Monday, June 3, 2013

Workout Lingo

photo from Birchbox, commentary my own

My earliest exercise memories involve the fitness room at my grandmother’s apartment in Florida. I remember as kids playing (unattended of course) on the treadmill, stationary bike and that vibrating belt thingy (always our favorite). I joined a gym for the first time in high school. This gateway membership paved the way for step classes, powerstrike, personal training sessions, marathons and can I get a shout out for the completely underrated Reebok slide?

With every type of workout, there’s corresponding lingo. Some of it is straight forward, other times mean or simply words you would never understand if you’re among the exercise averse.

Anatomical Lingo
Abs in- maybe it’s a soft spot but if an instructor tells says “tighten your core” or “abs in” and looks in my direction, it’s enough to ruin my day. After my first son, a trainer said this to me and poked my midsection. Her “abs in” request was met with “this is in” barked in return.

Soften your knees-one of those phrases that’s counterintuitive, after all knees are hard if nothing else. Soften your knees really means don’t lock your knees (again vague) or bend your knees slightly.

Knit your ribs- when I started barre classes this one escaped me. The ballerina-ish teachers have a field day with me when it comes to posture. My shoulders are never relaxed enough and my pelvis is constantly in the wrong place. It’s a wonder I have 2 children. It’s been years but to knit ones ribs you do the opposite of sticking your ribs out; when you contract your lower stomach “knitting” is easier.

Inspirational Lingo
Set Your Intention as Carla our nutrition nerd extraordinaire said, “when you're 40 minutes in to spin class, everything seems really profound. Then you think about it later and you're like, wait, actually all they said was you can do it".

Takes change to see change- I am a sucker for some profundity when I am oxygen deprived, I like motivational clichés.

Workout Specific
Fartleks when I initially heard a running coach use this term for speed work I thought she said fart leg and logically assumed it meant running so fast you…turns out it’s a Swedish term for a certain type of an interval run.

Abbreviations are especially annoying when you’re out of the loop. In running there’s PR/PB, personal relations, peanut butter? No personal record, personal best which refers to the shortest amount of time you have run a certain distance in under race conditions. I liked a friend’s abbreviation after a race better “PW” (personal worst).

Yoga- don’t get me started on Sanskrit pretentiousness asana, basana whatever. Or the bird poses crow, pigeon and eagle not to mention the “dogs” and warrior #’s. The first 6 months I did yoga, my neck was a mess as I contorted to see what the heck all of this meant. Once I felt I was in the know I’ll admit there’s a little smugness that went along with it.

Carolyn added, “I do love being reminded to inhale to lengthen or exhale to relax 
but inhale love, exhale fear, seriously?”

We get so accustom to our workouts that we forget how silly some of the fitness lingo is. Next time you’re in a class or at the gym, listen like a newbie and see if you catch anything giggle-worthy.
What types of workouts do you do? Any phrases that either motivate you or bug you? Are you knitting your ribs right now?


  1. Oh I like that last one; Inhale to lengthen and exhale to relax. I can NEVER get that right!!
    Thanks for the help on this lingo. I can't get over that your abs wouldn't be anything but tight, but I know what it's like when you feel like you're being singled out and it's over something that you don't feel comfortable about.....abs for me is that body part I despise! Can't WAIT for kids ;)

  2. Thanks for the rib knitting lesson, I didn't know how to do that either, now I do!

  3. Any time, that one took me a while. Now if only I could knit, knit...

  4. comment didn't show, abs are fine but that comment always seems personal versus just a form correction OR I am sensitive (ah ha). Singled out as you said, never nice.

  5. Yoga has the absolute worst ridiculous lingo! I have tried and tried to like yoga because I think it's really good for me (especially me, because I am a type-A, stressed out person). But I just think a lot of the talk is silly. I was one told to imagine lotus blossoms blooming out of my hands. Really? So I switched to Bikram yoga, which seems like more of a "real" workout but still focuses on stress relief and stretching. I actually really like it a lot, which surprised me.

    I guess for all my other workouts, I just focus mostly on the advice I get from the instructors - I do a lot of the bootcamp style, some spinning, and some weight-based classes, and there's always something to learn about proper form or optimal order of operations, or a new workout style. Maybe I just ignore most of the silly lingo because I enjoy the workout? I will try to listen more and see what I've been missing!

  6. Haha I'd always wondered about PR but was too embarrassed to ask!!

  7. we have to ask and realize this is all so silly, how should you know that, right?

  8. I had a yoga phase too Jen, for the same reasons, but for me it wasn't ultimately a match or I got out of it. The right teacher is key. It think a teacher/trainer I respect can say anything and you're in the moment and open to it. It's when I'm not connecting that I realize all these silly things we hear.

  9. Haha I don't know, magic? Good point!

  10. I injured myself a year ago while I was doing yoga. I have an awesome teacher (that wasn't there when I got hurt). After a year of excruciating shoulder pain, it's hard for me to get back into it. :(

  11. When laying on the Reformer in Pilates I hear, keep your neutral spine. I'm laying down!
    I hate when spin instructors get all deep, too! My intention is to keep spinning!!!

  12. Ahh....fartleks! I remember those from my X-Country running days! I am remembering a ballet class I took in college, thinking it would be fun, but it was torture! The instructor would come over to me at the barre and press my head towards my knee, trying to make me more "bendable" but I kept telling her it was hopeless. I was so happy when that semester ended!

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