I like exercise.
I haven’t always liked it, and I have written about why. I am far from being an athletic person, but going to yoga and barre and running occasionally are fun and contribute to my overall feeling good.
I have also observed a noticeable shift from how fitness instructors introduce themselves. Instead of drill sergeant attitude, instructors in the places I go to tell you to listen to your body, don’t overstretch yourself and do what’s good for you. THANK YOU. More of that, really.
The other great shift- no more talk about bikini bodies or tank top arms or whatever. Keep that up!
Yet, there are still so many phrases that I hear with regularity, and that bother me to no end:
- “you can do this, it’s mind over matter”- I hear this regularly in hot yoga circles, but I have also heard this in barre classes. It’s not. Trust me. When you have a chronic illness that can strike at any time, your mind is pretty helpless. Moreover, it makes those who end up not holding the pose, or not doing the flow feel like utter shit.
- “This is your space- it is disconnected from everything that is going on in your life”. First off- I paid to be here. Second, nothing is disconnected from my life- if I am in that room, this is part of my life.
- “Your vibe attracts your tribe”- White people, please stop using the word tribe. Unless you’re Native American or belong to an indigenous group, use a different word. Also, it’s your socio-economic standing, your gender, and ethnicity that attracts your social circle.
- connected to this, telling me that if I smile, my endorphins will kick in and I will feel less bad about my problems. Has anyone ever thought about those people in fitness classes suffering from depression? How they will feel if told that they should just smile a bit more?
- “Things are as they are, it’s your attitude that needs to change”- again, this may be true when you’ve had a bad day. Not when you’re dealing with long term health problems of any sort.
- giving nutrition advice as if there was a one fits all formula. You don’t know about the food allergies, chronic diseases and conditions the people in your exercise class, so stop telling everybody which foods are good for you.
- spouting new age nonsense such as “breathe into each of your organs”, “let your brain get heavy”, “this will strengthen your bone density”. This is not how any of these things work.
- “the pain you feel today will be the stretch you feel tomorrow.” Well, or I’ll be too sore to move. *shrug emoji*
- and in connection with this, stop selling exercise as this magical cure for all ailments.
I am at a point where I just ignore phrases like this, but really, if any fitness instructor is reading this, think about whether you want to use these phrases. I know you have all the good intentions in the world, that’s why you got into this job in the first place. But phrases like that are rooted in health privilege and they alienate those of us who are not chronically healthy. Plus, a few of the things are just factually wrong. They make us feel like we are less deserving to be there, and they make us feel misunderstood. Again, most instructors that I have encountered have been great and friendly and supportive, but it only takes one bad apple.