Get ready for the swarm at your favorite gym or fitness studio. It's a given that January will bring in a new crop of health club neophytes as well as bring back seasoned gym-goers who may have taken a holiday hiatus. If you're feeling cramped, don't worry. By the end of the month, many newbies will have given up from not seeing results fast enough, loss of motivation or overdoing it and injuring themselves. However, a few newcomers will catch the bug and become permanent fixtures so learning to get along with the cast of characters at the club is key.
For those of you just starting out or restarting on your fitness quest, here are a few rules of etiquette to keep you from being "that guy/girl" at the gym or studio.
1. When the sweat runneth down, wipe it up.
You may be getting your sweat on while running to "Shake It Off," but flinging your sweat onto the person next to you is a total gross out to anyone who isn't stalking you or enraptured by your body fluids. The same goes for leaving your juices on benches or machines for the next person to encounter. You're not a dog marking your territory so there's no need to let others know you were there. If your gym doesn't provide towel service, make sure you bring one larger than a washcloth.
2. Don't be a "Gym-timidator."
Even if you use the same Lat Pull Down machine every Tuesday and Thursday at 6:15 p.m. sharp, someone who has not gotten the memo about your routine yet may inadvertently throw a wrench into your well planned out Back and Leg workout. Standing over the person who beat you to your machine or giving them the stink-eye while they do their set is un-cool. Instead, nicely let the person know you are waiting for that machine or ask to work in with them. While you wait, this is a good time to mix it up. Doing the same exercises in the same order all the time will only get you to a plateau faster.
3. When someone asks if they can "work in with you," the polite answer is "yes."
Resting for a minute or two between sets is often necessary but sitting on the equipment while you recover is a no-no while people are waiting. Taking turns can even be helpful as it may keep you keep moving. Sometimes more than one person might try to work in, in which case diplomacy may need to be called upon.
4. Rule of re-racking.
Most gyms will have a sign posted near the free weights asking that you put things back in their proper place. Surely your mom taught you this, but for some reason, weight room floors look like an obstacle course if there's not an attendant constantly keeping the weights in order because people just can't seem to follow this rule. You don't need to be a member of Mensa to know that leaving weights strewn about the floor can be dangerous. It's also a time suck. The most popular weights always seem to be missing or left in a random place. Other times, people will just take one dumbbell and leave it's mate on the rack. It's frustrating. Re-racking also goes for the plates. If you can bench 300 lbs, congratulations. Brag about it on Facebook, but don't leave all the plates on the bar for the next person to remove.
5. Yes, we can all hear you now.
We've all had to grab that important phone call while at the gym. If you're in earshot of someone and you need to take an important call, get off the machine and walk to a non-workout area. If you're using weights or on a workout bench, step away so someone else can use them while you're discussing that important business deal. If you're in a class, put the phone on mute or leave it in the locker room. It's never okay to take a call during a class. Texting during a class is also rude. My favorite excuse: Instructor says "excuse me, there's no texting allowed during class." Student says, "I was Shazam'ing that amazing song." Instructor, "Umm... thanks, ok then."
6. Space invaders.
There are two kinds. One is the person who decides to get on the cardio machine right next to yours when there is an entire row of the same machine available. The other is the person who spreads out the entire contents of their gym bag on the locker room bench. Neither type is appreciated.
7. Privacy during prime time?
If your gym doesn't have a private changing area for the shy folk, don't use the shower stalls for this when people are waiting. There are certain times in every gym when a line forms for the showers. If you take your entire gym bag into the shower and change into your street clothes, prepare for dirty looks as you exit.
8. Did you get a whiff of that?
The gym or studio is not the place for sharing your love of Chanel No. 5, especially if the person three feet away prefers Shalimar. Mix together a handful of people wearing their favorite parfum and add some sweat, you get a noisome recipe I call "eau de stench."
9. Are you sure you should be wearing that?
Some things should just not be worn for workouts. Getting inadvertently flashed in the gym can ruin someone's day or burn an indelible image into someone's brain much like getting flashed by a perv in an alley, only in the gym it's most likely unintended. Check your wardrobe from every angle before wearing it a yoga class or doing mountain climbers on the gym floor.
10. No flex zones.
Rockin' a six-pack that you've worked hard for deserves accolades. But nothing says "self-absorbed" more than hoisting up your tank top and snapping selfies from every angle on the workout floor. Save your selfies for when the gym in uncrowded or snap that Instagram from home.
11. Tell the instructor before class if you're new, have an injury or, know there are some exercises you can't or shouldn't do.
An experienced and knowledgeable instructor will give modifications and alternative moves to many of the exercises during a class. It's common for people to have injuries. What's not cool and is highly annoying is the person who makes up their own routine during a class. For example, the instructor is teaching a squat exercise and this person is lying down doing crunches. If you don't think you'll be able to do most of the exercises in a particular class, maybe you shouldn't be taking it.
12. The classroom diva.
You've got great moves and you want everyone to see. If it's a dance class, go ahead and shake-dat-ass. But if it's a fitness or Cycling class, doing your own routine makes you a bad actor not a superstar. If you think your routine is better than the instructors', do it outside of the classroom. If you want to be an instructor, ask the manager when they're holding auditions next.
13. Hair dryers are for the hair on your head.
From what I hear, some men are a little too comfortable in the locker room. Perhaps they forget that others can see them grooming and fluffing those low hanging areas that take too much time to air dry. If you must blow dry below the belt, please be discreet.
Got pet peeves of your own or more etiquette advice? Please share them here!