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20 Fitness Lessons Learned the Hard Way

Get Out of a Toe Jam

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“When it comes to hiking boots, buy a size up. Your toes will hit the front of the shoe on a downward incline. The constant ramming can cause you to lose a toenail in just one hike. That's how I lost one big nail while trekking in and out of the Grand Canyon.” —Andrea Metcalf, celebrity trainer, healthy lifestyle expert, and author of Naked Fitness

Hold the Phone

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“I forgot my iPhone arm band for my first half marathon, so I just stuck my cell in my sports bra and ran 13.1 miles. Not smart and pretty gross. My phone had some water damage.” —Melissa Thompson, via Facebook

How to Lose a Guy in 10 Minutes

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“If you're lifting weights in a gym and ask a guy to help spot you while bench pressing, you should avoid getting in a contest with him to see who can lift more. The male ego is a fragile thing. You will lose your weight lifting partner very quickly if you beat him.” Jenn Suhr, Olympic champion and 13-time U.S. National Champion in pole vault

Steer Clear of Sheer Madness

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“A yoga clothing company approached me about becoming an ambassador and wearing their line. I politely declined because the clothes seemed young and sexy, and I work with a lot of pro athletes and it's important for me to stay covered, classy, and appropriate. They insisted on taking my class while wearing some samples so that I could see them in action. These bubbly 20-somethings showed up and placed themselves front and center. One of the first moves of my warm-up is happy baby pose. Their pants were not only see-through, they were so sheer that I felt like I was watching porn. After class, I wrote them a polite email respectfully warning them about the clothes' transparency. I hope you all check your pants before going to class!” Gwen Lawrence, yoga teacher to the New York Giants, Yankees, Knicks, Rangers, and Red Bulls

Don't Blow Your Cover

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“I accidentally tucked the back of my running skirt into my fuel belt. I didn't notice it until halfway through my long run. Luckily the skirt had built-in shorts underneath.” —Kristen Quevedo, via Facebook

Check Your Bag

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“I was teaching spinning in New York City years ago and always had to rush from sports club to sports club, and instructors were not allowed lockers at the time. One morning I forgot to check my bag before leaving the house, and when I got to class, I realized that I only had my sweaty clothes from the day before and was going to be Captain Mildew in a room of 40 women. I had two options: Go to lost and found and try on someone else's used clothes, or try to wash mine. I ran into the bathroom and washed everything as quickly as possible. End result: My clothes still smelled and I looked like I had just fallen in a pool. But I actually taught one of my better classes thanks to the adrenaline rush from the whole fiasco.” Brett Hoebel, celebrity trainer and creator of the DVD workout series RevAbs

Dress the Part

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“I used to wear such cute tops to the gym to impress the trainers. But the fabric didn't breathe and I'd get the worst pit stains ever!” —Misspiggy Lee, via Facebook

Wear the Pants (Correctly)

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“I was halfway through a workout with dreamy actor Adrian Grenier when I realized that my pants were on inside out and backward.” Holly Perkins, Promax fitness ambassador and celebrity trainer

Accept That You’re Human

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“I have this attitude that I can do anything for little while and if things turn out bad, I can just put my head down and still get it done. I set out to bike around beautiful Lake Tahoe one spring afternoon when one of those late winter storms rolled into the area. With snow accumulating on the road, I started to get really cold and I had already put on all of my extra layers. Of course, you never have a cell signal when you need it in the mountains, so I had to make it all the way back to Tahoe City, some 20 miles. I stopped at the first coffee shop I came across to warm up my hands and call a friend to come get me. I realized that day that it's not a good idea to think that you're invincible. Always plan ahead and have a back-up plan when playing in the mountains.” Katerina Nash, Luna pro mountain biker, four-time Olympian, and World Cup winner

