Wow. Excuse me while I clean up the dust bunnies and cobwebs that have collected here during my absense.
In the meantime, here’s a story from today.
Earlier at the gym I did a back workout, followed by a cardio finisher (specifically the one found here).
I was in the bathroom right before I was about to jump on the treadmill for Tabata intervals, when a woman stopped me.
“Excuse me, I’ve noticed that you do a lot of the right exercises, but it seems like sometimes you don’t take the time to do them with fully correct form.”
Oh boy. Here we go. I noticed myself getting defensive, but kept my cool.
“Like what?” I asked.
She told me that I lean back too much while doing chin-ups, instead of staying straight, and that I drop down too fast. She also mentioned that I should bring my back knee lower when I do jump lunges.
I was immediately annoyed and started running through excuses in my mind, like: Keeping my body straight while I do chin-ups is something I already know that I need to work on. Even for the majority of experienced lifters, very few have 100% perfect form. It’s one of those things where there is almost always room for improvement. And as for the jump lunges, I noticed that I was keeping my back knee kind of high and made an effort to drop it for a few reps, but this was cardio and I was more focused on breathing and trying not to have a heart attack.
The lady made it very clear that she wasn’t trying to criticize me, but I still felt nit-picked. Partially because I already know I need to improve those things. But mostly because of my ego. I know that the learning process will never stop, but I feel pretty well-informed when it comes to exercise form. So when someone challenges that, I have to make an effort to silence that little voice in my head that says, Well who do YOU think you are?
Once I got a hold of my defensiveness I was able to accept that she was just trying to be helpful. And I had to admit that she had a point. I get lazy about my form sometimes, and that’s something I really should avoid if I want to be strong and injury-free. All the things that I told myself to justify my less than great form were, as I said, excuses. Self-defense mechanisms, yanno?
So as you can see, going up to people and correcting their form in the gym is a touchy subject, especially if you aren’t a trainer.
This is the first time I’m mentioning this, but I’m actually studying to get certified as a personal trainer by the NASM. The exchange I had with this women is actually kind of interesting to me, because it’s addressed in a chapter about customer service.
Basically, the book says that as a personal trainer, there is a very specific way to approach people to correct their form. If you say things like, “Can I help you with that?” or “Do you mind if I show you the right way to do it?” it is extremely off-putting to the other person because it challenges their personal beliefs. And I can totally see why. People don’t like to be told they’re wrong. And you might embarrass them or make them feel self conscious.
That’s a big part of the reason why I never go up to anyone in the gym and try to correct their form. One, I’m not a personal trainer. Two, it’s none of my business. Three, there’s a good chance I’m going to offend them.
I’d like it if people chimed in on this. I know we’d all benefit from not getting defensive when someone corrects us, but is there ever a time when a person should keep their comments to their selves?
Also, I’m genuinely curious to know if other people get lazy about their form!