The majority of people who work out, of course, are clean, courteous and attentive, and go to the gym for the right reasons — simply put, to get in shape.
But there are a few flies in the ointment here and there who make the experience a little less than welcoming. All it takes is one lunk or inattentive lout to ruin your day. In fact, there are now clubs that try to eliminate or reduce that lunk/lout factor, such as women-only gyms (Curves) and Planet Fitness.
The latter used to advertise itself as “Lunk Free” and actually had lunk alarms, which would go off anytime anyone, a lunk, of course, would grunt loudly or slam their weights down. Planet Fitness got into a little trouble with that bit of discriminatory behavior, so now they’re just going with “Home of the Judgment-Free Zone.” Good call.
And the truth is, lunks aren’t just the muscle-bound gym rats who used to rule gyms, but anyone who treats the gym as their own personal domain or just doesn’t care that anyone else is working out. And these meatheads aren’t all men, there are a few women sprinkled in, but it’s very rare you’ll find a woman lunk.
And, for the most part, the whole “gymtimidation” factor (yes, that’s a thing) isn’t as prevalent as it used to be as women (and out-of-shape men) have more confidence and less embarrassment these days going to a gym. In fact, some extremely fit women can be just as intimidating these days! They just choose not to make a big deal out of it (as you’ll see below).
So here are the top 10 pet peeves of working out at a co-ed gym. There can easily be 10 more added to the list, but these are the top 10 transgressions and transgressors. There’s a lot to cover here, so let’s start working out!
1. Is that a shirt or a wet blanket you’re wearing?
Pet Peeve No. 1 is dress or attire, which may not seem like a big deal, but is. It shouldn’t matter what you wear, but for practical purposes, it does. Too tight clothing can restrict your movements, too loose clothing can get caught in equipment and even cause you to trip.
But this pet peeve is more about the outlandish things people wear to the gym. Loud, distracting (yes, this is about women, but more about the men who get distracted while handling massive weights) and inappropriate garments can upset the balance of a club.
For example, don’t go to the gym looking like you raided your dad’s (or mom’s) closet or figured what you wear for a day at the beach would be just fine. So stow the flip-flops, Bermuda shorts, jeans, black dress socks, bedroom slippers, Hawaiian shirts, polo shirts, swim trunks and the stained white T-shirt you use when you clean the garage.
Cotton T-shirts will cover you up, but that’s about it. The problem with them is that they absorb every bit of moisture your body gives up, meaning by the end of your workout (and if you’re doing it right) your shirt will be soaked and dripping like you just got out of the laundry rinse cycle. Not a good look. And a problem if you’re using a piece of equipment that involves sitting or leaning against a pad. Yuck.
Do yourself and everyone else a favor. You don’t need to drop big bucks on fancy, hi-tech workout gear hawked by your favorite NBA star. Target, WalMart and big-box stores often have a decent selection of breathable, synthetic shirts, shorts and workout pants at reasonable prices. The emphasis here is on “breathable,” which allows your sweat to evaporate and not turn your shirt into a wet rag.
Besides, remember these words by Billy Crystal as Fernando Lamas on SNL: “It is better to look good than to feel good. And you look mahvelous!”
2. That sweat’s not going to go away on its own.
Which brings us to Peeve No. 2 — sweating and towels. Sweating of course, is a natural by-product of working out — it’s almost necessary. But there’s sweating and there’s SWEATING. Let’s face it, everyone sweats at a different pace and, let’s say, volume. Some barely break one, others sweat like a hooker in church.
If you’re one of the latter types, you definitely want to bring a towel with you, and not something from your kitchen with images of barnyard animals and cooking utensils or the fancy, frilly guest-only towels from your second bathroom. A plain white hand towel will work just fine. You can even buy six packs of them at many discount and department stores. You weren’t thinking of using only one towel between washes, were you?
(Bonus tip: Use one side of the towel to wipe off your sweat, the other side, such as the tag side, to wipe down the equipment. And remember which side is for which action. As long as you’re not a heavy sweater, that is.)
If you don’t want to carry around a towel (and why wouldn’t you?), all gyms have paper towel dispensers and spray bottles with some form of benign cleaner that you can use to wipe down the piece of equipment you just dripped all over.
It doesn’t make you less cool to bring a towel. Unless it’s from your grandma’s kitchen, then you’re on your own.
3. Pardon me, is that Paco Rabanne you’re wearing?
The other side of the coin to sweating is the use of heavy perfumes, colognes and body sprays by both sexes. It’s probably not a great idea to be using Paco Rabanne, Chanel No. 5 or Axe Body Spray in an enclosed space where people are breathing heavily. But people do it, to the chagrin of the one working out next to them.
Now deodorant, that’s another story. Some people working out could definitely use a spray or roll of antiperspirant. It’s not just for after working out.
4. Can you hear me now?
We all need our phones and we take them everywhere, literally everywhere. Have you ever had that empty, lost feeling when you’ve misplaced your phone? But you would think we could live without the electronic leash for one hour while we’re working out.
Alas, it’s not that simple. Folks not only bring them with them to work out, they actually talk on them while they’re working out. And some not so quietly.
Yes, some people bring their phones to listen to music on their earbuds, but that also leads to the temptation of talking on it. So, if you’re going to talk, take the conversation outside or in the club’s lounge/lobby area and let someone else use the piece of equipment.
Your best bet is just to leave your phone in your car or your locker, so as to avoid temptation. Or get a music-only player like an old school iPod if you really can’t stay off your phone.
