This post is a first in a series that I hope to continually update. These posts will mostly deal with topics that don’t necesssarily fit into academics.
This entire summer, I’ve been going to a gym near my house that I don’t normally go to. For the most part, it’s been great. It’s relatively empty most days and I’m used to the university gym where it’s always crowded, all the time.
I’m a novice when it comes to weightlifting. It’s only been three years since I’ve been going to a gym semi-regularly. Prior to joining a gym, I was ridiculously anxious about the prospect of even setting foot inside a gym. The idea of working out around other people and being potentially judged was just too much for me.
A little background: I wouldn’t ever consider myself a natural athlete. After playing football in high school, I gained an unhealthy amount of weight, tipping the scales at over 280 pounds in college. For unrelated reasons, I took a year off between undergrad and graduate school. Within that year, I took the time to somehow miraculously lose approximately 130 pounds.
Initially, my only form of exercise was walking/jogging/running. I started off slow, “running” on a treadmill at 4.0 miles/hour. To give you a sense of how far I’ve come, I worked up way to running a marathon in November 2010. Although I love running, a gym membership has been equally awesome. It’s given me opportunities to be active in many more ways than I had been before.
Before I start this rant, let me emphasize that I am not trying to be critical or judgmental. But that’s what this post totally is. This morning, I was in the middle of using a machine that had FOUR identical apparatuses nearby. I was using the second to last machine in a line of about 8, all working different parts of the body. A woman was working her way down the line, gradually making her way towards me.
Now you probably can guess how this story ends, but this woman’s attitude irritated me far more than anything else. After initially passing me by, this woman stands next to me while I’m in the middle of a set. I also had headphones in and I obviously didn’t hear her when she tried to say something to me. So she waves her hands in my face and then asks me to use the machine while I’m doing my sets.
I was raised better than to ignore or deny this woman’s request. But it pissed me off. Even in an empty gym, this kind of behavior is pretty common. I don’t mind people jumping in to share the equipment if they truly need it and they ask courteously. Sharing equipment is fairly standard in a busy gym. But if there’s another machine open that does the same exact thing, use the other machine. And if not, a simple “Can I hop in?” when a person is resting will suffice.
Here’s some of my other first-world problems of working out in a gym:
1. Don’t use multiple pieces of equipment at once: It’s super irritating to see someone using four or five different sets of weights, bars, to only walk over to a machine, leaving the weights on the floor.
2. The gym doesn’t have to be quiet, but it’s not social hour either: I’d say if you’re talking for more than five minutes straight, you should probably take your conversation outside.
3. Cell phone usage is fine, but don’t abuse it: I’m a huge proponent of phones and technology. I see a lot of people using their phones to log their exercises or play music, which is cool. But please, please, please, try not to answer a phone on the floor. Of course, this isn’t an absolute rule. Sometimes a phone call is important, but take it outside if it’s an involved conversation.
4. Grunting is understandable, but not on every single rep: I read a scientific study that claimed that grunting did not actually help you lift heavier. That being said, I’ve found myself grunting when lifting heavy at the end of a set. But, please, you do not need to grunt every single time you curl five pound weights. No one cares.
5. Return the equipment to where it belongs: Self explanatory. I say that at least twice a week I find weights left on the floor or plates still racked on the bar.
6. Don’t abuse the mirror: OK, the mirror is absolutely necessary to check form. I get it. The mirror shouldn’t be used for posing or flexing your pecs and arms.
7. Wipe down the equipment, bring a towel: The worst thing is to find a surprise puddle of sweat on the bench you just laid down on. Don’t be disgusting, wipe the equipment after you’re done with it. If you sweat a lot, and this should be compulsory, bring a towel.
8. Don’t do dumbbell exercises directly in front of the rack: How the hell do I get to the dumbbells?
9. Exercise proper hygiene: Yes. This is necessary to say. This includes wearing proper gym clothing.
10. Control & don’t drop your weights: If you’re slamming your weights down hard at the end of every set, you’re probably lifting too heavy. Even worse, if you drop your weights because you can’t control them, you can seriously injure someone else.
Be nice and courteous to others: I think most people are intimidated by gyms. Smile and be friendly. There’s enough rude and condescending attitudes at the gym. I realize that this is just one huge rant, but at the same time, people seem to lack common courtesy and respect at a gym. If you walk away with anything from this post, it should be that do your best to make sure everyone enjoys their workout. If people get in your way or you’re seriously inconvenienced by novices, there are speciality gyms that are for specifically designed for advanced and professional athletes.