Dumb Things You Should Not Do in a Gym
Part One

Last weekís column must have struck a familiar chord among readers. I received many anecdotes about accidents or arguments due to cell phone use in the gym. Using a cell phone while exercising is not the only dumb thing that you can do when working out. Here is a list of other dumb things that you should not do in a gym. As you will see, common sense is sometimes not so common.

Be secretive about a medical condition
You can exercise even if you have a medical condition like hypertension, diabetes or osteoporosis but the fitness staff have to be aware of it so they can design a safe program for you or refer you to another health professional who is more qualified to take care of you.

Keeping quiet about a medical condition is a very stupid and dangerous thing to do so why do some people do it? One reason is they are in denial about their condition and donít like telling others about it. Another reason is they are scared that the gym will not accept them.

Equally dumb is to stop medication for your condition without telling your doctor or the fitness staff. If your doctor changes your medication, you should also inform your trainer because some medicines can change the way your body responds during exercise.

Be absent-minded on a treadmill
Of all the cardiovascular machines available in a gym, electronic treadmills are the machines you should have the most respect for. They have powerful motors that drive the belt that moves under you. That moving belt can unceremoniously throw you off in a split second if you are absent-minded. For example, we had a client who bent down to tie his shoelaces and was totally surprised when the treadmill threw him off. Another lady bent down to pick up a water bottle that had fallen, lost her balance, and fell off.

It is dangerous not to know where the emergency stop button is. That button is exactly what it says it is for Ė an emergency. Like if you develop a cramp in your calf. You should also wear your glasses if you canít see the control panel buttons clearly. We had a lady who kept pressing the wrong buttons so the treadmill sped up faster than she could handle. She could not see the stop button and forgot that she could straddle jump on top of the side foot panels. She was in a panic as she was hanging on to the handrails for dear life and shouting at the top of her lungs for help.

Lastly, donít leave a treadmill running if you have to go to the bathroom or answer a phone call. An unsuspecting person might hop on thinking that the treadmill is turned off and fall right on their face.

Be a know-it-all
Some people act like they are experts in fitness or nutrition when they are not. Truly, a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing. Itís bad enough that they donít want to listen to trained fitness instructors and run the risk of hurting themselves with unsafe exercise techniques but they also tell others in the gym what to do. So they donít just hurt themselves with their know-it-all attitude, they also risk hurting others.

It is totally irresponsible to convince others in the gym to take diet pills or weight loss supplements. It is reckless because you donít know what underlying medical conditions people might have that might endanger their lives if they take the supplements you are recommending.

For example, diet pills containing stimulants like ephedrine can be deadly for people who have high blood pressure. Many people donít even know they have hypertension because they donít have the symptoms, which is why the condition has been called the ďsilent killerĒ.

Be gullible
It is just as dumb to be so gullible that you fall hook, line, and sinker for testimonials from gym classmates about exercises or supplements. Just because a specific exercise program or supplement ďworkedĒ for your classmate, doesnít mean that it will work for you. It might even hurt you.

Always check with a trained fitness instructor about exercise programs and with a nutritionist or doctor about supplements. At the very least, find out all you can about the supplement from the Internet or other reliable resource material. The only one responsible for protecting your health is you.

Be careful too about listening to supplement advice from fitness trainers. It is outside the ethical boundaries of fitness professionals to recommend supplements for weight loss or performance. I am not talking about established nutritional guidelines from health organizations like advice to take 1,000 mg. of calcium for pre-menopausal women or to reduce saturated fat in the diet. That kind of advice is okay for fitness professionals to dispense. Whatís not okay is advice to take supplements that contain stimulants, laxatives, diuretics, or unproven herbal concoctions. Always keep in mind the famous but sad case of Anne Marie Capati, a New Yorker with mild hypertension, who had been taking an herbal weight loss supplement containing ephedrine and caffeine for three months before she died of a stroke while working out in the gym. Guess who recommended the supplement to her? Her personal trainer.

Exercise with pain
Here is something dumb that I have done myself in the past. The result? A shoulder injury that haunted me for years and now restricts me from doing certain activities. The reason behind this dumb behavior is a fear that you will be told to stop exercising and you will lose all your hard-earned weight loss or muscle definition. Recently, a friend was told by her physical therapist to stop doing upper body exercises for a while because of a nagging elbow tendonitis problem. Her reaction? A fear that her triceps would turn to mush during the rest and rehab period. Luckily, she listened to reason (I scared her into following her therapistís advice) and she is now back to her regular exercise routine.

Some people just deny that they are in pain and continue to exercise until the pain is so bad that they have to go see a doctor. By then, what should have been a simple problem has turned into a chronic condition that requires a long rehabilitation process. So in the end, the thing they feared the most (stopping exercise) becomes an absolute necessity. The smart thing to do is listen to your body. If something hurts, stop. Find out why. It could be something as simple as easing up on the intensity of the exercise, a minor correction in technique, or changing your shoes.

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