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I am part of a running group that meets every week. The running group is part of a large store, but is actually free (I think they do this for publicity and in hopes of people would buy things from the store etc).

A few months ago a new staff member started leading the running group. She has some very strange and uncomfortable stretches she makes us do before and after the run. On one time they even involved touching someone else's head to put more pressure on the stretch.

I'm not expert but I suspect lots of these stretches aren't healthy. We always do these stretches in a big circle and she calls people out who aren't doing them.

  • How can I refuse without making a scene?

Since it is free I don't really think this would be the best course of action. I believe other people feel the same way as I do.

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    Have you done research on the stretches? You may find research that states the stretches are good for you, or that they can destroy your leg. I don't know what the stretches are so I can't comment on which one is true, however. – TheRealLester Aug 16 '18 at 12:04
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Every exercise class I've ever been in as an adult, the instructor has given out alternatives. For example, if we have a station that is pushups, she'll demo the full pushup, then show doing it on your knees, then say that if pressure on your wrists are a problem, here's yet another alternative. That's the professional approach.

If the leader of the running group isn't doing this, she is not being professional.

You should never do an exercise or stretch that you believe will or might injure you, or that gives you pain that you think is damaging your body. Don't be afraid to simply speak up and say "I have a problem with my ..., what would be a good alternative". If the instructor won't give you an alternative, pick your own. If the instructor calls you out, clearly say that what she is asking for will injure you.

I once took tennis lessons from a woman a couple of years out of college. She was an amazing player who was thinking of getting on the pro circuit, but she had spent a few years recovering from wrist injuries due to her college coach insisting that she "play through pain". Don't be like her. You know your body, and what is constructive pain, and what is destructive pain. Listen to your body.

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Stretches are meant to have an effect, it is unlikely to not feel anything.
You surely find information about that somewhere on the internet, perhaps with more details to what you should feel with a particular stretch and what you shouldn't.

Normally gym leaders are quite flexible and can stretch more than anyone else. It must not be a problem if you can't go as far as she can, neither for you nor for her.

Should I complain

No, first of all just talk, don't yet complain

to the store manager

No, talk to the leader first. Why go the way top down? This is a bad image upon you.

How can I refuse without making a scene?

If she calls you out first of all tell her it hurts and ask if it should. Ask what you can do to do the excercise without having a problem.
After class you can tell her it's uncomfortable to be called out like that, ask her to do that another way.

I believe other people feel the same way as I do.

If you want to use that for an argument, don't "believe" but be sure they really do.

  • Stretches have to "hurt". Depending on your goal that pain can be more or less. I personally go as far as I can whenever I stretch. If you want to stretch without feeling anything, then you can skip stretching all together – XtremeBaumer Aug 16 '18 at 13:58
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    @XtremeBaumer there's a line between "feel something" and "hurt". When stretching, you should certainly feel some pulling and stretching, but you shouldn't be feeling a lot of pain. – DaveG Aug 16 '18 at 14:10
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    One should add that the stretching effect is independant of the angle or distance you can reach. Tutors do better, farther, wider... you don't have to reach the same distance or angle, just do it at all. – puck Aug 16 '18 at 14:45
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Mostly a way to work around the problem, but: when these stretches just involve you, can't you simply pretend to do them? i.e., do the general gesture, but only stretch as much as you're comfortable with (including "not at all" if that's how you feel)? That way, you're not injuring yourself while not disrupting anything for anyone.

If you get called out, this would seem quite weird to me. The instructor is not in your body and doesn't know how far you can go, so if you're just telling them you're doing as much as you're comfortable doing, I don't see how they could argue back.

If other people are supposed to be involved, just decline and say that you're not comfortable with other people touching you. If the instructor tries to push you, it would seem very unreasonable to me.

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