Monday is Kettlebell Day. I wake up early and drag my trusty 25-pound weight to the gym with me, where I do that month's set of exercises. I love having my own kettlebell--they're really effective, and they can be used for a lot of great exercises. The gym locks up their kettlebells so they don't disappear. I've borrowed one from my friend Matt a time or two...but it's just easier for me to have my own.
Last week, I hauled my kettlebell into the locker room for a few minutes so I could lock my purse and gym bag up before heading out to get sweaty. I set it on a bench while I popped in to use the bathroom. When I came out again, a lady I see almost every time I'm at the gym was there. We have chatted a little in the past, so I smiled and said hello.
Then she opened her mouth.
"You know...you really want to be careful with that," she said, in response to my chipper greeting.
"Hmmm...yes, definitely," I said with a wee bit of an edge to my smile. Please, I thought. Let this be the end of this one.
She went on to tell me she had seen me doing kettlebell swings the week before, and how she is worried about my back.
"Ahh," I said, in that way I have of responding to people when my immediate instinct is to use rude words.
Apparently, she wasn't ready to stop, as she told me all about my arched back and improper form as I stood there wondering if it would be rude to push past her with my kettlebell in both hands. My smile was still frozen on my face as I nodded and said, "Mmm" and "Oh, of course I don't want to hurt myself" in a tone that clearly implied, "I'm not fucking hurting myself, lady. Go away."
She apologized for butting in, "but I just would hate to see you get hurt! You should try looking at yourself in the mirror when you do swings, and...[blah, blah, blah]."
"I understand!" I chirped, reaching for my kettlebell and slowly backing away. I was able to escape the locker room, and I headed out to the Stair Master, feeling chagrined.
And here's the thing: I kind of started to believe her. I mean, why would she say anything like that if there wasn't some basis of fact in it? So I spent ten minutes warming up on the Stair Master, noticing her on a treadmill nearby, and thinking, "Well, hell, am I doing this machine right?" When I finally got started on my kettlebell exercises, I felt self-conscious, as though everyone was starting at me, pitying me for trying to look like I know what I'm doing, dragging a damned kettlebell to the gym every Monday, then doing my exercises all wrong. I kept a wary eye out for my "helpful friend," but she never came my way again that morning.
Then I got mad again. As I focused on my swings, I felt my body's movement. It's an exercise that Matt taught me a couple of years ago, so I've been doing them for a while now. My back was straight, and my hips thrust forward, driving the kettlebell up high without any real work from my arms--as it's supposed to be.
Well, if I've learned anything, it's that if I'm in doubt, I can ask Matt. So I did.
"Who said that?"
"Not a trainer."
The look on his face spoke volumes.
"She said you arch your back? Not hunch?"
"Yeah, she said arch."
Another *look* from Matt.
"I've seen you do your swings, and they're fine."
And that is something I trust--Matt has never hesitated to correct me if he sees a form issue.
"I suppose what she thought was an arched back was my rear end sticking out." Matt nodded at this. "I mean, I do have a booty." Bless the man, he's far too professional to comment on that one out loud.
"I was starting to feel really self-conscious. I hate that."
This prompted a smile from Mr. Reasonable. He reached one hand up to his shoulder and slowly brushed it off.
"Brush it off?"
So I did.
Still, one thing bugged me. When I'm at the gym, I'm largely in my zone, especially when I'm actually exercising. I don't really pay a ton of attention to other people beyond the expected courtesies of staying out of someone's way when they're working out, and being respectful about sharing equipment. Of course I notice people in that general, "Ooh, he's hot" or "Yikes how does she stand wearing her hair down as she works out?!" way. And I do, on occasion, notice people doing things in a way I might not.
Who am I to say they're wrong? I'm not a trainer. I'm fairly experienced at working out, because I had a couple of really great trainers teach me how to--especially Matt, who insisted on safety and form above all else. Yet I still don't believe I am qualified to walk up to anyone at the gym to correct them. I suppose if I saw someone trying to lift a heavy weight with their back rather than their knees, I might go to the nearest available trainer and whisper something, so they could handle it. I figure most people will be more receptive to a red trainer shirt telling them their form is wrong, than me, no matter how nice my intentions.
As for SwingGate, I suppose this lady meant well, and really thought she knew best in this one. However, it's none of her business, and if she talks to me again in future, I will never trust anything she says.