Monday, January 7, 2013

Gym etiquette for newbies

In the spirit of both encouraging and educating all the New Year's Resolution folks now swarming the gyms, I thought I’d offer some unsolicited but appropriate tips on etiquette and behavior. This will hopefully make them better gym users and increase their enjoyment of the experience.

But I’ll confess, mostly I’m just hoping to make their presence more tolerable to the rest of us. I speak as someone who started working out 22 years ago, and in that time hasn’t missed more than a week of going to the gym (and even then nearly always due to illness or travel).

1.    If you’re going to rest more than 45 seconds between sets, don’t just sit on the station. Get up, walk around, stretch, and let someone else work in. No one should hog a station for 10+ minutes. Three or four people can easily rotate on a single piece of equipment between sets.

2.    The spaces in between the exercise equipment are for egress. Do not grab dumbbells or other mobile equipment and stand there performing your exercises. Don’t make others walk around you.

3.    In many gyms there are clipboards on the cardio machines (treadmills, elliptical, etc.) for people to sign up for certain times. About 98% of the time, nobody pays any attention to these. When a machine is free, grab it. Don’t actually expect someone to get off because it’s “your time.”

4.    The locker room is where you’re supposed to change clothes. If you’re removing more than one article of clothing (winter coat, etc.), please don’t do it in front of the rest of us. We’re not impressed.

5.    Please wear appropriate workout clothing. If you’re a gym newbie and don’t want to invest in new duds because you think they will soon be too big for you, at least make sure everything that needs to be covered, is. Hint: Try Goodwill stores for good, cheap gym clothes.

6.    If you’re not sure how a piece of equipment works, feel free to ask someone who looks like they know what they’re doing. Most gym vets are glad to help. If you do some stations wrong, you could injure yourself.

7.    Unless you’re a member of a weightlifting team, you’re not in competition with anybody but yourself. Don’t worry about how much weight someone else can lift. Focus on making yourself stronger, not “beating” another person.

8.    If you need to make a loud grunt or exclamation when you’re lifting, you’ve got too much weight on.

9.    The operative part of the phrase “working out” is “work.” Most of us are here to perform exercise and leave. It’s not social hour. Confine extended conversations to outside the gym floor.

10.    Please don’t think we’re too cynical, but those of us who are here year-round know from past experience that most of you will be gone by Valentine’s Day. We’re happy to tolerate the January crowds, and applaud your newfound motivation. Those of you who transform into regulars are especially to be applauded. Next year, you can write this guide for the newcomers.

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