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Exercising Common Sense at the Gym

Some people seem to think it isn't necessary to exercise common sense and good manners in places where people exercise.

The opposite is true.

When the fitness-minded get single-minded about their workouts, things can get pretty grim in the gym. People can lose all consideration for—or even awareness of— those around them. Maybe it's all those mirrors.

However, the very fact that gym activities are so "me" based makes courtesy an absolute necessity to minimize distractions and to promote safety. It's a place where bad manners can cause physical injury to you or to others. For example, never join an exercise group already in session: Your arrival will be distracting to those in the group, and you may have missed important safety information given at the beginning of the workout. Here are some other considerations.

Dress Appropriately

When it comes to the gym and fashion, the key words are clean and functional. Scanty, sexy dressing is inappropriate because it is distracting and embarrassing. In addition, you shouldn't walk around in flimsy footwear or stocking feet. And watch where you're going: Walking into a metal plate or barbell can result in a broken toe or foot.

Keep It Clean

Take a towel with you, not only to wipe your own brow but also to wipe down weight machines. According to proper gym etiquette, leaving these machines wet with your perspiration is a mortal sin. However, don't leave your towels where people can walk on or trip over them and never leave a towel on a weight machine. If you carry a water bottle or chart with you, keep them out of the way of others while you are exercising.

In the locker room, don't leave your bag or sweaty clothes on the floor, particularly in front of somebody else's locker. Clean up after yourself in the same way you would if you were using the bathroom in someone else's home.

Making the Circuit
Live and Learn

Many people include a workout session when they are traveling. Here are some points to consider when you are planning to work out at a gym where you are not a regular:

  • Find out about the place. Is it a straightforward workout-sports gym or an "amenities" spa with juice bar and carpeted walls?
  • Ask about the guest policies. What's the fee? Do you have to be a member or be sponsored by a member?
  • Find out whether the gym has a dress code.

Here are some words of advice for using free weights or weight machines such as a Nautilus.

  • Don't jump ahead. Even if a particular machine or set of weights is next in your routine, you must still wait for your turn. If there's any doubt about the availability of the equipment, ask.
  • Don't dally. If you're going to rest a long while between sets of reps, give up the machine—particularly if the place is crowded. Don't leave your towel on the machine in an effort to reserve the machine for yourself while you rest. If you are working out with a friend, don't stop to chat or compare notes between exercises. Keep each other's progress charts to keep the process moving.
  • Keep it quiet. Grunts and moans are unnecessary, theatrical, distracting, and unsafe. The professionals tell me that making these noises while straining increases pressure on your respiratory system and can push your blood pressure up. And don't count out loud while you're doing reps. It can throw off others around you who are counting to themselves.
  • Unload. Always strip plates and clear your squat bars. If you borrow those little saddle weights that go on top of the weight stacks from another machine, return them when you are finished. Never leave plates or barbells where people can trip over them.
  • Keep your chart with you. In addition, be careful where you place your chart when you're using a machine. If hooks are provided for the chart, use them. Otherwise, put the chart on the floor.

Working with a personal trainer involves another layer of gym etiquette. The primary rule is to respect the trainer's expertise and time. Give 24 hours notice if you must cancel or reschedule an appointment and be prepared to pay for the trainer's time if you don't give 24 hours notice.

Don't make it hard for the trainer to do the job by trying to take over or control the workout session. Sure, it's your body, but the trainer knows more about getting it in shape than you do. On the other hand, if you're ever in pain or feel uncomfortable, do let the trainer know.

The trainer is a physical, not emotional, therapist and shouldn't have to deal with your emotional ups and downs. Keep your dealings with him or her on a professional basis and be courteous at all times. That includes waiting until your trainer is free and not interrupting if he or she is with another client.

Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Etiquette © 2004 by Mary Mitchell. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

To order this book visit the Idiot's Guide web site or call 1-800-253-6476.


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