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Readers Respond: How Do You Give Exercise Advice?

Responses: 19

By

Updated September 22, 2009

If you're an exercise enthusiast (or, as some people call us, fitness freaks), you probably find that people come to you for exercise advice. You may also feel tempted to give exercise advice, even when it isn't asked for. How do you encourage the people you love to exercise without turning them off? Is there a right way to give exercise advice? Share your tips for how to give exercise advice.

How I help myself

I have so many health issues:bipolar, GAD, non-diabetic neuropathy (basically chronic pain, esp. hands), more; but what I do to get my mind off myself & my troubles is volunteer in a support group for those w/mental health issues & most of them due to meds are overweight (I gained 50 lbs.). So I took under my wing a new young lady (26) just diagnosed w/bipolar I'm 60 & led her to the gym & explained how exercise is as important as medication & I needed someone, too, to be a support & motivation to show up at gym classes. So we are helping each other & I'm helping her cope w/the bipolar stuff & we are friends & can talk honestly about stuff that we "hide" due to stigma from others. Then since I am more financially stable & also having a wonderful, supportive husband of 40 yrs I've purchased a series of sessions w/a private trainer we do together. The exercise has been amazing in helping w/depression & even self-esteem (doing something that is hard for us). Working on diet.
—Guest Struggling

Be a Good Example

I have alot of overweight and unhealthy family and friends, but the only way they'll ever cahnge is if they find a reason to and see the fault in thier ways. They think its crazy that I eat healthily (and still have my chocolate!) and excersize but I think its crazy they don't. When they seek advice I am here to listen but you cant persuade someone who doesnt think they need help
—Guest Super Running girl

How to Give Exercise Advice

I give advice only if asked. It seems singularly obnoxious to approach a stranger and begin telling them that they ought to be walking, jogging, lifting, etc. If asked what I do, I tell them. If they say, 'oh I could never do that', I tell them that it is possible, if I did it anyone can, and, according to the situation, I have offered to help people either by working out with them or being someone they can counsel with. At the end of the day, advice is useless unless delivered to a willing listener. We all come to the different things in our lives at different times. And that requires a belief in yourself as to deserving something more, whether it is good health (through exercise and intake management), a family, greater work satisfaction or whatever it is in your life that you know needs strengthening.
—Guest Kim

Honesty

I have lost 60lbs over the last 3 years from running and watching what I eat. A lot of people ask me about running and my diet. I have started a blog to document my progress and keep me motivated.
—Guest Art

Don't tell people what they want to here

Most people want you to tell them that losing weight is easy. I have had some people tell me "thanks for being honest with me". Sometimes you will find that some people really don't want to take the necessary steps that they need to take to lose the weight. You have to have your mind set on the big picture of it all and not look at the small setbacks that will happen from time to time. If you messed up really bad one day...don't get so frustrated that you want to give up. Just make sure that you have learned from your mistake and make it a point to do better the next day. Losing weight and getting in shape is a process that anyone can master if they truly put their mind to it. There will be those times when you just want to give up - this is a time when you will truly find out what you are made of.
—Guest Patrick Kallie

Giving Advice

Giving advice requires tact. One might say, for example, do you mind if I make a suggestion.... I am an inveterate advice giver. Though not a trainer, in the 45 years in which I've been exercising I have picked up a few notions of what's good and what's bad, especially with respect to form. I have paid the price (injuries) for a lack of knowledge. Whenever I see a novice performing an exercise incorrectly which may lead to an injury, I proffer the question: Do you mind...Usually they are looking for someone to show them the correct way of performing an exercise. In addition, I tell them why I believe that my suggestion will help. I have only found a couple of people who were annoyed and I henceforth ignore what they do. I have 3 basic rules for beginners: 1) good form is essential, 2) the exercise needs to be performed through the full range of motion while keeping the weight under control (otherwise too much weight), & 3) slow is better than fast.
—Guest Mike Doherty

Consider your audience . . .

As somebody who has lost 90 lbs in the last year, but with another 50-ish to go, I've received a LOT of unsolicited advice, some good, some bad. 1) Don't judge a book by its cover when giving advice. I work out 6 days a week, ran a half-marathon a couple of months ago, and am currently training for a triathlon. I find it fairly amusing and sometimes annoying when some "fitness freak" approaches me and tries to tell me that I should try walking at least 30 minutes a day. REALLY!?!! I try not to give advice unless I see someone doing something that is dangerous or harmful or they ask. And when they ask, I ALWAYS ask where they are in their fitness journey. 2) Tone is everything - don't be condescending and remember that what works for you doesn't work for everyone. There's a huge difference between nagging and expressing heartfelt concern. 3) Be cautious when offering advice. You don't know what kinds of injuries, illnesses, etc. that person is experiencing. You may harm more than help.
—Guest rogue1092

