Spend enough time at the gym and you’re bound to develop some pet peeves. It’s a communal space, shared by people with idiosyncrasies that can drive others up a wall — humming while running, staring while lifting or loud-talking while doing anything.
Teaching fitness classes at a gym has given me a front-row seat to some colorful behavior that local trainers and gym managers tell me is pretty common. While there is no way to avoid annoying somebody at some point, there are basic rules of gym etiquette to keep people from throwing you the side-eye.
● Focus on your workout, not everyone else’s: Look, I get it. You read fitness mags, have a few exercise apps on your smartphone and are at the gym so much that all the cleaning people know your name. But unless you’re a certified trainer, no one needs your advice on their form.
This kind of gym-splaining happens way too often to women. Some dude will think it’s his duty to explain the fine points of a squat or, worse yet, try to physically correct your posture. It’s intimidating enough to exercise in front of a bunch of chiseled people without a stranger singling you out for a lesson.
If you are genuinely concerned that someone might injure himself, tap a trainer on the shoulder and politely say, “Hey, I think that person over there could use some help.” Most trainers are happy to help, especially if it means a potential new client.
“If someone is in immediate danger, help them out. But otherwise, look for a trainer on the floor,” said Devin Maier, a personal trainer at Balance Gym in the District.
Focusing on your workout also means not staring at people as they are doing theirs. You can learn a lot from checking out someone else’s routine, but don’t ogle. And if you really want to try the circuit that the guy next to you is doing, ask him about it when it looks like he’s done.
● Keep it clean: If you’re a sweat monster, like I am, bring wipes to clean off the machines, mats and weights. Most gyms come equipped with spray bottles and paper towels; some even have disinfecting wipes. Use them.
Slipping and busting your behind on someone’s treadmill sweat trail is no fun. Janitors can be in only so many places at once. They need your cooperation to keep the gym from becoming a petri dish.
If you like to shave or wash your hair in the locker room shower, take a paper towel and scoop up the bits of hair in the drain. Sure, it’s icky, but it’s ickier when somebody else has to step in it. And if you need to freshen your makeup at the sink, clean up the film of foundation or blush powder around the edges.
● Keep grunts to a minimum: Yes, that last set of curls is killing you. So much so that you’re gritting your teeth, breaking into a sweat and grunting like you’re Conan the Barbarian — but you’re not, so keep it down.
It is natural to grunt when exerting effort; some trainers will even tell you that it enhances performance. One study of college tennis players found that their serve and forehand velocity increased when they grunted.
Still, that loud exhalation can be distracting to everyone else. Besides, you can forcefully expel air without making a whole lot of noise. Try it.
“If it sounds like someone is passing a kidney stone and it’s distracting to other people, then you need to tone it down,” Maier said. “We’re all for people exerting themselves within reason, but we don’t want someone to bust a blood vessel.”
And another thing: There is no need to drop the weights after completing that oh-so-difficult set. It’s distracting and dangerous, Alexx Griffin, regional group fitness director at Vida, said in an e-mail.
“Please do not drop weights from overhead or let [them] drop from waist level to the ground,” he wrote. Instead, “maintain control of weights at all times,” and safely lower them to a resting position.
● Don’t hog several machines or weights at once: Rotating from one machine to the next as part of a circuit can be a great way to break up the monotony of your workout. But be mindful that other people want to use the leg press or Smith machine.
Don’t take long breaks in between each set, because someone will swoop in to take one of the machines. And swoopers, ask whether the person is still using the leg press before you start your set. The frustration of having to wait and wait for a machine is no excuse for rudeness.
“I’m all for people doing circuit training, but if you are going to monopolize multiple pieces of equipment, you should probably come in during off-peak hours,” Maier said. “If you’re going to the gym at 6 p.m. at night, don’t do it. You’re going to upset people, and everyone has got to share.”
All the same advice applies to the use of weights. It’s splendid that you are trying to increase the amount of weight you can lift. You know what’s not splendid? People waiting 20 minutes for the pair of 10-, 15- and 20-pound dumbbells that you say you’re “almost” done using. Not all gyms come fully stocked with multiple weights of the same size, so keep that in mind when you pick up the last pair of 15-pound dumbbells.
And “return all equipment to its proper location after use so that it’s readily available for other members and keeps the gym floor free of clutter,” Griffin said.
● Confine your stuff to one area: There is no reason for anyone to have their belongings — water bottle, sweatshirt, keys, phone, wallet — strewn about. This goes for the locker room, weight room and class studio. None of these places are your house, so you have no right to throw your stuff everywhere. Not cool.
There is limited space in the gym that has to be shared by everyone, so it does no one any good to have maneuver around all of your things. Get a locker. If you don’t feel safe parting from your wallet or cellphone, then neatly place them somewhere that’s not in the way.
When you’re in the locker room, don’t leave your toiletries in the shower stall. Same goes for your sweaty clothes and worn undies. No one needs to see all that. No one. Ever.
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