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Fitness: Gym Gripes


Moving Crew
Washington Post Health Staff
Thursday, August 19, 2004; 11:00 AM

You need to get moving.

Let's face it, we all do -- not to claim boasting rights in the gym or look good in a Speedo (you don't) -- but to boost our chances of staying healthy and energetic, regardless of age and athletic ability.

The Moving Crew is not aimed at health faddists, body builders or extreme athletes. But if you're a harried deskjockey trying to find creative ways to squeeze in exercise, a senior looking to stay active or a workout enthusiast whose routine's gone flat, you might find the answers here.

Each week the Crew will explore some facet of fitness from the inevitable new trends to the latest research and offer ways to overcome the excuses that keep so many of us desk- and sofa-bound.

We asked gym members to share their biggest pet peeves when it comes to working out at the gym. Is there a gripe that wasn't addressed last week?

Submit your questions and comments before or during today's discussion.

Editor's Note: Washingtonpost.com moderators retain editorial control over Live Online discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions.


John Briley: Talk about hot topics: Two weeks after our survey on gyms we are STILL getting reader responses on how local health clubs can improve their service. Keep 'em coming and we'll revisit the issue - in some format - in the near future.

Meantime, we're here today to talk about your fitness - from the gym to the trail to the video in your living room, maybe even to Athens (you still online, Mr. Phelps?).

A lot to discuss today, so let's get right into it.


Charlestown, Wv.: I just joined the gym a couple of months ago, and I'm making steady progress building strength. I use 13 different machines and do three sets of 15 reps. On the third set, I'll push the weight as high as I can go and still get through the entire set.

A lot of times, though, I can't get through the set without stopping for a short 30-60 second breather before completing the set.

Does this short break detract from my workout at all? Would I be better off with a lower weight that will allow me to complete all the sets without stopping?

John Briley: No, the break shouldn't hurt at all. Sounds like a great routine. Keep it up!

- John


Intensity or Duration?: I use an elliptical machine at home 5 days a week. I ususally go for about 30 minutes of very high intensity (high resistance and high ramp). Should I lower the intensity and extend duration (I don't think I can maintain the intensity and the duration) or stick with what I'm doing? The goal is weight loss/maintence (I've lost 30 pounds in the past six months).

Craig Stoltz: Hi, Intense.

First, congrats on losing 30 pounds in six months. That's about two bowling balls' worth of adipose tissue you are no longer lugging through life. It must feel great.

Two points here:

1. The human body is annoyingly adaptable to exercise--it gets used not only to a certain level of exercise, but to the type of exercise. It sort of becomes resistant. This in part explains the dreaded plateau effect that dogs so many regular exercisers. So it's fair to expect that results will come slower, or will even stop altogether, if you keep doing the same thing too long. Since you've sunk a lot of dough into your elliptical, you'll obviously want to stick with that until you really want to change, but this is worth knowing as you plan your exercise future.

2. I know I say this every week, but it's well proven that one of the best ways to get more results from the same amount of exercise time is to do interval trainging. In this case, that will probably mean doing 30 minutes on the machine, alternating between an even higher level of intensity than you're used to, and recovery (walk/jog pace). Then when you've recovered, do another intense period. As you improve, you'll find you'll be able to "sprint" longer and shorten your recovery time. How to know whether--and how much--to gin up the intensity? Get a heart rate monitor, and try to reach 85-90 percent of your maximum heart rate during your sprints.


Ann Arbor, Mi.: Not a gym gripe but an honest question.

I'm now jogging in addition to my cycling pursuits. A couple days ago, I came down with a killer muscle spasm or knot in my right hip. It came on suddenly, at work -- I could barely walk!; Spent 50 minutes on the bike later to try to work it out, and that + Ibuprofen seems to have cured it.

I know NOTHING about running injuries!; What on Earth did I do? I run a breathtaking 2-3 miles v-e-r-y s-l-o-w-l-y. Could this just have been an ergo thing from the way I sit at work?

