Pride Goes Before an Exercise Injury

You know that saying, “Pride goes before a fall”? Well, many times, pride also goes before an exercise injury. Ego is the one of the major reasons why people get hurt when they work out. I believe this wholeheartedly not only because I have seen it for myself in the fourteen years that I have been a fitness professional but also because “I have been there and done that”. All of us have a bit of insecurity (which is actually the real reason for pride) so there are times when we do stupid things like lift more weight than we should or try to turn ourselves into a human pretzel just because our yoga classmate can do it.

One of the reasons why I hurt my shoulder back in the 80s was wanting to impress my male gym classmates with how much a small woman like me could lift (the other reasons were wrong technique, risky exercises, and denial about the pain). Talk about dumb. But people do dumb things when their ego is involved. Men want to impress other men with how much iron they can pump even if they are almost collapsing under the weight they are carrying. Women want to impress other women with how flexible they are even though their muscles are already shaking.

Having a competitive streak might win you medals in sports but when it comes to plain old exercise, all you will gain is an injury. When I lived in Singapore for a short while, I thought my aerobics teacher was stuck-up and I felt she was challenging me to compete with her. Being young and foolish at that time, I fought fire with fire and almost sprained my ankle during one of her classes. Thank goodness nothing happened. I would have hurt myself because of some silly woman whose name I hardly even remember now.

recently met someone who overstretched her buttocks and hamstrings (back of the thighs) so badly during yoga that it took her two months to recover. When I mentioned to her that yoga is supposed to be about non-competition and not comparing yourself with anyone else, she said she wasn’t competing with anyone else in the class, just herself. That’s the problem. You can be your worst enemy.

Some people would rather “die” than admit that they are no longer as fit or as young as they used to be. That’s why you hear stories about men tearing their knees to pieces because they tried to play a fast game of basketball even though they hadn’t stepped foot on a court for ten years. Aerobic teachers will tell you that women who haven’t done aerobics in years will insist on joining the advanced classes because “they are used to doing aerobics”.

There must be some kind of stigma attached to the word “beginner” because there are so many people who refuse to accept the fact that they don’t have the skill, strength, or stamina to do advanced exercise programs. How many times have I heard our front desk staff trying to dissuade a beginner from joining the advanced kickboxing class or heard our gym staff trying to convince a beginner that he or she cannot do the exercises they want because they just aren’t experienced enough to do them safely. The kindest thing you can say about these foolhardy people is that even though they are too proud to be in the beginner classes, they don’t mind looking uncoordinated in the midst of their advanced classmates.

There are four abdominal muscles that form a multi-layered multi- directional girdle around the trunk. The most obvious to the naked eye, the rectus abdominis or the “six-pack” muscle, runs vertically down the middle of your abdomen. It was this muscle that Francis focused on during the study. The traditional crunch or half sit-up was used as the standard upon which to compare the intensity of the other exercises.

Meanwhile, some people are so scared of looking foolish that they never want to learn a new exercise skill. Thus, they end up doing the same thing year after year. This is too bad because they could get better results by cross training or mixing their exercise programs. Also, they run the risk of inflicting an overuse injury on themselves because their muscles and joints keep getting stressed the same way.

Another way that pride can get in the way of safety is when people refuse to be corrected by their fitness trainers. It doesn’t just happen in the gym I work in. My colleagues in the industry tell me that it happens at their gyms too. Some clients actually get angry at having their exercise technique corrected. I find this amazing because they are paying for the instruction and yet they act like they know more than the instructor. This makes me wonder if it happens in other teaching industries too. For example, do people who hire an art teacher get mad when the teacher makes corrections in their painting technique?

Just like there are fashion trend victims, there are also exercise trend victims. Not all exercise programs are safe for you even if they are the latest trends. They may be fine for other people but not for you. For example, if you have flat feet and lower back problems, kickboxing just isn’t appropriate for you. I have a client like this and I have “banned” her from joining the kickboxing classes. Luckily, she is mature enough to accept her body’s unique needs and doesn’t feel like she has to prove anything to anyone. An exercise trend victim chooses his or her workout because it is trendy. It doesn’t matter whether the type of exercise agrees with their body or not. What’s important is that they feel “cool” and “with it” because they are doing the latest thing. Unfortunately, when a fashion trend victim makes a mistake, he or she simply ends up looking ridiculous but when an exercise trend victim makes a mistake, he or she could end up with an expensive medical bill. There are many step aerobics victims from the era when it was the absolute latest trend who are now walking around with ruined knees. We will soon hear of kickboxing, Pilates, and yoga victims. This is not because these exercise programs are bad. People who have physical limitations just shouldn’t do them in their advanced formats. As a yoga teacher once said, “There are no contraindicated exercises; just contraindicated people”.

Lastly, even if you have a mature ego, you can still get injured if you have an instructor with a false sense of pride. This types of trainers don’t care too much about your safety. They are more concerned with being popular and showing off that they know the latest exercise techniques. How will you recognize them? When you complain that the exercise they gave you hurts your lower back or makes your knees painful, they will tell you “no pain, no gain” implying that you are a wimp. If you come across an instructor like this, run far away. It’s bad enough that you have to be careful that your own ego doesn’t get the better of you. You don’t need the extra stress of having to defend yourself from an ego-tripping fitness trainer.

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