Like a swarm of locusts, couch-spuds descend on fitness centers across the country the first few months of the year.
While I would like to be happy for these fitness newbies, I am not. They disrupt my precious gym ecosystem by taking all the good lockers; using too many towels; and ignoring simple gym etiquette.
Yes, that's right. Etiquette. It's not just for the dining table and golf course.
No, I am not venting (whining). I am on a mission to teach the rules of civilized gym behavior.
The Gym Commandments
1. Be powerful, not pungent.
Contrary to popular belief, fitness centers are not hygiene-free zones. I would argue that one should take extra care before and during workouts. Wearing the same athletic clothes multiple times between washings, for example, is unacceptable. If working out makes you extraordinarily smelly, consider heading to the locker room during your workout to freshen up -- sorry -- it's the right thing to do.
Note: bathing in perfume is also offensive.
2. Leave no trace.
Fantastic(!), you really burned some calories on the bench, but that is no excuse for leaving a pool of sweat behind for others to clean. Place a towel on the equipment before you sit or lie down and then wipe up any perspiration left over before you leave.
3. Do not worship electronic gods while in the temple of fitness.
Texting or tweeting while resting on piece of fitness equipment is uncool. Respect others, do your sets and move on. If you truly need to work or use your phone for personal reasons, take it away from the fitness area.
4. Share with others.
You managed to accumulate 10 kettlebells, two benches, a jump rope and two Bosu balls for your super-creative workout.
When the gym isn't crowded, feel free to impress us with your fitness genius. But during peak hours, show some respect and try to find more efficient ways to use the tools provided so that others can get in their workouts as well.
5. Keep your children close.
Your kid just took the last treadmill so he can watch Nickelodeon. I get it, your "precious" kid is too old for the gym's childcare facility but too young to leave alone at home. If you must bring Daemon to the gym, please teach him some manners. Fitness clubs today are filled with interesting contraptions that might look like toys -- toys that can smash a finger into a pancake. The trainers and staff working at the gym are not there to police your child's behavior. That is your job.
6. Manage your possessions.
Almost daily I see what looks like a yard sale when a guy spreads his belongings throughout the locker room. My rule of thumb is that you should be able to touch the contents of your gym bag without having to take more than one step.
7. Respect the staff.
My home gym is quite nice. It can make one feel like royalty with its plush towels, steam rooms, saunas, spa treatments, whirlpools -- all the trappings. To a few, the great service and environs can apparently go to their head. They soon expect the staff to be their maids. Why must you leave your sweaty, nasty towel balled up in the corner of the steam room? Is it too much for His Excellency to carry a cloth 10 feet to a receptacle?
8. Avoid excessive displays of the flesh.
Might I suggest a nudist colony to quench your thirst for nakedness? I am not talking about run-of-the-mill locker-room nudity. My issue is with participants in the naked parade -- those who wander aimlessly around the facilities in the buff. Plyometrics, stretching and calisthenics are meant for the fitness area, not the locker room, and especially not meant to be performed nude -- gross.
9. Do not drop the dumbbells.
Oh how I loathe this act of showing off. It gained prominence in the 80s during the "lifting" glory days. It was a way to impress other beefcakes of one's strength.
For 99 percent of gym-goers, the need to drop weights is a symptom of taking on more than one can handle. Unless a shoulder dislocates or there is some other medical emergency during a set, there should be no reason to engage in this behavior.
Confession: I go out of my way to humiliate the people who engage in this practice. Last week a man (boy) 10 years or more my junior was huffing and puffing while bench-pressing 45-pound dumbbells. At the end of his set, he released a huge grunt while dropping the weights to the floor with a thud. He quickly surveyed the area to see if anyone was impressed by brute strength.
In what I admit was a passive-aggressive move, I grabbed two 100-pound dumbbells and proceeded to quietly do twice as many repetitions as the punk. I then properly sat up with the weights and gently placed them back on the rack from which they came.
He quickly vacated the area and I smiled with pleasure for a job well done, even if mildly humiliated by my own immaturity.
10. Do not spit upon the ground where your neighbor steps.
Spitting in the shower, steam room or sauna is the greatest gym sin of all.
Perhaps you disgustingly draw and project phlegm in your shower at home. Thankfully we are not family and none of your fellow gym members should be subjected to your vile habits. If I observe this disgusting act at my gym, I strongly rebuke the offender. My docile persona disintegrates into a Hulk-like rage.
Obeying the Gym Commandments is doing your part to promote peace and harmony in what should be a refuge from the hustle and bustle.