John Briley: Running can be abusive on many body parts, so the incident it may have been related to your jog. Two suggestions:

1. Go into a running-specific store and ask a pro to watch you run. She or he should be able to point out any problems with your form.

2. Check out the book Chi Running, by Danny Dreyer, which offers a lot of great info on how to run smoothly and without pain. I'm not sure if he specifically addresses hip issues, but overall I found his advice very helpful for smoothing my running form.

- John


Washington D.C.: I'm moving to Capitol Hill at the end of the month, and I'd love some feedback from the Crew regarding the two gyms closest to my house. Any special gripes or kudos about the Capitol Hill Washington Sports Club? ow about the Capitol Hill Results? Thanks for your insights.

Susan Morse: Hi Washington,
Good luck on the move! We've gotten about 70 responses from readers so far on our gym survey. (Thanks, everyone!) Several have come from WSC members (wanting expanded schedules, locker room improvements, etc.) but none identify themselves as members of the Capitol Hill club. Same thing with Results! Any Capitol Hill gym-goers out there who want to share their findings?


Charlottesville, VA: I work out at a gym that is university-sponsored so obviously, it is full of college students. My pet peeve is that the guys (and it's always guys, sorry!;) leave about 400 pounds worth of weights on a machine and walk away. I can't use it because I don't lift 400 pounds and I have wrist problems so I can't remove all of these weights. Grrrrrrrr.

You can't shame them into moving the weights off because they have moved on to another machine and you don't know who did it.

Craig Stoltz: Thanks, C'town. We've had lots of versions of this complaint. We know the good citizens of Da Crew don't engage in this boorish behavior. Let's hope posting it leads our very good friends who staff fitness centers to enforce the rule.


washingtonpost.com: Read this week's Moving Crew column Gym Managers Tune Into Health Club Beefs.


Arlington, VA: HI, Good question.

I go to Golds Gym and have two pet peeves - the gym does not enforce their rules, especially the "No gym bags on exercise floor" rule. The other one is people who spread their gear all over the bench. There is no bench surface left for me to sit down to take off my shoes.

Susan Morse: Hi Arlington,
Good to hear from you. Yeah, some people seem to need a reminder on things that are just common courtesy. True, if the gym enforced the rules, it would take the annoyance out of your hands, but in the meantime, a polite, "Do you mind if I move this over?" should suffice.
Thanks for joining us.


20009: I have found good trainers are hard to come by. I was a member at Fitness First in DC (19th and L) where I was excited that membership included unlimited free personal training sessions. Usually I was left either feeling unchallenged or in severe pain. Now I go to WSC and the instructors there go to conferences and get lots of training. While using a trainer there is not free, it is worth the money for a quality session.

Craig Stoltz: Thanks, '09.

As another (former) Fitness First member, I can tell you many folks share your annoyance/confusion about the "free unlimited personal training" policy. While I never approached the staff to say I wanted a free session, I asked at the desk to talk to a trainer on duty to ask a question about equipment on a few occasions and found their responses cursory or even ignorant. I exchanged e-mails about the training policy with the (an?) owner of the chain, and he allowed how he was not sure they had landed on the precise accurate diction to describe what the free training consists of. But he also said a (very) few members took advantage of it, seeking a trainer every time for a full workout, which is something that obviously the clubs can't provide for everyone.

Your point--that you get what you pay for in a personal trainer--is a good one.


Washington, DC: This is a comment on the Fitness Company at Thomas Circle. This gym provides wonderful classes and the worst physical plant that I have ever seen. The prices are too high for a club where water is pouring through the ceiling in the ladies locker room, where power outlets are blowing up in the spinning room,and where the cardio theatre is barely working. Does the management of this club have any plans for repairing the physical plant?

Susan Morse: Well, Washington, this is one good way to find out if management is tuning in. We welcome comments, responses from gym managers. We know there's another side to this story. We've heard some of it. (See Tuesday's Moving Crew column.) But we're still all ears. Thanks.


