Let me start off by saying I’m not a fitness instructor, and I certainly do not claim to have perfect form on every exercise I perform. I watch YouTube videos for the most part to learn the correct way, as there are plenty of fitness channels with qualified instructors giving detailed instructions and various camera angles for me to learn from. So is it possible that I could be making a few mistakes on form? Of course it is. But is it okay for a random stranger (who is not a personal trainer) to come up to me and correct my form? Absolutely not. Especially not in the way this person went about it.
Most days I try to go to the gym with someone, and not alone. I don’t like being approached by strangers, but when alone, it happens. I don’t use headphones at the gym because it closes me off from my surroundings. I don’t like to be surprised while supporting heavy weights or doing a difficult exercise. Not wearing headphones also results in strangers wanting to make casual conversation with me, and that’s fine, as long as I am not in the middle of doing reps.
However, on this particular day, it was just me by myself. I’m at one of the machines, sitting up straight, back flat up against the seat. I’m even looking at the picture on the machine to ensure my feet are in proper position. I begin doing reps, and a man stops me and engages me in conversation… he tells me my elbows aren’t in the right place, and proceeds to put his hands on my arms to “show me”… I don’t want to be rude, or make a scene, so I just go with it, as I am quietly seething in anger upon being touched without my permission… by a stranger. I ask if he is one of the personal trainers, and he says no. I thought that would politely give him the hint that he had no business interrupting me in the first place, but it backfires. He goes on to say, he not only is not a trainer, but he just started going to the gym… and asks when I usually come to work out. I answer with “it’s random times, but never at this time usually.” Then I pretended that was my last set, and walked to a different machine, thinking surely he won’t try to correct me on pull ups… And luckily he didn’t.
This could be looked at two ways: Either you see it as a kind stranger trying to help a rude young lady who doesn’t want to be corrected on her form… Or you see it as a female alone at a gym that rightfully requires permission before being touched by a random dude. Even though it was just my arms, it’s inconsiderate to assume it’s okay to touch someone anywhere on their body, unless you know them personally. If he had been an employee of the gym, a personal trainer, or an acquaintance of mine, I would have felt a little differently. Some people prefer to not be bothered at the gym because they are on a time limit, squeezing in their workout between jobs, etc. – so even if you don’t touch them to correct their form, stopping their workout to engage them in conversation is still very impolite.
So did he mean any harm? No. Did he know he was unwelcome when he came to correct my form? Probably not. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to help. Here’s what I recommend if you see someone doing an exercise wrong at the gym:
- Wait until they have stopped between reps.
- Say hello, and ask if you may offer some advice on the particular exercise they’re doing.
- Instead of touching their arms, or asking to touch them (cause let’s face it, that seems waaaaay creepy to ask to touch someone) Ask to get on the machine and show them the proper way using your own body as an example. You can even show them what they are doing wrong by imitating their position to show the difference.
The worst part was… the man’s advice wasn’t even right. I have a friend who is a personal trainer, and she said I was doing it right the whole time. I still think he genuinely wanted to be helpful, he just went about it the wrong way, and didn’t have the knowledge or experience to offer assistance.