Tag Archives: no pain no gain

Fat Chick Rages: Don’t Teach Exercisers to Ignore Body Signals!

My dear friend Ragen Chastain mentioned on Facebook that she had gone to an enjoyable Zumba class the night before, but was dismayed the next day when she checked out the Zumba studio’s facebook page.  Apparently they posted an image stating: “Are You Feeling Dizzy, Sweating, Tired, Breathless? …  Good, Great Workout!!!”  I’ve posted my modified version below:

Not even going to take a chance this will get reposted without a little alteration on my part...

Not even going to take a chance this will get reposted without a little alteration on my part…

Okay, so let’s get started on how wrong this is.  Not a little bit wrong.  Not even a medium amount of wrong.  A Carl Sagan, galaxy-filled COSMOS of wrong.  This is not inspiring.  This is not cool.  This is irresponsible and dangerous.

This sign to me represents a culture where we learn to ignore the signals our bodies send as we work out.  This is about a culture of masochism, where the more pain and agony you endure during a workout, the closer you bring your body to the edge of absolute destruction during a workout, the better.  And as an exercise teacher this makes me absolutely crazy.  Because, the messages you receive from your body are the most important line of defense, the most important tool you could possibly use to keep yourself safe as you work out.

I don’t want to scare you.  Most people work out safely most of the time.  But there ARE risks associated with exercise.  If you have an underlying heart condition,  you are more likely to face a heart attack while working out than you are in your bed.  If you have issues with low blood sugar, they are more likely to surface when you are strenuously exercising.  If you are at risk for stroke, this is more likely to be an issue when you are taking an exercise class than when you are reading a book.  Again, the vast majority of the time, the vast majority of people exercise safely.  But when things do go wrong, they are often preceded by warning signs like excess sweating and severe exhaustion and shortness of breath and dizziness.  These are not indicators of a great workout.  These are indicators of a problem.  Exercisers ignore these symptoms at their own peril.

fatchickchirps.002-002As a fitness instructor, I remind my students over and over and over again that they must learn to listen to their own bodies.  I do everything I can to watch for visible warning signs and symptoms among my students.  But the first and most important line of defense is for them to recognize warning signs in themselves.  They will probably feel dizzy long before I sense that they look dizzy.  Therefore, it’s my job to create an environment where they feel safe caring for themselves.  Every time a new person comes to my class we have a ritual.  I ask my long standing students to help me.  I shout out, “What happens if you get the choreography wrong?”  My students reply, “Nothing!  It doesn’t matter!”  I shout out, “What if it hurts when I do this?”  They answer, “Stop doing it!”  I ask, “Who’s class is this?”  My students answer, “MY Class!”

I then remind the students that it is okay for them to modify any move that isn’t working for them and to ask for help if they need it.  I give them a “safety move” like gently marching in place they should feel free to do when they get stuck.  And I remind them that they can feel free to use any of the sturdy chairs located throughout the room to do a movement or even just rest in a chair whenever they feel they need to.  I work VERY hard to create an exercise space where my students feel emotionally safe doing whatever they need to do to take care of themselves.

fatchickchirps.004-002Although creating this emotionally safe space helps my students feel good about themselves, I don’t do it for that reason alone.  I do it to keep them physically safe as well.  A class culture based on “no pain no gain”, where students are discouraged to tough it out and not take care of themselves is risky and can be downright dangerous.  Teaching students to ignore the messages their bodies are sending is the absolute LAST thing we should do.

fatchickchirps.003-002I want students in my class to look different from one another.  A class where students are modifying moves and resting from time to time and approaching the movement in different ways is good and healthy.  It means the class is challenging enough for the more advanced students to get something out of it while being a safe place for less advanced students to increase strength, stamina and agility–gently and gradually.  It means everybody is working at their own pace and having a good time.  Which is as it should be.  When students come to me and tell me that they are in pain, that is a signal for me to make some changes to my class.  How can I teach that move differently?  How can I make sure everybody is working at their own pace?  How can I remind the students about body alignment and positioning to make them less likely to get hurt?  How can I make my class better?

