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5 Signs That Your Workout Class Is Way Too Difficult

After allegedly being ridiculed for struggling during class, the rider ultimately fell off her bike after trying to pick up her pace, and dislocated her ankle as her shoes stayed clipped in to the still-moving pedals, People reports. Worst nightmare much? Spinning addicts everywhere went into a frenzy recently when SoulCycle, the indoor cycling studio that’s quite literally taken over the country, was sued by a rider for negligence.

While the case is still ongoing, unfortunately this scene isn’t totally uncommon in fitness studios. You’ve probably been there yourself—you walk into a new-to-you hot spot thinking you’ll give it a go, and all of a sudden you find yourself in way over your head. So what’s a girl to do? Heed this sage advice from three of the top instructors in the industry. They’ve seen everything (really, we mean everything), and say these signs are the biggest tip-offs that you need to scale back.

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1. Your muscles are quaking uncontrollably.
A little shaking can be a good thing. Heather Peterson, CorePower Yoga’s senior vice president of programming and classroom experience, says it can be an indicator of the muscle fatigue that your instructor is actually aiming for. But if you can’t control your quaking, then you may have gone a notch too far. “Continuous shaking can put your joints at risk,” says Peterson. “If you can’t regain control in the next movement, then reduce the intensity (either by dropping down in weight or going less in-depth in your movement), rest if you need it, and join again when you’re ready.”

If you’ve struggled during a sweat sesh, you definitely recognize some of these 24 thoughts we’ve all had on the treadmill: 

If you’re worried about the instructor calling you out, well, don’t be. “If you have some asshat instructor yelling at you, just ignore her and focus on getting the best workout you can,” says Adam Rosante, certified strength and nutrition coach and author of The 30-Second Body. If she continues to push and you start to feel uncomfortable—or worse, unsafe—Rosante says it really is best to leave. “There’s no need to make a grand show of it; quietly gather your things and take off. Then speak with the manager or owner about your experience either right then or after you get home—it’s far more effective than venting on social media or on a review site.”

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2. Your breathing is choppy.
“In any class, but especially in yoga, it’s imperative that you pay attention to your breath,” says Peterson. “If it’s shorter and shorter, you’re gasping, or if you lose the slow, rhythmic cadence, then it’s time to slow down.” If you’re going through a flow, she suggests kicking it back to child’s pose. “Coming to this pose is a sign of wisdom and victory over your ego,” she says. “Great athletes know a pause or rest can give you a fresh perspective that revitalizes your efforts and helps you refocus on your workout.”

Not in a yoga class? Close your eyes for a brief second as you take a big inhale and slowly exhale. Taking a moment to block out your other senses will not only help get your breathing back on track, but it can calm the mind so thoughts of “I can’t do this” and “I suck so bad” start to disappear. (Focus on your breath while getting a great workout with Women’s Health’s Flat Belly Yoga DVD.)

3. Your heart rate is off the charts.
Numerous studies have shown that monitoring your heart rate throughout a workout is a super efficient way to train (and blast away the max amount of fat). Training with a monitor on can also help make sure you’re not pushing too hard, as you’ll want to keep your heart rate in an efficient active zone. (Here’s how to figure out your heart rate zones.) Don’t want to invest in a monitor? No sweat. Butler says if you’re unable to string a few words together, or if you feel faint, then you may want to reign it back in. But no matter what, listen to your body. “There isn’t a one-size-fits-all prescription for this,” says Rosante. “You have to know yourself and your physical threshold, which will take some practice. Then, how far you’re willing to push that threshold is entirely up to you.”

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4. You can’t properly perform the exercises.
There’s one thing each of our experts said: If a group exercise instructor doesn’t provide any modifications to a movement, then you need a different instructor. “There’s no way that everyone in the class is going to be at the same level of fitness and be comfortable performing each exercise,” says Amanda Butler, certified personal trainer and instructor at The Fhitting Room in New York City. But if they do provide options, and you still aren’t able to complete the prescribed number of reps with proper form, Butler suggests dropping down in reps. “Do what you can that day in proper form. That way you’re still developing strength and endurance,” she says.

Also, take comfort knowing that nobody cares if you bust out eight reps instead of 12—so there’s no need to feel embarrassed. “Everyone else is so concerned with their own workout and how they’re feeling that you’re going to be the last thing on their mind,” says Butler. But, if you’re still not comfortable in the class, consider booking a private session with the trainer. “It’ll help you lock down proper form on exercises, and they can give you modifications to practice on your own until you feel more comfortable tackling the class.”

Here’s how to tell whether or not you’re rocking proper form on some of the post popular exercises out there: 

5. You’re seeing black spots.
This one might seem obvious, but you’d be surprised how many people push through feeling faint, dizzy, or seeng black spots dance in front of their eyes. That’s a dangerous idea, as it’s a sign that not only is your body not ready for the intensity level you’re pushing it to, but that your blood sugar is probably too low. Butler says that if this happens, stop immediately. Leave the room, sit down, grab a drink of water, and let the instructor or front desk know what’s happening so they can keep your safety a priority. And whatever you do, don’t feel embarrassed. “There’s nothing wrong with admitting you’re not ready for something yet—nobody is a master at everything on day one,” says Butler. “It takes time to become in tune with yourself, but if you regularly check in with how you’re feeling, eventually you’ll be able to better decipher between ‘Oh, I’m just being a little lazy’ and ‘No, this is actually hurting me.’”

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