Washington, DC: My gripe has less to do with the actual exercising part of being at the gym, more to do with things that prevent you from working out... Last week, the treadmills were all full and I noticed a guy who looked like he was finishing up. I went over to ask if he was done. "What?" he said. "Are you finished?" I repeated. Giving me what I'm sure he thought was a sly, attractive look, he said, "I haven't even kissed you yet, so how could I be finished?" I thought surely I'd heard him wrong and just stared in disbelief that someone could be so crass at 2 pm on a Saturday IN A GYM.

I'm sure that others have experienced similar things - what does it take to be left alone at the gym? I already do the headphones thing, which usually does the trick, but not in this case.

John Briley: No one should have to tolerate that type of high schoolish crap in a gym. If/when it happens again, complain immediately to management.

I'm not sure there's any salvation from aggressive hormones. One strategy is to have a few very direct and conclusive come-backs in your quiver, such as, "No, dumbo, I meant your adolescent fantasy - are you done with THAT yet? Because I need to use this machine."

good luck -



Love My Gym in DC: Posting really early here... Results on Cap Hill does an amazing thing - it has a suggestion box and then they post all the suggestions and a response on a big board. They really do respond to everything. The open communcation adds to what I think is already a great gym atmosphere. It is also very funny to see what other people suggest... Far too many people seem to think their lives would be better with Q-Tips in the locker rooms.

Craig Stoltz: Thanks, Love. Posting the suggestions is a fantastic policy--really brave and imaginative. I dare other clubs to follow suit.

I, for one, always like the mouthwash.


Susan Morse: P.S. to Washington,DC
My oversight. Excuse me. Here's a comment from a WSC member who uses both the Capitol Hill & Dupont Circle clubs. She wants, in this order (okay, take a breath): later classes in the evenings (after 6 pm), more hours for weekend classes, kickboxing classes that don't involve use of a punching bag, better class instruction, more ellipticals and recumbent bikes, more elbow room on the floor, bigger towels.


Washington, DC: Gym gripe: a friend of mine got a Staph infection from (her doctor believes) one of the mats in our gym. Ever since, I've been grossed out by everything at the gym-- and noticing how nobody wipes down equipment, how the mats are all stained with sweat, and how nasty nasty the locker room floors are. I think it's time to change my membership.

Susan Morse: Ewwww. That's gross (though probably very hard to prove). And what club is that?


washingtonpost.com: Looking for alternatives to your gym? What about fitness and wellness programs? Read Fitness on the Job and discover why some employer-sponsored fitnes incentives aren't catching on.


arlington, va: I am hoping that the third time is the charm on this busy board. I need help with thigh exercises. I am tired of lunges and squats. Any ideas or home machines to try?

John Briley: Hi Arlington - What are you after? Bulky strength (I think you said 'no' last week)? Lean tone? Presuming the latter, cycling is great - for both thigh and calf muscles - but for best results you should use enough resistance to feel at least a slight burn in the target muscles. There's also the machine on which you open and close your legs (a woman friend of mine calls that the 'yes-no machine'), which helps tone the inner thighs.

Also good is the leg-extension machine on which you raise the weights by placing your ankles behind the pad and straightening your legs. you will feel that in your quads and as long as you don't totally max out on weight, you shouldn't get too bulky from it.

And yet another one - could be done at home if you own a stability ball: While standing, put the ball between the wall and the small of your back and sit down until your legs are bent at 90-degree angles. Keep your feet directly under your knees. Hold it for as long as possible. Rest, repeat.

Hope that helps.

- John


Owings Mills, MD: Do you have any suggestions for exercises with those big exercise balls? I had a poster that came with mine but lost it in our recent move. Currently I use it to sit on as I lift my weights, but I need some other ideas. Ideas that strenghten legs without much knee pressure would be really great!;

Craig Stoltz: Hi OM. I'm a big fan/user of The Big Balls. First, sitting on the rubber orb to lift weights is indeed an excellent idea: it adds core muscle development and balance improvement to the benefits that the exercise itself (curls, presses, flyes, etc.) provides.

