Surrounded by dozens of other sweaty bodies, timer ticking down, and an incredibly fit, impossibly good looking instructor yelling instructions at you – now seems like the worst possible time to raise your hand and ask a question. After all, you’re interrupting the flow of class, not to mention you don’t want to look like an idiot among all the seasoned vets that populate your class.
However, asking your fitness class instructor questions helps you get the most out of your workout, which is something both you and your instructor want. Your instructor is happy to answer your questions so that you get the best performance possible out of yourself. Here are five questions to ask your fitness instructor during your next class.
1. How can I modify this exercise?
After my fall marathon, I experienced knee pain whenever I tried to run (shocking, right?). That meant that some of my favorite workouts had to be adjusted somewhat, especially when I attended classes at HIIT studios like Crosstown Fitness. Luckily, by asking the instructors what I could do instead of treadmill sprints, I was able to trade out elements of the workout that would have injured me further for adapted exercises I could do alongside the class (I gained a whole new appreciation for the row machine during this time).
If you have an injury or a specific movement gives you pain, ask your instructor right away how you can modify the exercise. Often, when they’re explaining the workout, instructors will offer a few modifications of the exercise to accommodate all fitness levels, and they’ll be happy to make their workout accessible for your particular situation.
2. Is my form right?
You might be swinging kettle bells as hard as you possibly can, but if your form is off, you’re wasting your workout. Correct form is important for all exercises, but it’s especially crucial for movements like kettle bell swings, dead lifts and free weight exercises, where improper form could injure you.
Similarly, barre, Pilates and yoga classes all require you to pay close attention to your form in order to get the full burn. Ever been to a barre class, tucking away merrily and thinking “Hey, this isn’t so bad after all,” only to have an instructor come up behind you and gently press your hips under an inch more? It’s a game changer, and it’ll ramp up your workout right away.
Even if you consider yourself a fitness pro, it never hurts to ask an instructor for a form check. You might find that you’ve gotten a little complacent in your movements, and a slight adjustment can make a world of difference.
3. Where should I be feeling this?
Sure, with some exercises, this is easy; it’s called a bicep curl for a reason, after all. However, it’s not always obvious what muscles a certain move is meant to work (see: every barre class I ever attended from 2011-2012, in which I never properly learned what it meant to “tuck”).
Again, your instructor will probably tell your class what parts of the body each movement is meant to work, but ask if you’re not sure. Your instructor might adjust your form as a result.
4. How can I take this exercise to the next level?
If you find yourself coasting through certain sections of class and barely breaking a step, it’s time to add a new challenge to that movement. When that happens, ask your fitness instructor for a level-up. You might find yourself going from regular push-ups to plyo pushups, or a good old-fashioned plank to plank walks. It also might be miserable for a little while, but challenging yourself this way is the only way to get better. As I’ve heard many a fitness instructor say, you have to make the uncomfortable, comfortable in order to improve. Before you know it, you’ll be moving up another level.
5. What should I do for recovery?
Make sure that you’re getting the proper recovery for your workout by asking your fitness instructor. A hot yoga class will require you to hydrate extra well for the rest of the day, while a tough HIIT class could require 15 minutes of foam rolling and light stretching. If you have any particular muscle injuries, make sure your instructor knows about that as well so they can give you helpful advice.
There’s no such thing as a stupid question, especially when it comes to your health and your workout. Swallow your pride and ask your instructor any of these questions to get the most out of your fitness class – chances are, you’ll feel the burn even more after a few simple questions.