Giving advice

I am extremely fit and active. And love it. I also become so tired of hearing my friends and family whine about all the reasons they can't exercise and eat correctly. I use to try and help if asked and now I know they won't take advice and won't try to help themselves. They would rather go to a physician and say, "Fix me". I am 67 and train 20+ hours a week for various sports that I am involved in. If I had a dollar for every time a person said to me, "I wish I could do what you do and look that good at your age", I would be able to purchased that new kayak and bike! I try to explain, anyone can do this stuff, just get moving, and throw away the donuts. OK, off my soap box and off to bike the trails. :)
—Guest Crow

I'm working on it but I'm not dumb

I've been working out/eating right - off and on my whole life. I know the pit falls, the fad diets, the ways to move - I know the moderation and the mix workouts and all that jazz. I have lost 70 lbs in 4 years. Slow and steady. I know I'm not where I want to be yet, but whats the hurry? I'm working on it, why is that not good enough for the fitness freaks in my life who seem to think that I'm lazy and dumb? Why does every single conversation turn to what I could be doing, which makes me feel like I have to defend myself. What I am doing is perfect for me - I move and I eat the best I can. If it's good enough for the one doing it, it should be good enough for you. Don't preach at me. Let me ask you when I feel I need an answer. It's not like I hate advice when I ask for it. Just because I didn't lose it like you did doesn't mean I'm doing it wrong. In fact, I know I am doing it perfect because I see results, lasting results.
—Guest mama me-a

Ask First

As a personal trainer my approach with someone I see at the gym doing something wrong is would you like me to show you a better and safer way of doing that exercise? I usually do not interfere unless I am asked. Even if you show them; there is no guarantee they will change their way of doing it.
—Ladylou7

Healthy person

I've found that most people would rather complain about their poor health than actually make any changes. I met a man on a diet who didn't count the cookies he ate. So I try to smile and keep living my way.
—Guest Diana Christensen

What works for me is

I am overweight still (having lost 30 pounds with at least 60 left) but fit. I only talk about how much fun I had, my hysterical failures and misteps, how much I miss running, and my obsession with old bikes. When someone asks a super fit obsessive exerciser for advice in a family situation or social situation, they probably won't listen. I usually start by denying that I lost weight, and talk about falling off my bike or other fun things. I have inspired friends and nearly all my staff to become more dedicated to health and fitness. Not one nagging session.
—Guest Seorsa

My body not yours

To all those who feel it’s their right to explain to others how to run theirs. Back off. Just because you feel deeply about something does not means you push it down their throats. People who need to be healthy don't want to be told they are worthless or wrong. Instead build them up and work with then instead of controlling their lives. Remember, it’s their life not yours. If they die early because of poor diet then it’s their fault no anyone else’s. All you can do is be a friend and lead by example. If they don't want to follow, then that is their right. For a lot of people, one day it will just click that they need to wise up and they start on their own. It is then that people who are "fitness freaks" need to shine and offer advice and guidance on being healthily. Being a friend goes farther on people’s egos and self esteem then does bulling and nagging.
—Guest Friend not Bully

overboard

I love exercise and I love eating and being healthy! I promote that through my attitude to people but I do think that some people go tooo far! I think that people get so obessive that about health that they forget life. I know someone who listened to an overboard relative of mine and he ended up in the hospital...nearly killed him! I crave healthy food but I also love things like chocolate and sour candy...it is about moderation. Some of the 'healthiest' people are know are the sickest people. I have a BMI of 21 and I have not been sick in 17 years. I am not obsessive with exercise but I enjoy a lot! Be a support teach that health food can taste good...cook for them...ask them to go for walks with you...even if you have to slow it down at first for them...be a support that they can turn too...not run from! If you are sour about unhealthy people...you think they are gonna want to be like you? At least they are are friendly and fun to be around! Make healthy attractive!
—amyvdz

Blunt, Direct & Persistant is Necessary

I am extraordinarily weary of all the whining. NO. I will not stop nagging. I will not get off my pedastal. I will not back off. I will not zip my lips. I am going to continue to bebrutally direct and back it up with some pretty dismal statistics. It is these so-called health freaks and fitness freaks that a majority of the population should hold out as role models and aspire to being like. It is time the majority got quite a bit more healthy in all ways and found new past-times aside from watching Hollywood and Sports and talking about it. It appears, at least from the statistics to follow, that sloth and gluttony rank right up there as favorite past-times. With this comes a whole host of potential health consequences. Now, let me get this straight, you ALSO desire low cost health care and health insurance? “Obesity and diabetes are the only major health problem that are getting worse…and they’re getting worse rapidly" CDC Dir., Dr. T. Frieden
—DrDavidRobinson
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