Play It Safe

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“At the beginning of my career, I thought that safety measures were for everyone else but not for me since I was a gym rat. One day I was trying to do a box squat with the Olympic bar: You do a barbell squat using a squat rack and a bench underneath. The goal was to squat until you touch the bench, but don't sit, then stand up again to emphasize the glutes work. The problem started when I got tired and sat down but then couldn't get up. I lost momentum and had this 115-pound barbell over my shoulders (I weighed 100 pounds at the time!) and couldn't move. I hadn’t put the support handles on the side so that I could relieve the bar at any time. To make things worse, it was Sunday at 7:00 a.m. and no one was in the gym. I had to wait for more than 10 minutes for someone to help me get up. Lesson learned: Check where the safety pins, buttons, etc. are and use them before doing any exercise.” Marta Montenegro, exercise physiologist and creator of the Montenegro Method DVD series

Know What You're Getting Into

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“My first week of being a college athlete, our swim coach scheduled a team triathlon. I was a naive freshman at the time and not sure what equipment was needed for such an event. Swimsuit, goggles, sneakers, and my eager attitude? Cut to practice, our coach tells us that we would be doing a spin class followed by a swim and finish with a run through campus. I had forgotten to bring shorts. I quickly learned there are no excuses in college athletics. I would have to run through campus in only my wet bathing suit and sneakers. Somewhere between my mortifying Speedo dash past downtown campus at its peak hour and up the hill past my dorm with all my peers looming outside, I learned a valuable lesson to always come prepared.” Leila Vaziri, New York City-based private swim instructor

Beware How Low You Go

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“I once wore a V-cut tank top to yoga. In downward dog, I farted and a boob popped out of my tank top!” —Diana Vance, via Facebook

Always Test New Equipment

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“I purchased a front-zip sports bra thinking it would be a great addition to my workout wardrobe. When I went to teach my Zumba class, halfway though my warm up, my zipper came undone. I had to gracefully turn my back and rezip my bra. The class had a good laugh, guys included. I will never wear that bra again.” —Sue Fletcher, via Facebook

Go into Detail

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“When teaching clients how to throw a medicine ball, it’s very important to be specific where the ball should land. One particular exercise calls for throwing the ball to the ground so that it bounces up and can be caught by a trainer or workout partner. A client once threw the ball straight into my stomach instead of where it should have landed on the floor.” Pete McCall, exercise physiologist for the American Council on Exercise

Skip the Enhancements

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“One day I went for a run on the treadmill at the gym. My headphones were blasting and I was really getting into it. Then something dropped to the conveyor and shot back behind me. I quickly checked my neck to see if it was my towel, but that was still there so I went back to running. Then it happened again, but this time the object landed on the treadmill beside me. A guy was just getting on and was so nice to pick up...my sweaty sports bra insert! I stopped to look behind me and get the other one. The people on the treadmill behind me were giggling so hard.” —Jacquelyn M. Wolfe, via Facebook

Sweat in Black, Not White

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“I wore an old white sports bra to Bikram hot yoga and found out the hard way that it became completely transparent 10 minutes into the 90-minute class.” —Tiffany Nikole Sipos, via Facebook

Size Yourself Right

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“I didn't realize that my new sports bra was a too small when I first wore it to go for a run. After a four-miler, I went to use the bathroom and was so surprised when I looked in the mirror and found two huge blood streaks just under my boobs! The bra had rubbed my skin raw, and I was bleeding through the bra and my white shirt. I now have little scars under my boobs.” —Kacee Scott, via Facebook

Avoid a Pain in the Ass

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“My first year of AIDS Lifecycle Ride from San Francisco to L.A., I had the worst chafing. I needed to invest in chamois cream to stop the friction and I needed to angle my saddle just a few centimeters downward. If I had done that early enough, it would have made a huge difference. Let's just say going to the 'butt clinic' every morning before getting on your bike was not pleasant.” Gonzalo Garcia, New York City spin instructor and avid cyclist

Back off the Booze

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“Swim coaches always talk about feeling 'relaxed' in the water. I've found that one glass of wine before an easy technique swim set makes me feel more at ease in the water. However, two glasses of wine before swimming is not recommended.” Shonny Vanlandingham, Luna Pro Xterra Team and 2010 Xterra World Champion

Tie Up Your Tresses

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“Keep hair tied back when belaying. I thought a low ponytail was enough, but as soon as I leaned forward, my long hair zipped straight up in the grigri (auto belay device).” Lisa Chulich, 2011 USA Climbing U.S. Youth Team member