sports psychologist & clinical psychology

MOST PEOPLE DON’T “WHOO!” BUT IF YOU’RE A GYM REGULAR, IT’S LIKELY YOU’VE RUN ACROSS A “WHOO-ER!”

San Antonio Express- News – Oct 18, 2007 – Claudia Zapata – Most people don’t “whoo!” but if you’re a gym regular, it’s likely you’ve run across a “whoo-er!” A whoo-er is that cheerleader type who yells “whoo-hoo!” in the middle of a step class or yeah after a good punch in kickboxing. In the weight room a “whoo!” might become an “arghh! or an “uhhh!” and usually it means someone’s working so hard, it merits the attention of the whole club.

Non-whoo-ers don’t always appreciate a whoo-er’s enthusiasm. Take the recent case of Stuart Sugarman, a whoo-ing member of a Manhattan gym. According to a story in the New York Post, Sugarman’s noisy behavior during a spin class, including shout-outs of “you go, girl!” put fellow spinner Christopher Carter into a tizzy. After heated words and threats were exchanged, Carter allegedly knocked Sugarman and his bike into the wall. Sugarman reportedly got back on the bike, but he’s since undergone back surgery and a lawsuit is brewing.

You might think this only happens among New Yorkers, but local fitness instructor Stacey Rahmberg, who’s been teaching for 22 years, says San Antonio has its share of “members gone wild” stories. One even involved a member getting knocked off a spin bike.

Rahmberg says it started when one woman did her usual pre-spin class routine: She put her things on a bike in the front row to “save her spot” and went to get a smoothie for the upcoming ride (a smoothie during spin class?). When she returned 15 minutes into class time, another woman had taken “her bike.” Rahmberg says the displaced member yelled, “get off my bike!” and started removing the other woman’s towels and water. A melee ensued, the second woman fell off the bike, and “that was the last I saw of her,” Rahmberg says.

As for whoo-ing, Rahmberg says it’ll happen on occasion, but she doesn’t care for it. “A few years ago there were a couple of men who said ‘whoo-ooo! whoo-ooo!’ so much, we called them aliens,” Rahmberg laughs. She says she mainly strives to maintain a motivating but peaceful atmosphere in her classes. Whenever she plays disco music during spin class, for instance, one woman wildly dances as she pedals. “It annoys the other members, so I don’t play disco,” she says.

Ultimately, it comes down to different strokes for different folks, and what one person finds motivating another considers annoying. “In an exercise setting, people are going to find various forms of motivation,” says sports psychologist John Murray. “Some people use grunting to keep themselves going and breathing properly; others want a library.”

Murray believes we should let people be who they are. “There are too many control freaks out there, and you can’t have control in a group-exercise setting,” he says. On the other hand, there is such a thing as gym etiquette, and Murray says it’s up to the health club to define the rules.

Last week, I decided to pop into the spin room at my health club to see if there was any whoo-ing going on. I really hoped to get a “you go, girl!” but all I heard was great music and motivating cues from the instructor. And then, 55 minutes into class, when our teacher announced we were finally “going home,” the woman next to me let all a little “whoo!”

I did too, although I think mine was more of a “whew.”

Dr. John F. Murray is a sports psychologist and clinical psychologist providing sports psychology and counseling services based in Palm Beach, Florida.

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