A couple more favorites: pushups with feet/legs up on the ball behind you (so your nose is down); crunches, lying on the ball so it's on your mid-back (make sure you don't yank your head up by the neck); and squats (with back to wall and ball behind back, going down to point where thighs are parallel to floor).

A couple of sites have other ideas: bodytrends.com, getfit.com, and performbetter.com (search under "stability balls.")


washingtonpost.com: Okay, you have the gripes, but looking for a workout to pump you up? Get suggestions from fellow gym enthusiasts Tuesdays with Marty Gallagher's discussion on strength and fitness.


Washington DC: My gym has signs everywhere that locks left on lockers more than 24 hours will be cut off, but there is a lock in the womens locker room that has been there since mid-June. I even put a note on it, and have reported it to management (complete with the locks serial number) once a week since mid-July. Why, when they do so many things right, do gyms blow the seemingly simple 'maintenance' issues so badly? How can we get them to fix and maintain the facility? Examples: clean showers, repair leaks, and exchange fresh air for carbon dioxide in the workout area. BTW, do you have some bolt cutters I could borrow?

Craig Stoltz: Another sweaty-stained gauntlet thrown down to health club managers. I agree: failing to enforce a policy as simple as that is Management for Imbeciles. If they can't do that, what can they do?





(I mean sheesh lift and be done with it, no need to scare those of us that arent all juiced up.)

Craig Stoltz: Sheesh indeed.


Fairfax, VA: I highly recommend Lifetime in Fairfax City with one caveat make sure you get Gen as your trainer. No hard sell just a workout specifically for you and your goals. No generic one siza fits all. Plus she is ripped for a lady in her 40's. Being the same age I would kill for abs and legs like hers. She also has no qualms about kicking other customers off equipemt who are just talking.

Craig Stoltz: Ripped or not, I admire someone who kicks talkers off machines.


Prince Frederick, MD: Any solutions to the middle-aged female with hot flashes? I don't feel like moving when I'm drenched with sweat. Does Pilates work in this situation? Also, I have chronic low back pain. Walking is painful, not about to do any jogging.

Susan Morse: Hi Prince Fred,
Lots of things that might be worth trying. Let me recommend a funny Health section story that takes you through a bunch of them. "Hot Enough for You".
I've never heard Pilates recommended for hot flashes but it might be just the thing for your low back pain--because it strengthens abs and lower back, and helps you stretch muscles that get lazy with too much sitting. Go slow. Start with the basics from a good instructor, like those at Excel Movement Studio in Northeast. Good luck.


Danbury, CT: Hi Guys-
I usually work long hours and am really tired after work. Do you have any recommendations for boosting my energy? Thanks

John Briley: Hi Danbury - This is a common issue and afflicts many of us. A few suggestions:

1. Take breaks at work - MAKE YOURSELF do it - and walk around the building, or the block, or the park - whatever is near and, preferably, outdoors. This is not a panacea, but should help a little bit. Sitting all day - or just being inside all day - thinking and working is a drain. The breaks give you some periodic relief.

2. Allow yourself some recovery time after work. Gel out on your commute - no heavy reading, no intense cell phone conversations. If you're lucky enough to live near work, give yourself this time when you get home. This lets your brain and body recover; the experts call this 'oscillation.'

3. BUT, before you check out, promise yourself to hit the gym, or the trail, or some form of workout by X time. When you're really beat, start your workout slowly. Let your body warm up.

4. GET ENOUGH SLEEP and drink water periodically throughout the day. I find I am more cooked after a hard workday if I neglected to hydrate. Excessive coffee works against you - brief jolt followed by crash followed by funky fatigue later in the day.


