break.  They can help move from one position to another, allow me to catch my breath, to relax, to stretch muscles that have just been worked, or just to keep the energy up between sets of high energy exercises.

#7: Favorite Sayings:

"Haaard Work!" "C'mon Guys!" "Finish up strong!"

#8: Least Favorite:

Anything that sounds authoritarian, bossy, militaristic, competitive (can  you tell I am not always an easy customer?!)

Do you have favorite exercise dos and don'ts?  Things you love/avoid?