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Fitness is a Group Sport!
Group fitness classes have many valuable and worthwhile characteristics:
- We meet new people and make friends.
- We share a fun experience with a friend.
- We can share ideas, talk about the weather, enjoy being together.
- Exercising together is just more fun than doing it alone.
- We might enjoy after-class coffee or conversation with other participants.
- A strong professional relationship can develop between participants and instructors, learning from and helping each other.
Combined with these advantages are the simple, obvious ones: You are working out and getting fit, taking care of your health, and feeling good about yourself.
So what could possibly be distracting? What bothers people the most? Here are the five most common complaints I hear from group fitness participants (although I don't hear them often). 2
#1: Invading Personal Space
People do like their chosen space — whether it be in front, in back, to the right, to the left, in front of the mirror, or away from the mirror, near a window or away from a window, close to a fan or as far away as possible.
Although no spot is reserved, if someone arrives early and picks out their space, it is assumed that that is now their space for that class. If someone else comes in and wants that same space, unfortunately, some people just move in too close and the person who was there first is forced to move away.
Recommendation: Whatever spot you choose, make sure that you are not too close to another person who is already "planted" in their spot. Find your own space and don't invade others.
#2: Bumping into each other
Once you have marked out your territory, it's yours, but if someone decides to stand too close to you, you still may run into each other, especially during the cardiovascular exercise portion of the class. If the class is crowded, this becomes even more difficult. The only answer is constant vigilance. If everyone is alert, bumping into each other won't happen often.
No one intentionally bumps into someone else, so both people can treat the collision in a spirit of fun and respect.
Recommendation: While exercising, you have to be aware of where you are in relationship to others. Stay alert and watch where others are.
The West End Community Centre has just recently added a policy that tickets will not be sold ten minutes after the class begins. There's a reason for that — latecomers cause a disturbance and miss out on important activities and announcements.
On the surface, it would seem that arriving late only affects the person who is late — they are the ones who have missed the warm-up or other preliminary activities. But participants who arrive late do indeed affect the rest of the class.
For some, it doesn't matter if the person is one-minute, five minutes, or twenty minutes late. The tardy participant simply disturbs the positioning for everyone — not to mention the disturbance of getting equipment while the rest of the class is exercising.
However, that same person will also try to "fit" into a space that isn't particularly right for them. Imagine if you arrive early, choose a spot, and begin class comfortably, knowing that you have a clear view of the instructor and enough room around you to move. Then, a late arrival steps into your space and you can no longer see the instructor, or feel that you have as much space to move around.
In chair exercise classes, tardiness can also be an issue. Chairs are set up so that everyone can see the instructor. Unfortunately, some people move the chairs (especially people who come late) without a thought for whether they have just moved their chair in the way of another participant.
Sometimes being late cannot be helped — and everyone understands that — but chronic tardiness is not appreciated by most others in the group.
Recommendation: Don't be late. If you do arrive late, be discreet. Get your equipment quietly and choose a spot that is not going to block someone else's view or crowd into their space.
#4: Wearing Perfume or Having Body Odour
Many people are bothered by the smell of perfume. It may be an allergy to the scent — or their allergies may cause a sensitivity to it. (You could also argue that it's simply a waste of perfume. Why wear it in fitness class?)
When we exercise and sweat, perfume becomes even more noticeable. So fitness classes are no-perfume zones for some very real reasons.
Sometimes participants complain to me that another participant has a body odour — sweat from exercising. One can only hope that that person can find a deodorant that will help, but there is a certain level of tolerance people need to have when they are exercising in a room with a lot of people.
Recommendation: Don't wear perfume, but do use a good deodorant.
#5: To Use a Fan or Not...To Open a Window or Not
This is a problem that usually occurs only in the summer, and complaints can come from either side: there are participants who request a fan and there are participants who want no fan blowing on them. The compromise is to keep the fan low and not pointing at anyone — especially anyone who hates the fan!
The same principle can be applied to those who want to open or close a window. Be sure that the people nearby are ok with your choice.
Recommendation: If you feel that you need to use a fan to keep cool, ask the instructor and the surrounding participants if you can use it and where they would prefer the air to be blowing. Another way to deal with it is to stand near a window.
Recommendations Everyone Can Follow
Let's go over those recommendations one more time:
- Arrive early and choose your spot. Avoid being late whenever possible.
- Be aware of your space while exercising; if you are late, avoid crowding into a spot.
- Keep a reasonable distance from others.
- Don't wear perfume, but wear a good deodorant that works for you.
- Ask before turning on a fan and be sure that the people around you are ok with it being on. The same courtesy applies to opening or closing a window; ask others nearby if they're ok with your decision, whichever it is.
Your group fitness experience will be more rewarding and beneficial if you can remember that these behaviours will separate you from the others and, potentially, cause you to leave. It's possible for everyone to enjoy class. Sometimes compromises are necessary.
I am a BCRPA-certified fitness instructor in Vancouver, BC. I teach four classes at the West End Community Centre in Vancouver, BC, mostly designed for the older adult. The Inevitable Disclaimer: Everything published here expresses only my opinion, based on my training and research. What you do with the information is entirely your own responsibility. I am not liable for any injury you suffer that seems to be related to anything you read here. Always consult your doctor before beginning an exercise program. For other articles, return to the table of contents.