Fitness Gyms Not Single Bars: Curves is great for avoiding the insecurities that a co-ed gym can harbor. Dozens of my female friends are very happy there.
If you're female, i can almost guarantee you won't be bothered at the Results on U Street - and it's a very nice facility, too.
I've been going there for years and have made lots of friends...friends!;

Susan Morse: Thanks for this suggestion. That is one appeal of the predominantly all-male or all-female clubs.


Results gripe: I was a member of first the U St and then the Cap Hill Results and have dropped my membership.

As much as they have a comment box, most responses are "that's the way it is," and it's clear that the owner's "vision" is what rules. Most insulting, though, is the Results Hummer that the owner uses as a personal vehicle to tool around town-- and that we members paid for. If you ask him about it, he'll say the vehicle is for "outdoor programs."

Susan Morse: Uh oh. Not what most gym-goers are looking for by way of response. Thanks for posting.


Clifton, Va.: Make sure any mountain bike trail you hike is at least dual use if not multi use. Nothing worse than a bunch of hikers on a mountain bike only trail. Yes we will run you over. So sorry stay off our trails we stay off your trails.

John Briley: We don't endorse anybody running anybody else over, regardless of circumstances, but knowing the rules of the trail you are on is important. I can empathize with Clifton on ONE POINT - we mountain bikers need more trails - BUT BUT BUT hitting someone with a mountain bike just isn't cool. Stay calm!


Arlington, VA: I belong to Gold's and go to the Ballston location. One thing I notice which bothers me is the staff tend to ignore infractions of posted rules by body builder types but are ready to more strictly enforce the rules when one of the more soft bodied members bends a posted rule. I am referring to such things as loudly clanging weight plates together, not re-racking weights, loudly grunting (yep, a rule which I have seen body builders ignore while another, softer member was publicly chastised by staff for doing so), and not wiping down equipment.

It's no wonder some people are unwilling to go to a gym when the "pro.s" are seemingly given carte blanche on the rules while the rest of us are kept on a shorter leash. Familiarity breeding contempt? I dunno.

Craig Stoltz: Some of these complaints seem based on, how you say, the differing exercise cultures of the adjacent sex. (Some women who feel their clubs are overtaken by macho guys call the gyms "jims." I suppose the equivalent for men who think their gyms are too feminized would be to call them "gyns.") In my observation as a serial member of many co-ed clubs, it's only the few at the extremes--the guys who grunt and strut, the gals who treat the gym like it's a fashion show--who are the problem. Most of us can get along very well.

Uh, oh, have I just introduced gender politics into the discussion? Send all responses to Briley. Or Morse.


Capitol Hill, DC: I live on Capitol Hill, and while i have an irresistable corporate deal with The Sports Club/LA, I was a member at Results on Capitol Hill for 3 months. It is an excellent gym with plenty of amenities to suit the fitness-minded. I suggest it over WSC - they offer a solid variety of group exercise classes, a basketball court and a very energetic fitness floor. They have a great cafe, too!;
The WSC is very crowded.

Susan Morse: So glad to hear from a satisfied gym member. And I bet the person anxious for info about Capitol Hill clubs will be glad to see what you have to say, too. Thanks.


Peterborough NH: Glad to see the Moving Crew live!; A friend sent
me the url--and I'm enjoying the questions and
comments of readers and moderators alike.

As managing editor of ClubLife, a new fitness
magazine that clubs all over the country give to
their members, I'm wondering how clubgoers feel
about the quality of fitness and health information
they get from their clubs. Any gripes there?

John Briley: Well, chatland, an invitation from a gym industry publisher for comments on health and fitnes INFORMATION at your club. Any feedback?


Peterborough: Answer to Washington DC's comment about staph

The experts are saying now that it's very important
to shower right after your workout so that skin
infections don't have a chance to take hold. You
don't want to wait until you get home, especially if
you do errands or meet friends for a quick bite to
eat on the way home!; And if your gym doesn't
have cleaning products for your use, you can
carry one with you to sanitize equipment before
you use it.

John Briley: Thanks Peterborough! Good tip.


