Training the Monkeys: Gym Etiquette

Most gyms are a mixture of people and ages. You will have the guys (and when I use “guys” I use it in the non gender-specific way, referring to a group of people) who are into body building. Yet others are there to give their hearts a good workout and make them strong. Other people will be working on keeping fit or losing weight. And who knows, there may a few whose main purpose is to socialize or get out of the house for a while.

My gym very much encompasses all of this. It’s a community gym and very multi-ethnic, which I quite like. It’s not just for the white folk. There are very few people who seem to have spent their money on getting the latest and trendiest gym attire with matching jackets and shoes. It’s not a bad size gym and there is a small balcony, plus a small room where people tend to do cool-down exercises on mats or balls.

Sometimes we all act like monkeys, and there are a few who feel they have to screech or fling poo, with disregard to all the other denizens. First and foremost, unless it’s your own home or you own the gym, you have to share. Sharing doesn’t just mean doing your own thing and everyone else can move around you. It means considering the space you use and how your use affects others.

The cool-down room can fit four people on mats (maybe five) at most. If I’m the only one in there I won’t set my mat up by the door so that every subsequent person has to step over me. I’ll not set up in the middle so that only two other people will fit in. I’ll set up farthest from the door, near the wall, leaving as much space for those who come in and not presuming I have it all to myself.

I’ll try to work within the space of my mat, with about 8-12 inches on either side. I grab a ball and a medicine ball and keep them close. When I’m done, I return them promptly to where they belong so others can use them. Then I go back to my mat. Otherwise, someone might be looking for the ball that I won’t be using but will have it in my possession for another ten minutes. When I’m done my cool-down, I hang the mat up. If someone is doing a set, I’ll wait until they are done before I move by. People will often will let me by, so I always say thanks.

Most gyms now have papertowels and spray bottles to wipe down equipment and remove sweat. Not only does it keep the smell down but it can help preserve the equipment. So I wipe down the mat. Many people don’t wipe down or return equipmen, which makes it an inconvenience for otehrs. This goes for benches, as well as bikes, treadmills, and elliptical machines.

I return exercise bands and free weights, mats and boards, to where they belong when I’m done. I don’t leave them in the middle of the room. There are stands for the free weights with the smaller hex weights on top. Often I go to put back my weight and someone has set a 50-lb weight on the top that’s clearly marked for the hexes. I can’t lift that weight and the one I’m holding won’t fit on the other racks. So what do I do? Often there is a  gym attendant. Otherwise, I have make do or ask someone if they can move it for me.

I don’t tend to use the bench presses but there are guys who drop weights on the floor or equipment. It’s audibly jarring and of course damaging to the machines and equipment. It also makes me wonder if these people are dangerous to themselves or others. If they’re hurrying so much they could potentially drop a 45-pound weight on someone’s toes.

General politeness to other gym patrons also goes a long way. Someone standing by a machine might be taking a minute’s breather in between sets. A minute is okay but five are not to hog a machine. I’ll ask if they’re using it and on the other end, if I’m taking a five-minute breather I should step away and come back after the other person’s sets. If I’m sitting and reading a magazine I shouldn’t expect someone to leave a weight machine alone because I’m finishing this article. So I ask, and also take a look around to make sure someone hasn’t just gone to get another weight for that bench.

I try to stand or move where I won’t be in the way. But the gym can get crowded and sometimes we all have to move around people on mats, people lifting weights and doing other exercises. Patience is the key. Then there are the grunters. Granted we all must grunt a bit when we’re at the end of our strength, but I’ve seen a few guys who take weights beyond their measure and grunt and groan loudly throughout the full set. Buddy, you don’t sound macho when you do that. You sound like you don’t know what you’re doing and you’re a screeching monkey.

Equally annoying is the nosey helper. One guy tried to tell the grunter how to lift weights properly. That’s a great boon to all of us. But one day while I was in the middle of a set, this guy says, “Excuse me, excuse me.” I ignored him because he was just sitting on the bench next to me. When I stopped at the end of my set he goes, oh if you do this you’ll strengthen your wrists. I said, I’m not working on my wrists but my triceps. Unwanted, unhelpful information. Interrupting someone during a set can be dangerous. Be polite and wait and don’t give out advice unless you know what you’re talking about.

If everyone tries to be considerate to other patrons, the equipment lasts longer and it just might be more fun than a barrel of monkeys.

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