5. Hey, whatcha doing later? Uh, showering?
Co-ed gyms are one of the few places where people gather for a single purpose but are not encouraged to socialize. The reasons are obvious: you don’t want to distract someone with a heavy weight in their hands or cause a logjam at a piece of equipment. Besides, folks are there to get in, work out, and get out.
But people still insist on doing it, casually chatting up the cute guy or gal working on their abs or buddies hanging out, kibitzing about their latest hilarious (at least to them) escapades.
This forces others working out to use another piece of equipment or make their way around them to get to the next station.
It’s not a huge deal, mostly an irritant and an inconvenience at times. And let’s not get into the whole hitting on women/men aspect of these social interactions. As David Byrne used to sing, “This ain’t no party, this ain’t no disco, this ain’t no foolin’ around.”
6. Just take your time, I’m here for hours.
All this talk about using cellphones and socializing at the gym brings up the issue of hogging equipment, which often involves cellphones and socializing and sometimes both!
It shouldn’t take 15 minutes to work a piece of equipment. That’s one-quarter of an hour-long workout! Either you’re really slooooooow or you’re too busy talking, texting or socializing to be concerned that other people may want to use that equipment, especially in a smaller or crowded gym.
You could either hang around the periphery, giving the transgressor a few withering stares, or simply walk up and say “Can I work in?” which is standard procedure for a particularly popular piece of equipment. The cellphone yakker/socialite/slowpoke will get the hint and either move-on, hurriedly finish his sets, or let you work in.
Besides, you get a much better workout if you keep your rest between reps to about a minute or so to keep your heart rate up. If you want to rest, there’s always your couch at home.
7. Are you OK? Should I call a doctor?
We’ve all heard the loud grunts and screams from across the gym as if someone had dropped a 40-poud dumbbell on their foot. But it’s usually someone (almost always guys) who either A) has way too much weight on their weight bar that they can’t handle it without screaming their fool head off; or B) trying desperately to impress everyone else in the gym that they can bench press a small Toyota.
Oddly enough, grunting and screaming actually helps someone lifting weights, that is if you’re a bodybuilder aiming to become Mr. Universe or The Strongest Man in the World. It gives one a burst of adrenaline and motivation to lift insane amounts of weights.
But if you’re just the average Joe or Jill trying to build some muscle, tone your body or prepare for your favorite sport, there’s no need for massive weights, thus no need for the ostentatious displays of guttural sounds. If you find yourself involuntarily grunting and screaming, you may want to dial it back on the weights there, Arnold.
8. Yeah, you’re awesome, thanks for sharing.
Going hand in hand with grunting and screaming are slamming or dropping weights. Not only is this a highly annoying habit that, consciously or not, is meant to draw attention to what an awesome weightlifter one is, but it can damage the equipment. Weights have cracked, bars have bent and floors have been ruined. As in the screaming and grunting scenario, if you have to slam your weights, perhaps you can’t handle the load and need to dial back on the weights.
A corollary to that is using really bad form on a piece of equipment, so bad to the point of faces so red and contorted that it looks like you’re having a stroke. Bad form can lead to serious injury, sore muscles and yes, strokes. If you don’t know how to use a piece of equipment, don’t wing it, just ask, or Google it at home. Otherwise you’re going to end up on YouTube as an “Epic Gym Fail!”
9. Uh, there are other people working out here.
There’s a certain breed of gym rat who views the gym as their own fiefdom, to be lord over all the equipment and the mere mortals who use them. These special lunks think nothing of grabbing equipment from all corners of the gym to construct their own Rube Goldberg-esque contraption that takes up about half an acre.
Of course, they need this jerry-rigged monster of a machine to work that one special muscle, the rectus abdominis, that gets so overlooked in routine, everyday workouts. Right.
And, that one muscle is so important that it means inconveniencing several people and taking up space for three pieces of equipment. Don’t you think that if that muscle were so critical, there would be a specific machine for it? Sorry, using logic again.
10. Is that your personal weight rack or can anybody use the weights?
There are some guys (and it’s somehow always guys), who approach the weight rack, pick up a set of weights and proceed to do their sets right in front of the weight rack. These lunks are so self-involved or oblivious that they don’t realize there are other people working out too and would perhaps need access to the weights. It’s not a “wait” rack!
At least they know where to put the weights once they’re finished — they’re right in front of them. Which brings up a subset of this pet peeve, not putting weights back where they belong or putting them in the wrong place. The former is just plain rude and ill-mannered, like leaving your socks and underwear on the floor. The latter, well, it’s not rocket science, even if you are a lunk. That’s another reason why they have numbers on them that match their position on the rack.
This is getting to sound like your mom, but try to think about others and put ’em back where you found them.
So to sum up, the gym is a shared space with its own set of shared rules and etiquette, mostly simple, logical and requiring a modicum of courtesy. Follow them and you’ll never be seen as a lunk or find yourself on a “What NOT to Do at the Gym” YouTube video!
And here are some of those very (funny) videos:
What Not to Wear in the Gym
Tim Muriello/Fitness & Supplement Expert
Dude Perfect Comedy troupe
Crazy Gym Fails 2017
Funniest Workout Fails Ever
All books are available at amazon.com. Click on titles for more information.
GYM 101: Beginners Guide to Mastering the Gym Environment
by Jeremy Agapitos
101 Common Courtesies for the Gym
by Mike Denali
The Little Book of Gym Etiquette: A Handbook for Dealing with Annoying People at the Gym
by Lori L. Pines
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