Gym Etiquette

I’1 GYM ETIQUETTE KR 03ve been traveling a lot lately, so I wanted to let you know what the rules are if you happen to see me walk into your gym.  First, be nice and get out of my way.  I’ll be in a hurry, and I need my space.  Oh, and try not to be using equipment that I’m getting ready to use.  That really ticks me off!  And if you don’t like the sweat I leave on my bench after I’m done powering up the huge weights that I use, tough beans! Find another gym!

“Psyche your mind!” Hopefully nobody got too pissed off at me in the first paragraph.  I’m just trying to remind you of somebody you’ve come across in your gym at one time or another.  Many times it’s the hulking guys who think they own the gym, but there are plenty of “yuppie” or “pretty people” types in gyms who can be annoying also, and probably more so.

This month’s column is about gym etiquette, the do’s and don’ts in a crowded gym, and the most efficient way to manage your time to get the most out of your workout in a crowded gym. Oh, and the “psyche your mind” quote is from the movie Holy Man, starring Eddie Murphy. It was sort of a sleeper at the box office, but it’s actually a great movie. And now onto the unwritten rules of the hardcore gyms, and the written rules of the oh-so-yuppie-ish gyms.

It’s funny, but usually the friendliest gyms to work out in are the hard core gyms. Even when the big bodybuilder dudes see a small, puny guy working out, as long as they see this guy trying hard each day, and learning, trying new things, and making some progress, they’ll show him respect. It’s the guys taking up space and screwing off that they don’t relate to. But when it comes to being gross, the hardest of the hard core gyms usually has guys spitting and sweating all over the equipment, and not particularly cautious about what bodily odors they exude.

On the other end of the spectrum, you have the ultra “yuppie” gyms, that cater to the in-and-out professional, who’s there to do a quick circuit training session, or some cardio. Those are the gyms that usually have plenty of social butterflies amongst its more serious members, and those are the gyms that usually have a hundred rules about everything from spitting, to where you can stand using certain weights, and “oh, don’t move the benches”!

Depending on which type of gym you like to go to and its atmosphere, it’s pretty easy to figure out what the appropriate etiquette is for your gym. But the unwritten rules of the gym aren’t so obvious, and that’s where I’m going to help out.

To go over some of the obvious for the knuckle draggers out there, it’s best not to spit on the floor in the gym, flatulence is best saved for another place, and YOUR sweat should be wiped off of the equipment by YOU. Try to keep your moans, groans, grunts, and screaming that accompanies your “high intensity sets” to a minimum (it makes no difference anyway, accept to your ego), don’t abuse the equipment, and don’t hog the equipment.

That means throwing your weights around, letting them “fall”, or laying any weights across benches because it’s more convenient for you. The equipment wears out fast that way, and then you end up bitching about equipment that’s out of service. And don’t hog the equipment by laying your towel, water, gym bag, or whatever, on the equipment while you’re across the gym doing something else. Leave it laying near the spot that you’re working, but let others have access to the equipment without them having to stand there wondering who’s using it. Other than that, be considerate of others, and act a little bit like you would if you owned the gym, because, in a sense, you do.

And now comes the not so obvious. You should assume that people are in the gym to get an effective workout. Be polite, but do your thing. If somebody is using equipment that you want to use, don’t be afraid to ask if you can “work in”, or “grab a quick set” while they’re resting. And offer the same to others if you see them standing close by as if they’re waiting. Sometimes you’ll end up doing that exercise together and getting a great spotting partner as a result.

When I ask to “grab a quick set”, I sometimes get the response “I only have two sets left anyway”, and then they go about doing there two sets with a long enough time between sets that two others could have come and gone before being ready for the next set. It’s as if they’re afraid to get off the machine for some reason. And sometimes they’ll say that they just started, and are very defensive in their posture. OK, time to leave them alone. Just find another exercise for a few minutes. Then come back to it.

In general, people will allow you to work in with them, but if it doesn’t look like it’s practical, then come back to it later. That’s the breaks sometimes. The same goes whether you’re waiting for machines, benches, or a pair of dumbbells.

The more crowded the gym gets the more cooperative and patient you need to be. I was in the gym the other day and it seemed like somebody was always one step ahead of me to get to the equipment I was about to use. I altered my plan a bit and had a great workout.

When the gym is extra crowded, there are a few ways to deal with it to still get what you want out of your time there. Sometimes it just makes sense to find a piece of equipment to use, and park yourself there, and then do straight sets until you’re done with that piece. I usually do supersets, and it’s still possible even in a crowded gym, but not the normal way. I still park it on a piece of equipment somewhere, but I use two machines close together for my superset, or I bring a pair of dumbbells to use for the superset exercise.

If you happen to find yourself in a gym where it’s sheer madness with all the people and activity, sometimes it’s best to have a “smorgasbord” workout on that day. Just decide on a few body parts to train, and pick a few exercises for each. That way, you’ve got a lot of options in case certain equipment is in use. Just find a piece that’s free and use it, then walk across the gym and find another, and so on.

Sometimes I’ll just do a complete random workout where I pick an exercise that feels right at the moment, no matter what I did for my previous set. It’s a good change of pace, and it lets you get your workout done in case of unexpected situations.

Even though there are rude people and social butterflies who break most of the rules of etiquette in the gym, you’ll get your best workout by avoiding them, sharing with others who are serious about their workouts, and sticking to business. Think about getting that pump in your muscles, and don’t stop until you’ve got it. If you end up hating the gym you’re in, then find the gym that has an atmosphere conducive to growth, and keep pumpin’.


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