Arlington: After years being out of shape, I'm starting to workout 4-5 mornings/week at the gym in my apt complex, and I need a good routine. My goals are to lose weight (about 30lbs to get to my ideal weight), get toned, and improve my overall level of fitness. I have about 60 mins to workout every morning. What is the best way to make use of this time, between cardio (i.e. running on the treadmill), weight training, and exercises that target certain muscle groups (crunches, etc)? Should I alternate on certain days?

Craig Stoltz: Congrats on your new commitment, Arlington. Making the commitment isn't the hardest part, but it's essential before anything else can happen.

Regarding weight work: Give yourself two days' rest between each workout of a particular muscle group. Many people will do arms and shoulders Monday, abs and core Tuesday, Legs and butt Wednesday, arms and shoulders Thursday, and so on. That way you can do weights daily and still provide the essential recovery time between workouts. *Don't* workout a muscle or group when it's still sore from your last workout.

As for cardio, see my note above regarding intervals; they are more effective than steady-state workouts and less likely to promote/permit boredom.

You may want to start with 20 minutes of cardio; 20 minutes of weights/other muscle-enhancing workout; and 20 minutes of stretching/cooldown. Don't avoid stretching. It's a key part of fitness, and essential for those of us in possession of aging bodies.


Washington, DC: Oooh, I agree with the other WSC poster. Love my WSC (Glover Park), but I want more classes, especially after 7:30 on weeknights. Love weekend classes too. I second the whole kickboxing thing--I'd prefer more of a tae-bo class than beating on a punching bag. I also wish that the class schedule had the instructor's names on it. I have a few favorite instructors and would happily follow them around the DC area if I knew when they were teaching.

Question for other WSC members: How do we feel about Xpress Line? I use the equipment when there isn't a trainer there, but I'm intimidated to try it when there's someone watching me. Are they actually helpful?

Craig Stoltz: What say you, WSCeurs?


Washington DC: This is a gripe. Gyms that use the "free health assessment" as a time-share style hard sell for $70 per hour personal training. The guy actually wanted me to spend over $200 per week above and beyond the membership fee.

Craig Stoltz: Another common complaint. I agree there's a creepy similarity between health club sales jobs and time-share sales jobs. If the health club guys want $200 per week, you'll need a mortgage for that, too.


Silver Spring, MD: "Watch your spacing and follow the instructor's routine" used to be in a sign on the studio door. Sign is gone now, but it was never enough. When they join or visit, people should be told "always look around you in class, don't drift!; Keep a yardstick (3 feet) apart." It's hard for anyone new to a class to follow routine AND watch spacing, they should stay in back until they get it. Instructors seem afraid to address this issue, I don't see why!;

Craig Stoltz: Maybe they should paint "parking spaces" on the floor.

Oddly, I'm not sure I'm kidding.


Ballston, VA: Hey, I love the fact Gold's doesn't enforce their parking rules. It would be a pain to park my Ford Explorer if I had to actually put it in a regular parking space. Instead I either straddle two spaces or just block in other cars. I know nothing will happen (I work for DOJ), so I just do my workout and let people stew.

Craig Stoltz: I park my Hummer limo there for the same reason.


Washington DC: I've been working out 5 days a week for about 3 months now. M/W/F on core and weights, T/TH on cardio, using a low carb eating approach. I'm feeling better and am definitely more fit, but I am not losing weight very fast - only about 10 pounds in all this time. Am I doing something obviously wrong? I still have about 50 lbs to go. I'm not going to quit, but it's discouraging. Suggestions?

John Briley: Hi DC - First, losing 10 pounds in 3 months sounds healthy. Losing weight too fast usually leads to gaining it right back (Sally, our dietary expert, is out today; check in with her Lean Plate Club chat Tuesday at 1 p.m. for a more detailed answer).

Have you reduced caloric intake along with the carb adjustment? Not to sound too repetitive but: Calories burned must exceed calories consumed if you want to lose fat.

