The gym can seem like a strange sweat-filled jungle sometimes. And people being people means that the experience of going to the gym can be funny, frustrating, lewd, or ludicrous. I realize gym etiquette requires me to mind my own business, but the shenanigans of others is often a major distraction. Here are some little tid-bits of advice to keep you and others sane if you’re new to the gym experience. (Note: all of the anecdotes below are real, I’ve seen them!)
By this I mean, take a moment and realize that other people are watching you, whether they mean to or not. If you’re lost in your own little world, there’s a strong possibility that you’re making the people around you either annoyed, grossed out, or weirded out.
So please don’t lift your shirt all the way up every five minutes and look at yourself in the mirror to see if anything has changed (there’s a young man who does this every time he comes in). Nothing has changed.
Please don’t prance around the stretching area pretending to “warm up” in your booty shorts and your tiny top. No one is fooled.
Please don’t stare at yourself in the mirror in between sets mouthing the words of the song you’re listening to. You look crazy.
The mirror is there for you to check that you have correct form, not for you to pick at your face. Ew.
Also, please make sure you’re properly attired. Trash bags, pajama bottoms, crocks, cargo shorts, bikini tops, and a suit and tie are all things you should not try to work out in (and yet they are all things I’ve seen at the gym).
2. Don’t be a jerk
When I first started working out I was doing so at my physical therapist’s office, it was also being used as a gym by a number of meat heads. One time I was doing a two-minute wall-sit holding a ten pound medicine ball (so, not comfortable) when this massive guy gets all in my face and yells, “Feel the burn!! Come on!” Yelling at me is already a great way to get me to stop listening to you, but doing so when I’m most certainly feeling the burn is a great way to get hurt. I yelled, “I’m going to throw this at your face!” I didn’t. Don’t yell at people, “motivational” or not.
Also, if it’s obvious that someone is using a machine, please don’t just hop on and use it if they happen to get up for a moment. You’ve completely messed up their workout.
Please don’t play your music for the people around you to hear. Working out takes concentration, and that is a great way to throw people off. It’s just rude. One time I was working out when the woman next to me was playing music really loudly on her iPad. Please don’t do that. Also, don’t bring iPads to the gym.
Finally, please don’t aimlessly float from machine to machine without cleaning up. One set of two reps isn’t going to do it my friend. Also, you’ve left your DNA on the seat for me to have to clean. Thanks.
3. Start light
I say this out of concern for your health and wellbeing. So many people, mostly guys, come to the gym with a set idea of how much weight they ought to be able to move (but can’t actually move). I’ve had several moments where I’ve seen someone moving far more weight than they could actually control and I was so worried they were going to get hurt. Rule of thumb, if you can’t move the weight without using body momentum or you’re having a hard time controlling the weight, please stop and get a lighter weight. I don’t want to witness you dislocating a joint or your back snapping in half.
Moving more weight than you can control is going to put a lot of stress on your muscles and joints. You’re going to get hurt.
4. Do not count out loud
This could have gone under sections one and two, but I really think it warrants it’s own category. Nothing irks my soul more than people in the gym who can’t count silently. If you can’t count your reps inside your own head, you need to rethink some things. Look, all of us are counting reps unless you’re in zen mode. No one at the gym is intimidated or impressed by the fact that you you’re only doing two sets of five reps. Please, do not grunt, moan, yell, or count out loud.
Working out should be fun and rewarding, but with other people around, it’s also pretty entertaining!