This blog post may just be my personal vendetta to correct the many things I’ve seen go wrong at gyms over the years, or it may be an opportunity for you to kindly reference this article to the next person who gets on your last nerve at the gym. Maybe print it out and smack it in the center of their bench press? If nothing else, know that you’re in the right and can chuckle lightly to yourself about those who will soon see the error of their ways. There are some real life anecdotes in here that may make you giggle (or cringe) too…you’re welcome.
1) Learn How to Share (it’s a basic life lesson)
Just like the little boy from the well-known Campbell’s Soup commercial said to his hungry older brothers: “Don’t hog it all!” Yes, it’s true that people at the gym can get overly possessive about the equipment they’re using. Take the following scenario that happened to me just a week ago…
I’m alternating sets between a leg extension machine and a reverse fly machine. They’re right beside one another and I was five sets done out of six. A man comes up to the reverse fly machine just as I’m finishing my last set for lower body and heading that way. I understand that he has zero notion of what my routine is so I ask him politely if I can finish my last set after his first one, while he takes a break.
This man gives me the nastiest look a human can possibly conjure up. After a pause he says in a snarky tone “But I’m just starting…” I reassure him that I’m happy to wait while he does a set and can finish my routine quickly while he takes his first break. The man gives me silence…yes, silence (oh yea, and another unusually offensive glare) and continues to adjust the machine’s seat to his preference. At this point I walk away. I could have responded to his comment “You’re just starting? Oh yea? Well, I’m just finishing! I was here first! Nah-Nah-Nah! It’s MINE!!!” But that would have been immature….we’re not children learning the rules of the playground for the first time.
So, don’t hog it all. It’s normal for people to ask to takes turns with you and it’s your right to ask the same. Some people might not follow the rules, but don’t you kind of feel sorry for them and their “I will be miserable to all of humanity” attitude? Apparently, they never learned that being ruler of the swing-set is something only preschoolers should get away with when their teachers aren’t watching.
2) Respect Paid-For Sessions
I know this next point is going to step on some sensitive toes…but here I go anyway. Individuals who are working with a personal trainer have paid for a privilege at the gym. In other words, their needs are just a teeny tiny bit higher for the duration of their paid-for session. From the outside looking in, you may have no clue why that person is paying for a training session. From the inside out, I can tell you that those individuals, who make the intense commitment to pay for training, have something specific that they really need help with. It may be accountability or it may be something much more worrisome such as vascular disease or osteopenia. Either way, these people are contributing to what keeps the gym doors open for all; the bottom line (…and no, not all of them are more financially capable than you so dismiss that judgement right away).
Trainers who are with their clients should not ignore the standard rules of sharing and demonstrating respect for others, but they might be a little more assertive about asking permission to use a machine that you were just on. They’re not trying to be rude or reduce the importance of your workout, they’re just trying to do their job and make sure that their client’s significant investment proves worthwhile.
3) Don’t Come Into a Group Class Super Late
At most gyms, group exercise instructors actually have the right to deny you permission to participate in class, if you’re over 10-15 minutes late. Yup, you heard me right. They are allowed to dismiss you because it’s not going to be very safe for you to jump in after the warm-up. You become a liability to the instructor AND yourself.
I have had plenty of people join one of my Spinning® classes over halfway through. Out of respect for them, I don’t yell through my mic “HEY YOU! GET OUT OF HERE! YOU’RE TOO LATE!” But, I do have to hop off my bike and go speak to them personally. Frankly, it’s annoying.
Even the people who meet my refusal and warnings with a “Don’t worry, I will get warmed up before I start following along,” don’t properly warm up. This takes me beyond my former level of annoyance to feeling genuinely infuriated. Warming up is essential.
Have you ever had a moment as a parent/guardian/friend/significant other when you see a loved one doing something that’s so blatantly harmful that it makes your skin itch? That’s how it feels to be an instructor watching an unruly participant just follow their own whim. If they’re not going to listen to professional guidance, why are they even in class?! It’s like watching a child who is about to dart across the street without looking both ways. The natural urge is to yell “Stop!!! You’re going to get hurt!”
4) Waste not. For real.
I recently wrote an Earth Day article for Mad Dogg Athletics’ Spinning.com site. The article, Conserving Water by Skimping on Laundry, explains how the average top-loading washer can use up to 45 gallons of water! Industrial size washers, like most gyms use, require even more water to operate. So, next time you’re at the gym, try not to be so nonchalant about grabbing a stack of white towels for your sweat, the leg press seat, the exercise mat, your neck support, your second round of sweat, and everything else you can possibly use a towel for. I have a feeling you can make do with just one (maybe two).