As I have stated before, this is why it is often best to just watch the first time you encounter a new class.  Don’t wait until after you are in the middle of a testosterone-fueled judgement festival to determine that a class might not be for you.  Don’t put yourself in a situation where you might let embarrassment push you into hurting yourself–perhaps permanently.  Watch and learn.  If your gut tells you that this is a judgement zone that is not emotionally safe–then walk away.  If the class isn’t emotionally safe for you, it’s not safe.  Period.

We tell people that exercise should hurt and feel awful.  We tell them that listening to their own bodies is wrong and that they should push it until they puke.  We tell them that getting injured is a sign of their own weakness and that real exercisers don’t let sprains or stress fractures stop them.  THEN we wonder why half the world doesn’t exercise.

Fugeddabout it!

Find a way that your body loves to move and do that.  When it stops feeling good, and it starts to hurt, then stop.  Forever and ever, Amen.

Love,

Jeanette DePatie (AKA The Fat Chick)

Advertisements

How the tortise stayed out of the emergency room and still beat that hare.

So my dear reader, it can’t have escaped your attention that it’s a new year.  I’ve talked about it and written about it and recorded movies about it.  And it’s no wonder.  The new year is a time fraught with peril for many of us.  On the one hand, many of us face the danger of what I call the “big fat cycle”.   We are drawn in by the gazillions of weight-loss ads and new years resolution frenzy into a cycle of panic and body hatred, followed by weight loss fantasy and unrealistic expectations, followed by deprivation, guilt, defeat and despair.

But even when we are able to move past this “big fat cycle” of panic, fantasy and despair, we are still in grave danger of allowing our enthusiasm to run away with us.  Just because we manage to shun weight loss messages, doesn’t mean that we are automatically immune to unrealistic expectations and are completely in tune with our bodies.  And it’s important not to be so loudly shouting body positive slogans at ourselves that we aren’t hearing what our bodies have to tell us.

As you probably know by now, I  am deeply committed to the notion that Every BODY Can Exercise.  I’ve just announced by Every BODY Can Exercise 12-week program.  And my dear friend Ragen Chastain and I have launched a series of virtual fitness events including a decathlon and a double decathlon on our Fit Fatties Forum.  And you know what, I am SO excited about both of these things.  And I’m so excited that so many of you are so excited about these things!

But, (and this is a biiiiiig but) I also want to council that we need to approach all of that excitement with a little bit of caution.  Because, without a little bit of care, this kind of excitement can land us in the waiting room of our nearest sports medicine specialist or even the hospital emergency room.  Which sucks.  Trust me, I know.


So, I’d like to take this moment to remind you, that life is a distance race and not a sprint.  And in this case, it often pays to take the role of the tortoise and not the hare.  By all means, get excited about exercise.  Come on out of your shell.  Start on down the track.  But let’s make sure that we are continuing to listen to our bodies as we engage in this process.  The phrase “no pain, no gain” needs to be stricken forever from our fitness lexicons.  Because as the hare well knows, pain often leads to temporary gain, followed by high hospital bills and a long recovery period.  Let’s take a page from the tortoise’s book and learn to check in with our bodies regularly.  Aches and minor pains can be very helpful tools to let us know when we have done too much too fast, or are exercising with improper equipment (like shoes or a bicycle that doesn’t fit properly), or are doing an exercise that isn’t right for our body at this particular moment.

Aches and pains often start as a whisper that progress right on to screaming when left unattended.  It’s best to catch these messages “on the whisper”.  Because once you get to the screaming point, you may find yourself seriously injured and have to put your fitness dreams on hold for quite a while.

Look, I don’t want to be a “Debbie Downer”.  I don’t want to rain on your parade, or “pee in your pool”.  But I do want you to just take a moment as you charge towards your fitness goals in 2014 to choose the way of the tortoise.  It is often the very fastest way there.  See you at the finish line (eventually).

Love,  Jeanette DePatie (AKA The Fat Chick)

P.S. It’s not too late to join me for my 2014 Every BODY Can Exercise program.  Enrollment will remain open until midnight on January 12, 2014.  And enrollment is still wide open for the Virtual Events program on the Fit Fatties Forum.  So start today (but not toooooo fast!)