It doesn’t matter if you’re a fitness newbie or a seasoned veteran–when you find yourself needing to modify a particular exercise, it usually isn’t something that is embraced with open arms. We seem to have an almost defeatist attitude about it–like we didn’t hold up to our full potential or we failed. The crazy thing about this is that the exact opposite is true–according to CSD Sara, a fitness instructor, “Modifications are the key to a better, safer workout. Modifying doesn’t mean you are doing less than everyone else. It just means you are doing all that your body is physically capable of doing.”
There’s definitely a line between modifying because you find a move to be hard or you simply don’t feel like doing it and modifying to prevent injury. The majority of fitness instructors do their due diligence to teach proper form and technique to reduce the risk of injury. It’s important to remember that these instructions are going to be based on the average healthy individual and aren’t going to necessarily pertain to someone who has a preexisting injury or condition. It doesn’t mean that you can’t engage in the class or activity altogether, but it does mean that your limitations should be discussed with your instructor as well as with a health professional so that you can best participate without worsening a problem. CSD Sara always offers many options for modifications in her classes because she never wants that to be an issue.
Modifications bridge a gap where exercise may have otherwise ceased altogether. As CSD Melodee puts it, “I look at it as I am still moving forward in my fitness journey and not at a standstill. I have had to modify for my hip injury the last 5 months and has allowed me to continue being active to a degree which has helped coping with the injury.” Her modifications are still challenging and engage the muscles she wants to work, but without doing further damage to her hip.
It doesn’t always have to be a situation where you’ve been injured or have a condition–it could also be for the very concern of injury. CSD Brandi regrets a time where she fought against her instinct to modify and injured herself. “For some reason, doing the platform jumps in Circuit class really got in my head and I wasn’t in a situation where I could adjust the height of the platform because we were in the middle of class. Instead of doing the modification the instructor showed us of just stepping up and down and playing with the height after class, I went for it and freaked out midair–I legit thought I had broken my leg from slamming it so hard into the metal. My entire shin was black. So now, I’m even more scared of the stupid thing because I have an awful experience associated with it.”
CSD Melissa is never thrilled to have to modify, as she says because “it means I”m getting old, something hurts or it’s too hard; but the realization is it’s necessary. It’s perfectly acceptable to avoid injury.”
For some of us (especially those of us that fitness wasn’t always in the plan), there’s a fear of complacency that we will stop pushing ourselves and never return to where we’ve gotten ourselves. The irony of this is that we are more at risk for this very thing with just 1 injury. If we don’t protect ourselves every time, we are putting ourselves at that very risk of not being able to do anything in the future. It’s always important to remember that the end goal is improving and maintaining our health.