By Jennifer Lintz, Registered Dietitian and ICI/PRO Member Soigneur
In every CPR/AED/Basic Life Saving training I have completed, I remember feeling like a sponge, trying to soak up as many details as possible. I wanted to be ready in the event I needed to put life-saving information to use, but at the same time, I remember thinking "I hope I don't need to apply these skills very often ... if ever."
Thankfully, in all the years that I've been teaching, I can recall very few instances in which someone needed medical attention. In fact, the most severe situation I can recall happened a few years ago, when a personal training client of mine sprained her ankle.
Recently, though, I received a real-life reminder that accidents and emergencies can and do happen in group fitness situations. Let me set the stage.
Prior to the start of a circuit-style class last week, a student approached me and identified herself as new. I welcomed her, explained the general format of the class, and informed her that I would offer modifications for exercises as often as possible. I asked her if she had any limitations, and she said "No." She assured me she was comfortable with everything I had described. Happy to hear that she felt confident, I continued getting ready for class.
About 10 minutes into the workout, I noticed the new student sitting on her mat. Immediately, I pushed my microphone to the side, approached her, and asked if she was okay. She motioned me away with her hand and mouthed "I'm fine." Thinking that perhaps she needed a moment to catch her breath, I continued teaching. Not long after, I noticed her putting away her equipment in the back of the room and assumed she decided to leave.
A minute or two later, while I was demonstrating a new exercise, one of the participants in class came up to me and informed me the new student was still in the back of the room, sitting on the floor behind a partition that prevented me from seeing her. The student volunteered to get one of our member services representatives (trained in CPR/AED) to attend to her. While she did that, I went to check on the new student, who again motioned me away and mouthed "I'm fine." With some hesitation, I continued to teach. A member services representative came into the room soon after and eventually walked out of the room with the student.
After that incident, I immediately began to wonder:
"Is she OK?"
"Did I handle that properly?"
"What could I have done differently?"
"Should I have stopped teaching altogether and gotten help myself, even though she signaled to me that she was fine?"
After class, I talked to the staff member who came to assist. He said the woman in question told him she did not feel prepared for the intensity of the class, but added that, after resting for a bit, she left with a smile on her face. Though I found that somewhat comforting, I still had an uneasy feeling in my stomach.
Even though we practice tending to injuries and emergency situations in training, it felt different experiencing it in a live class. So different, that I felt a little stuck. I was torn between tending to the participant - even though she said she was OK - and continuing to teach my class.
Coincidentally, I ran into one if my colleagues on the way out and discussed what happened. I explained that I felt bad about the interruption of the class, but she assured me that it is 100% appropriate to tend to individuals in that type of situation and even said: "It is expected." I needed to hear that.
Would I do anything differently in the future? Yes. I will not let myself feel rushed to get back to teaching and instead will take the time to assist individuals in need until I am certain they are safe.
How would you have responded in this situation? I welcome your insight, comments, and experiences that might allow us all to learn.
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Thanks for this Jennifer. My experiences are that going off to hide was a male response to not feeling right/something is wrong. I wouldn’t have expected this and may not have given it the proper level of concern.
I remember being a student in a class a few years ago where a woman feel during a stretch and broke her wrist. The instructor was very slow to address her. Being a veteran of many injures, I immediately recognized the problem and told the instructor what I thought was the problem, and then I went to the front desk and explained the situation to the club staff. They, following club procedures, immediately call 911 and had paramedics address her wrist.
As an instructor, this is a tough spot to be in. On one hand you have a class full of paying customers and on the other hand a single paying customer that is waiving you away telling you that he/she is fine. Obviously he/she is not fine.
Probably I would have summoned help from the club staff immediately and let them handle the issue. Since this is probably one of the very few moments than the need of one supersedes the need of many I would have paused the class, lowered the music and allowed student to be take care of. And then, if appropriate, I would have continued the class.
One thing that helps is knowing what is the club’s protocol for handling such issues and make sure that you follow such protocol. Remember, you are part of a team of people.
Appreciate your input, Alan. It is good to know what your experience was as a participant when an injury happened. I had not thought of it from that angle. Thank you! John, I was surprised, too.