Other than that, your workout sounds pretty good, although we usually flip the balance and recommend 3 days cardio and two days weights (experts say the same thing for novice to intermediate exercisers). So experiment with that, and make sure you are getting your heart rate up during the cardio.

BIG CAVEAT: If you find you love your current routine more than the alternative and it is getting you in the gym 5 days a week, stick with it!


Woodbridge, VA: Here's a gym grip that has ensured me from setting foot in a gym for the last six years: What should one do then an aerobic 'instructor' chooses blatantly religious music for a class?
I mentioned this to the management, and during the next class (the only one convenient to my schedule) the same instructor played X-rated hip-hop.

Needless to say, I cancelled my membership & let the club know why. If an instructor wishes to have a class geared towards members of a particular faith, fine, but this was NOT the case. Any thoughts?

Susan Morse: Clearly outside the bounds. As was the x-rated stuff my gym in Silver Spring had on the high bank of TV monitors one recent weekend morning when I stopped in for a workout. When I told the desk I found it offensive--and I don't offend all that easily-- they quickly switched the channel. As they should have. Insensitivity to members' differences in backgrounds, tastes, religions, etc. is inexcusable. They've advertised and you're paying for a place to work out, not to worship. The church should be of your own choosing.


Maryland: One of my gripes about gyms is the use of teenagers who are not very customer-oriented being at a gym's front desk. It doesn't present a professional front.

Craig Stoltz: If the clubs had a no-eyebrow-rings/no studying-college-textbooks policy for greeters, that problem would be solved.


Silver Spring, MD: Gym mgt. has main responsibility for teaching people about proper spacing in class. Although men and women both need to look around more, men can be aggressive, i.e. taking twice as much space in a move as the other participants. It's very hard for a space-aware female participant like me to deal with these guys when I am running from them!;

Craig Stoltz: the gender wars continue. . .


Grunt City: About grunting: When lifting very heavy weights, it is hard not to grunt. I'm a quiet person and I still find myself grunting during heavy lifts. I keep it under control as best I can, however. The real problem is the guys who seem to grunt as loud as possible to attract as much attention as possible. But I much prefer even loud grunters to those who talk on cell phones while on aerobic machines sharing all the boring details of their lives.

Susan Morse: Grunter to the rescue. What a great match this would be: In this corner, weighing x pounds, the grunter. In this corner, weighing y pounds (including cell phone), the talker. And here's the bell.....


Chevy Chase MD: There's a girl my age (teenager) who is aways at the gym when I am. She is incredibly thin yet exercises for over an hour each time on the cardio machines I favor, sometimes forcing me to do weights first while she occupies a machine during busy time (there are 3 of the type I prefer). While I have no legitmate reason to dislike her, both me and my sister who also frequents the gym dislikes her. I almost feel sometiems as thoguh her presence distracts me. What should I do?

John Briley: Quick lecture: People around us face a huge range of circumstances in their lives, some of which we will never know about or understand. Always give people the benefit of the doubt. Meanness - whether externalized or internalized - does no good to anyone. Feel lucky for the good things in your life and don't resent other people.

Quick tip: If this girl is exceeding posted time limits on the gear, politely ask her to yield the machine or, if that fails, tell a manager.


Downtown, D.C.: I have a gripe about Gold's Gym. I went in to ask if there was anything I needed to do to officially "cancel" my membership once my year contract was up. The people at the front desk said no there wasn't. So I did nothing and then was charged for an extra month at a "month to month" rate and then ANOTHER month after I sent an email officially ending my membership. The customer service lady was very rude too. It make me so angry. They need a much better informed staff.
Sorry to vent.

Craig Stoltz: Hey, downtown. Once any retailer/service provider gets your credit card, they can cling to you like a lamprey. Ugly, ugly method revenue enhancement.


