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Reformer Pilates
A reformer can inadvertently become a torture device

Public relations executive Debra Locker Griffin was lying on the Pilates reformer when her teacher asked her to bring her legs up by her head, essentially folding herself in half. Ever the eager student, Debra stretched her legs up and over so far that—bam!—she fell off the machine.

“All you could see was my butt up in the air! ” said the self-proclaimed klutzy Pilates overachiever. “The instructor said she had never seen someone do that ‘move’ before.”

But Debra’s not alone. Last year, 1,500 exercisers went to the ER because of equipment-related accidents, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission. And less serious mishaps abound, whether they’re our own fault, or because of an overzealous instructor. We asked Well+Good readers to dish on their worst workout snafus and heard from many of you, like the yoga instructor who let an “expert” push her too hard, or the Bikram devotee who forgot her limits.

Karlene, an expert spinner, was looking for something new, so she went to a class with moving bikes. Half an hour in, the front of the bike swung back and popped her in the left knee. Three weeks, some pain meds, and one tender knee later, Karlene is back in her usual class and ready to dispense some wisdom.

Real Ryder Spinning bike
Consider a test-drive on a new bike with moving parts before Spin class

“Get to class 15 minutes before, get a feel for the bike, and ask questions,” she says. “I didn’t actually know it had so many moving parts until it was too late.”

Indeed, Sejal Vyas, a physical therapist and director at Metro Sports Physical Therapy in Manhattan, says that not understanding equipment results in a lot of injuries, both big and small.

“When in doubt, ask,” she says. “When you get to a machine that you aren’t sure about, find someone to help you understand it. There are always trainers floating around the gym for that very reason. Take advantage of it.”

Of course, sometimes, it’s plain ol’ lack of concentration that’s the problem, says Vyas, whose office is in a gym. “We’ve seen people fall of the treadmill when they’re changing the TV station or fiddling with their iPod,” she says. “Worse, we’ve seen people get on a treadmill without noticing that someone left the machine on. They get slingshot across the room.” —Catherine Pearson