April 14, 2015

Fact: I Work Out to Improve My Body

I came across this article last week: The F*ed Up Thing So Many Fitness Instructors Do. After reading, I was rather annoyed by it. I intended to write a fiery post shortly thereafter, but ended up not having the time. However, after I shared it in my Links I Love yesterday and Becky commented, I decided it was worth my time to draw a bit more attention to it.

The article starts by quoting an (admittedly rude) comment from a fitness instructor, who is yelling at his/her class that if they don’t get rid of their belly, they’ll never get an engagement ring. I completely agree that this is a really crappy thing to say, and also comes across as rather superficial. Really, an engagement ring is supposed to be our big goal in life?? Lame. However, that ends up not being the focus of the article – and this is where I think the author goes off-base.

The article now goes on to focus on / criticize any time a fitness instructor focuses on the calorie burn or physical results of a workout. Specifically, the author calls out this comment:

“Ladies! Turn up your torque! The higher your torque, the more calories you burn! The more calories you burn, the more fat you lose! I know that’s why you’re here! It takes 3,500 calories to lose a pound.”

The author of the post says that the above comment is “incredibly triggering” for those with eating disorders. I understand how that may be the case, but it’s also a) completely truthful and b) probably fairly motivating to everyone else. (I might argue that if you are in the throes of an eating disorder, you probably shouldn’t be in an overly intense gym class to begin with?) But we don’t ban calorie counts from restaurant menus just because they can be triggering to a small percentage of people – they are a statement of fact and they help a lot of people to make healthier choices.

The author goes on to plead with fitness instructors to focus on the more holistic benefits of exercise, specifically: “mental clarity, emotional stability, energy, mindfulness, fun, empowerment, social connection, longevity.” Those are all certainly good things, but let’s be honest: if I’m looking for fun and social connection, it’s a lot easier to grab a drink at happy hour than it is to push myself hard in a spin class. To me, those are usually added, secondary benefits rather than my primary motivation for working out.

To be very blunt, a lot of my motivation to work out (particularly in the pre-dawn hours when my bed is reallllllllly comfy) comes from wanting to keep my weight under control. It does take 3500 calories to make up a pound… well, at least if you ignore the whole argument against calories-in calories-out. But especially during the holiday season when I know I will not abstain from all the delicious special food and drink, my workouts help me counteract the extra calories I’m eating. I really appreciate being reminded that if I’m going to pig out at a holiday party, I should work a little harder to compensate a little bit.

Love checking out my FitBit stats to see just how hard I pushed in a workout!

I know that what motivates some people doesn’t motivate everyone – and that’s okay. It’s why as I visit a studio more and more, I learn the instructors that really fit my style and the ones with whom I just don’t click. Going forward, I then try to only take the classes where I love the instructor. (Dallas fitness friends: check out Brittani Rettig at Grit by Brit; Thomas Renner at Flywheel; and Mark Shipman at The Ride House. They are my favorite instructors of all time!) But if I don’t love an instructor, it’s easy enough to stop taking their class – and that’s what I would suggest the author of that article do. If enough people hate an instructor’s motivational style, they’ll probably stop showing up on the schedule. Problem solved!

But let’s stop condemning fitness instructors for motivating the majority of people in a way that works. Hearing that I will see physical changes in my body from my workout is what keeps me pushing hard, and I don’t want that taken away.

What are your thoughts – am I being completely insensitive?


2 thoughts on “Fact: I Work Out to Improve My Body”

  1. I’ve been listening to the comedy station on Pandora lately. I”ve heard a number of high profile comics complain about how everyone is starting to become way too politically correct – which hurts their ability to tell off-color jokes. I feel like some of what the fitness instructor did falls into that a bit? I think the ring comment was certainly off color but possibly was being made in jest?

    On the other hand, I am a bit sympathetic to someone with an eating disorder hearing some of the messages in a group fitness class. BUT, I 100% agree w/ your comment that they likely could find better ways to exercise if it is triggering for them.

    1. Without being there, it’s definitely hard to know the tone and context. That’s also why email/text forms of communication are a little scarier for jokes – you never know how they’re landing.

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