Generally speaking, it's bad form to walk out in the middle of a fitness class. For one, you paid good money to attend, so ducking out early is a bit like setting money on fire. Also, the benefits of exercise only exist if you, you know, actually exercise.
And finally, it's just disruptive and rude. Everyone notices, including the instructor, which can throw them off their game. Don't be the jerk who screws with everyone else's workout for the sake of answering a phone call or chatting with a friend. Trust me, it can wait 'til the end of class.
There are a few situations, however, where walking out of a class is understandable, and in some cases, downright appropriate. Don't hesitate to get up and leave in any of the following circumstances.
You're legit about to pass out
No one wants you to pass out or vomit all over your spin bike. For lots of reasons. (Can you imagine the smell of vomit mixed with sweat in a poorly ventilated cycling studio? Woah.)
If you're feeling shaky, nauseated, dehydrated, or lightheaded, stop what you're doing and take a water break. If that doesn't help, leave class and walk around slowly or sit down to try to recover. Nikki Ferguson, a teacher from Tennessee, admits she's had to leave class a couple times during hot and intense workouts, "Once was a spinning class in college. The other time was in a really hot yoga class. I ended up going back in, but I needed to cool off."
Trust me, everyone will understand. Just signal to your instructor that you need water as you leave the room.
Your instructor is abusive in any way
Sadly, some fitness instructors are giant jackasses. You should never feel awkward or guilty about telling someone their behavior is unacceptable by leaving the room.
For instance, Kris Olsen, a business owner and avid runner from Ohio, admits she wishes she would have left a class where the trainer felt it necessary to comment on her ass as she was taking a break. He said, "If you don't want that ass, you better get off that ass and back to training." She finished the workout, but never went back.
Angela VanBrackle, a community development manager for the National MS Society, had a similar experience, "I went to a beginner yoga class, and the instructor was yelling at people for not taking the sanctity of yoga seriously; for not trying hard enough to master the poses. Then, she put the class on hold to yell at someone quietly stretching in the back of the room. It was the most awkward and un-zen yoga class I've ever experienced."
Fitness instructors use many tactics to elicit a response from their clients, but that doesn't give them the right to embarrass or bully someone in front of a class. If it happens, leave, and if you can, file a formal complaint about the instructor to their superiors.
Your classmates are total jerks
I'm not talking about the kind of people who are a little bit cliquey with their workout friends and simply don't go out of their way to include you. I'm talking about the types who harness their inner Mean Girls and make a point of harassing or ignoring you to the point of obvious shunning.
Lillian M., a self-proclaimed "faceless bureaucrat" for the US government, shares one such experience, "I got there before class started, so I sat on my mat, while the other people (who all knew each other) socialized amongst themselves and gave me major side-eye. I tried striking up a conversation, but no one was interested in talking to the new girl. It was capped off by the instructor looking at me like I had just walked out of a UFO and saying, 'Oh, you're new,' before turning around and not speaking to me again."
Exercise is supposed to be fun, or at least not awful, especially if you're shelling out big bucks to participate. While I'd suggest trying to stick it out if you can, don't feel bad about leaving if the experience feels toxic, and don't hesitate to ask for a refund.
Some idiot oversold the space
Sure, a business is a business, and packed classes are the Holy Grail for fitness studios, but there's an upper limit to how packed a class should be. If you can't move around without running into another participant, not only is the experience terrible, but it can actually be dangerous. No one wants to get kicked during kickboxing or goosed during Warrior III.
And if your complaints to the gym owner aren't addressed, it's time to find a new gym. Kim Prytherch, a mom and blogger from South Carolina, walked out of a Zumba class a few times due to overcrowding, and when she mentioned it to the owner, he justified it by saying, "I'm a businessman and I'm not turning anyone away who's willing to pay."
Well, that was shortsighted, because she quit the gym. Smart move, Kim, smart move.
Your instructor doesn't instruct
In group fitness classes you can't expect constant one-on-one attention and feedback -- it's just not realistic. What you can expect is an instructor who models correct form and provides personalized corrections to students throughout the class to ensure each move is as safe as possible. If your instructor models bad form or fails to help students fix common exercise mistakes, what good are they? You might as well just exercise at home.
You're responding to a real-life emergency
This should be obvious! If you get a 911 text from your mom saying she's fallen and can't get up, you should grab your bag and hightail it to the door. Emergencies are always legit reasons to get up and go, so you should never feel guilty about taking off. That said, let the receptionist know you're leaving for a personal emergency so the instructor won't get a complex about their teaching ability.
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