When friends or acquaintances, who have low or no vision, find out I am a group fitness instructor, I get asked the same question all the time. “Hey, I want to try a group class at the gym, do you think I can do it? How should I go about it?”. It’s not a simple answer. I usually need to ask them a few questions, such as, how much vision do you have?, What kind of class are you thinking of trying?, Have you done that kind of workout before?, Do you have friends that take the class?, Are you willing to talk to the instructor before hand?, etc., etc. With their answers, plus my experience teaching to the blind – Ok. Go ahead and say it, it’s the blind leading the blind!! Yeah Yeah. Like I’ve never heard THAT one before! Anyway, I can usually give them some decent advice. I know that attending a group class can be more frustrating than fun. So, with some advice, I hope you will find, a workout that’s fun and comfortable for someone who is blind. ~ GGB
How To Take A Group Exercise Class With Low Or No Vision | By Mel Scott | Blind Alive
I suppose it is pretty obvious by now that group classes are not my favorite thing. After all, I make audio fitness programs so I can help people avoid group classes. However, I understand that many people with visual impairments do want to benefit from the support and camaraderie that can be found in these settings. They also provide social interaction and they are motivating.
I have attended many group classes over the years. They have been mostly yoga, but I have gone to aerobics, mat Pilates, and body sculpting as well. Here is how I handled them.
First, I spoke to the instructor before class. I explained that I need to be as close to her as possible so that we can easily communicate during class. This may also help if you have enough vision to give you clues as to what is happening. It makes all the difference in the world if you approach the instructor with smiles and confidence. If you exude enthusiasm for his or her class and tell them what their job is where you are concerned, they will feel more relaxed with you. If you come across timid, they will catch that vibe from you and become timid themselves. They want to be told what you need. If you come across confident, it won’t occur to them to tell you “No”.
To tell the truth, fast moving group classes have always been humiliating for me. I don’t like them one bit. It is possible to do it though. Find a teacher who will spend some time with you outside of class so you can learn the moves. If an instructor is truly a devoted teacher, they will enjoy finding a way for you to join the class. I know this may be hard to take, but offering to pay them for some extra time can make all the difference in your success and their attitude. Showing them that you are committed will make them feel more like helping you. Also, a fast moving class requires more attention from the instructor and they will not be able to give u everything you need during class-time — especially if it is a dance aerobics or step aerobics type class. I can pretty much guarantee you will feel lost at least once so if this is embarrassing to you, preparing is the key.
I thoroughly enjoy attending yoga classes. I have had many instructors and all of them have been excited to work with me. Most yoga teachers are open minded and enjoy the challenge. It is better to try a beginner class first because talking and laughter are usually welcome. Make sure to place your mat right in front of or beside the teacher. Ask them to use directional terms like left and right, palms up or down, thumbs up or down. There are a lot of terms that you will need to help them figure out. Asking for clarification in a yoga class is rarely an intrusion. The teacher may find it easier to touch you or have you touch them. If this is a problem for you, you may need to get more creative with your directional terms. Many teachers are quite natural at describing, but If you find a teacher that just can’t put words to movements, you may have better luck with a different teacher. There are many kinds of yoga, so give another type a try if your first experience turns out not so great.
Mat Pilates is also a slower moving type class. Pilates teachers are often good at describing. Because Pilates movements are often small, the teacher needs to be able to communicate what you are supposed to be feeling inside your body. They will often ask if touching you is okay. Make sure to ask them to tell you before they touch you. Do not hesitate to remind teachers over and over. They will appreciate it if they are good at what they are doing. A good teacher loves to get better at teaching so you can help them.
Many YMCAs or senior centers will have slower more low key classes. Ask as many questions as you can think of before joining. Find out how loud the music will be. Can it be turned down so you can hear well? Can you be assured of a spot near the teacher? Will there be any moving around the room such as walking in circles? Are there any support people in the classes that might be able to give you some extra attention? Most of the time these type facilities are equipped and are happy to work with you. Asking for what you need is key. Asking with a bright and friendly attitude is more likely to help you get your needs met. A curious an upbeat attitude will make them look forward to your participation.
Finally, a person wrote to me last week to tell me that by learning moves from the Eyes-Free Fitness® programs, it helped her follow along in a group class. You could try learning at home first and then venture out to a group. I have tried to make sure that common exercise terms are used in most of our programs. This may make it easier for you to catch on to the requested move. Also, doing exercises at home will make you more familiar, which will in tern boost your confidence in a public situation.
Group classes can be lots of fun. I encourage you to be bold, ask for what you need with kindness and confidence and chances are good that you will have a positive experience. of course, I’ve got you covered with plenty of home choices if groups are not your thing. Smile.
You can find all of our home workouts on our website.
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Good health to you,
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