Big box gyms are EXPENSIVE to operate. So the little things, like extra loads of laundry, do add up over time. As boutique fitness studios chip away at big box gyms, they struggle more and more. If you love your gym (or even your studio!) then try to help them reduce costs by not being wasteful. More importantly, you’re helping Mother Nature too.
5) The Gym is NOT the Place to Show off Your Goods
Believe it or not, the gym is not the place to flaunt everything that you’ve got. There are certain exercise classes and environments where sports bras, booty-huggers and mid-riff shirts are commonplace, and okay, it’s not exactly against the rules to wear these on the gym floor either. But, no one needs or wants to see your one-woman parade purposefully making a spectacle of herself.
Have you ever seen a beefed-up guy lift his muscle tank, flex his abs for the mirror and grin? Um…hello Mr. Obvious! While he may physically look like a cool drink on a hot day, vanity isn’t very attractive. Plus, distracted exercisers might drop a dumbbell on their heads!
Even more extreme is when people show off their…err…actual private parts. I kid you not. Once upon a time, there was a middle-aged man who would pull a recumbent bike into the middle of a heavy-traffic hallway at the gym. It was always after work when the gym was at its most crowded. Women would pass through the hallway, heading his way, and come out the other side with their faces grimaced in disgust. Mr. Perverted would pedal away on his bike with his male anatomy hanging out of his loose shorts. Eventually, gym management cracked down on him. Apparently, he thought the gym is a place for exhibitionism. Gross.
6) Staking Claim to Cardio Equipment is NOT Cool
We’ve all been in gyms during the hustle and bustle of the new year, when people are practically fighting one another for their favorite treadmill or elliptical. During these busy times, and even during non-peak seasons, it’s just ridiculously rude to stake claim to a piece of cardio equipment (i.e. placing your personal belongings on it) if you’re going to peace out to another part of the gym or do a substantial warm-up or workout elsewhere first. I’ve seen so many unnecessary disagreements arise between people because of this behavior. Remember the old “#1 Learn How to Share?” Yea….
7) Be Aware of Your Surroundings
Time and time again, people put themselves in harm’s way, and disrespect other people’s workouts, by not being appropriately aware of their surroundings. I have seen a pretty young woman vigorously swinging a kettlebell near an older man’s head. I have seen clients with their trainers doing traveling lunges only to have someone obliviously walk directly into their path, sometimes causing awkward and hazardous collisions. I have seen people so immersed in their personal world, (typically lost in blaring music through their Beats headphones), that they trip over another clumsy gym-goer’s heap of dumbbells.
Recently, I had an experience when I was working out in a plank position. A man came in front of me and started doing triceps kickbacks INTO MY FACE. Really?! You don’t realize that you’re about to smash my head in?
I get it, the workout zone can feel like a real, other-worldly state, but for your safety and the wellbeing of others, try to stay just a little bit aware of your surroundings.
8) Clean up After Yourself
Cleaning up your gym equipment helps other exercisers avoid tripping hazards. Duh.
Cleaning up is also about reducing the spread of germs. In short, don’t hack up a lung on a machine and leave your germs to fester. I saw a man literally blow snot into his palm, wipe it nonchalantly on his gym shorts, and then resume his workout. I didn’t want to go near that elliptical ever again…even after it was cleaned.
9) Play Nice
Help reduce gym intimidation and try to lighten up! Stalking around the gym like you’re on a mission to kill doesn’t help get you into the right mindset for your workout, and it doesn’t help the people around you either. This seems so obvious, but it’s amazing to me how many people find ways to gripe and complain incessantly while at the gym.
The music coming in through the sound system may not be your jam. You may have set a record for the worst day at work ever. You may be experiencing hormonal shifts during your workout and the mass of sweaty bodies moving around might not let you feel as invigorated as your body is implying you should be. Nonetheless, no one, I repeat NO ONE, should turn into a crazy person who is so sensitive that she takes out her frustration on those around her. Remember that insane gym rat years ago who threw another guy off his bike during a group class? Yea…no one should leave the gym with a concussion and spinal injuries. Isn’t that exactly what we’re at the gym to avoid?!
10) It’s OKAY to Ask for Help
Many people are reluctant to ask for help. They worry that they will look foolish for not knowing how to adjust the treadmill’s speed or for not knowing the proper direction to face on the lat pull-down machine (facing in, always facing in). But, it’s so much better to ask for professional help and to stay safe. I promise, there are professionals at your gym who are available and willing to help. If they’re not, find a new gym. Plus, if you don’t ask for help, chances are you look exponentially more clueless because you’re doing an exercise wrong. Swallow your pride! Everyone has to start somewhere. You will be given respect for wanting to learn.
Yours in health and wellness,