Arbuts, MD: I'll take a bit of offense to the poster who says that grunting when lifting is offensive. Granted, some may take it a bit too far and loud, but I see nothing wrong with a few UHHHHs and GRRRRRRRs to help get those last couple of reps done. I work hard in the gym on the weights and I get the juices flowing and doing this on the last few heavy reps helps me breathe properly instead of holding my breath and gets me a little psyched up. Please learn to deal with me and others. As for those that are over the top, just laugh at them in your head.

Craig Stoltz: A plea for tolerance from the Grunting Wing of the health club party. ..


washington, dc: My gym gripe, and this applies to the whole city, not just one particular gym: we need better and more group exercise classes in DC. There's plenty of sculpting and mind/body type classes but not enough good aerobics, step, or BOSU classes. Moreover, we have very few truly great group fitness instructors for a city this size.

If you attend a conference like DCAC you can't help but notice that there are only one or two hometown instuctors presenting - apparently because there aren't many local instructors qualified to present. Sadly, this problem is self-perpetuating - i.e. without great step instructors, gym members lose interest in step, so the gyms offer fewer classes, which means even less incentive for gyms to lure top out-of-area instructors and also provides less opportunity for local instructors to become great step instructors themselves.

I would join any local gym that offer world class group fitness instructors and a good variety of intermediate to advanced cardio classes, including step and BOSU.

Susan Morse: A new one: a prospective gym member inviting bids. Any takers?


Chevy Chase, Md.: Another complaint from the gym -- It's great to use the machines as part of your workout and keep adding plates to increase your strength, but PLEASE remove them when you are finished. In my gym, signs posted on the mirrors in front of many of these machines were useless. Trainers are among the worst culprits.

In my gym, if employees walked the floor and did more than just serve as greeters, it might help alleviate the problem.

John Briley: We've heard this before Chevy Chase and it's a good point. Trainers - are you paying attention? Teach by example.


Ann Arbor, MI: Hi Crew!; Not a gripe but a question left over from last week. I'm making the transition from biking to running, and I seem to keep aggravating a hip or groin injury. I've never had this happen before: is it shoes? gait? guilt that I should be biking and not running? (But I LIKE to run!;)


Craig Stoltz: Hi Ann,

If it hurts, cut it out. There could be many sources, including both shoes and gait. Either change your routine (power walk instead of run, or run on a treadmill) until the problem resolves, or--the dreaded recommendation--visit a sports doc (not a regular doc! They know very little about these things!)


Staph infection: It was at the Thomas Circle Fittness whatever club-- the same one referenced above. It's a gross, gross place. I will NEVER shower there. Ever. They don't even have towels/spray/wipes available for cleaning off equipment when you're done.

Susan Morse: Thanks, Staph. Hope you don't encounter that problem again.


Vienna, VA: In response to Washington, D.C. and the "free assessment" offer. At Sport & Health Clubs, there is a free assessment offered at the time of joining. That is for those people who need to get started on a fitness program and are not sure how to start or how to work the machines. We offer a variety of personal training "options." The emphasis here is on options - if people need more help in reaching their own personal fitness goals they can purchase personal training individually or in a group session with a certified, professional personal trainer who is there to provide expertise. However, not everyone needs this type of expertise and should never be pressured into purchasing something they don't want. There is a great deal of value in personal training and people have seen great results.

Craig Stoltz: Thanks, S&H management, for joining in. If anyone has been high-pressure sold by Sport & Health staff, report it to management. (And us.)


Hope it's not too late: I would like at least ONE person in a gym to be certified in CPR. Three years ago I was in a spin class when another rider had a heart attack. Not one person who worked at the gym knew basic CPR and when we finally found someone (another gym member) who did, it was too late. Inexcusable!;

Susan Morse: Good point, which I don't believe many others have mentioned. Having someone knowledgable in CPR and having a defibrilator on the wall, with someone who's been trained to use it, should be required at all gyms.


John Briley: Out of time folks. Thanks for making this about the busiest room in D.C. on an August Thursday! Tune in again in two weeks (Sept. 2) at 11 a.m. for more advice and banter. Until then, enjoy this fading summer and keep on movin.'



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