The Group Fitness Customer Bill of Rights and Responsibilities
Take one look at the ACSM trends for the past decade and you’ll see one mega trend that stands out from all others - group fitness is all the rage. Whether it’s CrossFit, boot camps, or high-intensity interval training classes, group training is here to stay.
The advantages to group training are plentiful. High-level coaching at a fraction of the cost of a one-on-one trainer. Lots of high energy, accountability, and support. Plus, nothing quite pushes you like the competitive nature of a group of your peers. Contrasted with the prospect of spending an hour on the treadmill by yourself or paying a monthly mortgage payment for a trainer, group fitness seems like a no brainer.
"Group fitness is not like going to Burger King where you get it your way. If there are twenty other people in class, odds are some of them like what you don’t."
But what about the disadvantages? What about that annoying guy in your class who’s there to pick up on the ladies? What about those two irritating women who use their time in class to chat away and catch up on the latest gossip? What about overpriced, overcrowded, and unsafe fitness programs? What is the proper group class etiquette and just what exactly are your rights and responsibilities as a participant of group fitness?
Here is a breakdown of what you should expect and what you should be expected of you when it comes to group fitness.
The Group Fitness Bill of Rights and Responsibilities
You have a right to expect top-level coaching, classes that start and end on time, and professionalism on behalf of those who administer your fitness. You pay good money for fitness, yoga, Zumba, and what have you. That money should earn you a top-notch product. There are simply too many fitness entities out there for you to not expect the most for your dollar. If you’re not getting great coaching from a fitness professional, go find one.
You have a right to a well-regulated and safe fitness environment. Your fitness studio should have nationally certified trainers and coaches. All of them should provide safe and effective routines. Everyone who administers and supports your fitness should be CPR and first aid certified and their priority should your safety, health, and wellness. Some states also require by law that fitness facilities have an AED on site. Inquire at your gym or studio as to their safety standards and practices and accept nothing less than safety first at all times.
You should not do any fitness routine without your own consent and that of your doctor. Your consent means knowing what you can and can’t or should and shouldn’t do in terms of exercise. If you go to a restaurant and overeat, that is on you, not the restaurant. CrossFit gets a bad reputation for being unsafe, and certainly some CrossFit proprietors could do a better job of prequalifying their participants, but honestly, if you jack yourself up at CrossFit, that’s your fault, not theirs. Unless you were given unsafe and/or improper instruction, it’s up to you to know your limits. CrossFit and high-intensity training are advanced modalities of exercise - enter at your own risk.
You have the right to not have your space, time, and attention violated. In a group setting, everyone should be afforded equal respect and attention. The Chatty Cathys and Douchey Dudes need to be put in their place, told to shut up, and told to do work. Group fitness serves one primary purpose - to get you more fit. Disruptions and disrespectful participants should not be tolerated or allowed. Social time is for after class. End of story. In my HIIT training, boxing, or fitness classes, I tell my students politely, yet firmly that there is no talking unless you have a question. You are there to work. Period.
You have the right not to be pressured, bullied, or pushed to do something you don’t feel comfortable doing. Even in advanced and specialized training, you should have the right to participate and go at your own speed and level. You should never feel pressured to spar if you do martial arts. You should never feel pressured to jump if you have bad knee and you do HIIT training. All participants should work hard, bring their “A” game, and show up to do work, but they should do that work at their own level. Respect should be afforded to all.
You do not have the right to a customized workout in a group setting. You don’t like the music an instructor plays or the exercises programmed for the class? Well, then you have the choice to leave and/or not go back. Group fitness is not like going to Burger King where you get it your way. If there are twenty other people in class, odds are some of them like what you don’t. If you want it your way all the time, suck it up and pay for a personal trainer or specialized coach.
You have the responsibility to prepare yourself for training. That means fueling and hydrating properly. That means not wearing shoes that are two years old. That means having the proper attire. That means taking a shower and having proper hygiene when you are exercising in public. When you fail to prepare and/or present yourself properly for an exercise class you are potential liability and the fitness instructor and the gym proprietor have the right to ask you to leave.
You have a right to not tolerate excessive fees, studios that nickel and dime you, or businesses that use pressure sales tactics. There is no place for pressure sales in the fitness world. True fitness professionals should act like doctors. That is, they should take an oath to do no harm and practice wellness, no matter what. Fitness is a business, but the integrity of sound practices in wellness comes first. If some slick salesperson pressures you, turn and walk away and find a fitness professional that will take care of you and respect your time and money.
You have the right to never be discriminated against and the responsibility to act the same way toward others. The most important word in fitness is respect. Respect toward self, respect toward your environment, respect toward others. When we help and work alongside those who are less fortunate, less fit, or less coordinated, everyone wins. Discrimination of any sort should never, under any circumstance, be tolerated.
The powers to change your life, get fit, and be well ultimately reside within you as the individual. If you aren’t getting the results you seek, first look in the mirror and give yourself an honest assessment. Are you doing everything you can do?
Health is your most valuable possession, and while your employer, government, and fitness facility should be resources in helping you achieve better fitness, your long-term results will come down to how bad you want it and how hard you’re willing to work.
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