What’s Your Safety Sentence?

Do you have a safety sentence that you include in your class intro? My safety sentence is some form of: My job is to give you a great experience that’s safe and challenging and your job is to listen to your body and take on the challenges that are right for you today.

I don’t say it every class, but I definitely include recoveries throughout my rides (see my article: Four Myths About Recovery) and coach riders to hydrate throughout class and always listen to their bodies. Despite this, last week I had a rider who left class a few minutes early and subsequently fainted when she got to the studio lobby.

Here’s what I couldn’t get my head around: I had no idea this happened until after class when I emerged from the cycle room and saw her being wheeled away in a stretcher toward flashing red lights. She waved and made an apologetic gesture. WTF happened?

I know this woman. She’s a strong rider. I was happy to see her because it had been awhile. She said six months to be exact, not because of any injury or illness, but life had gotten busier than usual and gym time dropped off her schedule. She sat in the front row. She chatted on and off during recoveries with the women next to her (who happens to be a nurse).  We rode my Hard, Harder, Hardest II profile (posted last week). It’s an interval ride – five intervals, four at 4:30 one 6:00 with 3:00 recoveries between.

It felt like the heat in the room kept coming on so during one of the recoveries I checked the thermostat. It was on 65 degrees, exactly where I set it, but the temp read 68 degrees. Not ideal, but certainly not oppressive.

I didn’t see any sign of distress, but I also didn’t see her leave the room. The battery in the headset died. Apparently while I was changing it and watching the timer to keep the ride on track, she left. When I regrouped and looked up, I saw two riders who don’t usually leave early head for the door. I thought it was odd but hey, sometimes riders don’t tell me they need to leave early.  After class I learned the riders in the back saw the woman stumble a bit as she reached for the door handle so they followed her out to the lobby.

SO… here’s what I’m going to add to my safety sentence:

  • If you need to leave early, please tell me so that when I see you leave I know you’re okay.
  • If something feels off, give me some kind of signal so that I can help you.
  • Other riders, if I don’t notice something, please help me notice. We’re all in this together.

I know we’re often loth to draw attention to ourselves in fitness classes because we feel “weak”. Often, our first instinct is to do the self-talk that minimizes what our bodies are telling us to do – from hydrating, to slowing down, to stopping, to asking for help.

Thankfully, our rider was okay. But it was a strong reminder for me that despite trying to always keep my riders safe by creating smart profiles and coaching to hydrate and listen to your body, we do intense workouts in a dark, somewhat warm room.

I won’t always see the warning signs when someone needs help. I realized I need everyone’s help. And that’s what I haven’t asked for but will from now on.

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