*Disclaimer: We are all different. This is just my personal opinion.*
I have been a fitness instructor for almost five years. In college, I became a certified Spinning instructor and I love both taking and teaching that class! Then, last December, I became a PiYo LIVE Instructor. That’s the kind of workout I need to do more often as a runner, so I really enjoy teaching that format, too.
At instructor trainings, you are taught so many things to better your participants’ fitness routines. You learn a little bit of science about the human body, you learn about music and cues, and you learn more about the format you are teaching so you can help correct while you are teaching. Notice how I didn’t say you learn how to encourage your participants — because truly, you don’t go over that in detail. But as a fitness instructor, one of the most important things you can do is encourage your class!
I think encouragement in a group fitness class means different things to different people. It might even mean something different to you depending on what kind of mood you are in. That is true for me! If I am feeling a little lackluster about my workout and I have a really awesome instructor yelling encouraging things at the front of the room, I start to work a little harder. But there comes a point when encouragement in a fitness class starts to cross a line. Sometimes what is meant to be encouraging is actually kind of uninspiring.
Think of the quotes that we all too often see plastered across social media:
“Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels.”
“Unless you puke, faint, or die, keep going.”
And because we just had a major holiday, we were also #blessed with images like these:
I’m pretty sure if you get sick or faint during a work out, you should stop. I’m also pretty sure that if you never take a day off, you will mentally and physically burn out. Maybe to some people these statements are encouraging, but I just don’t see anything positive behind them. I also don’t see anything encouraging about the workout image above. It gives me anxiety. It makes me not want to eat the food that my family spent so much time preparing. And for the record, how does anyone know how we prepare our food? We all have our own recipes. Maybe we make the healthy versions of our favorite dishes. 😉
I’m up on my soapbox right now because of a recent experience in a Spinning class. The day before I left for Thanksgiving Break, I took a class with an instructor who said things like this:
“The average person will gain 3-5 pounds this weekend! Keep going!”
“You better stick to that fitness routine this weekend. Don’t let anything get in the way!”
“Come on! Burn off that pumpkin pie right now!”
As someone who has previously struggled with food and exercise, I was very offended by this instructor’s encouragement. If his statements had encouraged me to work harder in class last week, they also would have encouraged me to go back to my old ways of thinking. Back in the days when I felt that I HAD to work out once, if not twice a day, and I spent hours planning my meals so that I could stick to my own “perfect” meal plan.
In retrospect, this was the first holiday where I worked out when I had time and ate pretty much whatever I wanted without feeling bad about a second of it. I have spent YEARS obsessing about when I am going to fit my workout in my day and how I am going to appear normal at the dinner table because I “can’t” eat the food that is being served. To know that I am finally getting to the place where I am not thinking about food and exercise all the time is exciting…but at the same time, I still don’t like the negativity that sometimes surrounds food and fitness.
We should not work out because we hate our bodies. We should work out because we enjoy it and we want to keep our bodies as healthy as possible.
We should not “earn” our food. We need food to live. You are “allowed” to eat whatever you damn well please.
Every day of the year, and especially Thanksgiving, we should be giving thanks. Thanks for our health, thanks for the ability to cook way too much food, and thanks for time with family. We should not be filled with worry that we completely ruined our healthy lifestyle with one meal.
And for the record, what is the big deal about Thanksgiving food? There are plenty of other days during the year when we indulge and don’t make a big deal about burning the whole meal off. In particular, I’m thinking about every time I visit a Mexican restaurant. #allthequeso 😉
Did I work out every day while I was at home? No. But I will be the first person to tell you that I ran 8 miles on Thanksgiving morning. The plan was wake up, see how much time I had before the Macy’s Parade was on TV, and run far enough that I would be back in time for the start of the show. I woke up early, the weather was pretty, and I was feeling really good. So I ran far. My dogs even joined in! But it was fun. There was not one moment when I was out there when I felt like I HAD to be running. I wanted to be out there.
I know that the instructor didn’t mean to hurt my feelings or make me think about how I used to be. I am SURE that is not what he was trying to encourage at all. But going forward, I am going to be more mindful of the things that I say when I teach my own classes. I think it’s also a good reminder to just be nice to yourself. What kind of things do you say to yourself…or what kind of images do you pin on Pinterest to encourage your healthy lifestyle? They should be nice. They should be positive. You deserve to think uplifting thoughts!
Do tell…do you feel like you “have” to burn off your Thanksgiving calories or are you just happy it’s the holiday season?!