I work out seven days a week at a monster gym that used to be a supermarket. Part of a national chain, it comes fully loaded: weight machines, free weights, treadmills, ellipticals, steppers, arc trainers, spinning, lap pool, sauna, snack bar.
Only one problem: thoughtless slobs. Lots of them.
As a proud gym rat since the early ‘70s, I know about club etiquette. There are certain things you just don’t do, especially during peak hours. At my gym, that is almost any day after 4 p.m., when finding a spot in the parking lot is like winning the lottery.
To me, gyms represent a kind of sanctuary. I’m there to worship my body, in a manner of speaking, with sweat and exhaustion my ultimate redemption. No matter how I feel walking into a gym, I feel better walking out.
At my gym, it’s the time between that is problematic. The thoughtless slobs and their boorish behavior harsh my mellow, and I don’t like it. Hence, as a gift to uncivilized fitnessphiles everywhere, I give to you The Shistorian Rules of Gym Etiquette.
1. DITCH THE CELLPHONE. There is nothing more annoying than hearing every word of someone’s stupid conversation from the adjacent elliptical trainer. Who are you? Why are you breathing my air? Take it outside, Einstein. Take it anywhere but here. I hate you.
2. WIPE DOWN EQUIPMENT AFTER USE. Not only is this a simple act of hygiene, it is also the decent thing to do. Only someone raised by wolves leaves puddles of his own sweat for the unlucky next member. This is gross, like an unflushed toilet. Very bad karma. Clean up your mess.
3. BRING A TOWEL. Meanwhile, when you’re ready to wipe down your equipment and you find the paper-towel dispenser empty, you can bet that some selfish slob or twelve has pulled down reams of towels to mop up his own facial sweat instead of using a real towel. Talk about rude. Talk about cheap. Talk about waterboarding.
4. TURN DOWN THE VOLUME. High-decibel profanity and overall boisterous behavior is OK if you own your own gym or play for the NFL. In a crowded club with members of all ages, it is unconscionable. Grow up and shut up. You’re not 16 anymore.
5. SHARE AND SHARE ALIKE. Just because you’re using a machine doesn’t give you the right to take up residence. Yakking with friends or texting or reading a cereal box for 10 minutes between sets is not resting. It’s a ‘fuck you’ to members waiting for the equipment. Tick tock, douchebag.
6. THE FLOOR IS NOT A LOCKER ROOM. Nothing like tripping over an overstuffed gym bag after pumping out that last rep. If you’re that paranoid about being ripped off, get a bigger lock or give a couple of bucks to an employee to stow your bag. Better yet, stay home.
7. RE-RACK YOUR WEIGHTS. See Sentence 1 in Rule 6. Also, the itinerary for barbells and dumbbells is strictly round trip. If you carry a pair of 20s over to the exercise mats, return them. The next member can’t do barbell curls if the barbells have gone MIA. Curl this, friend.
8. LEARN TO TELL TIME. Cardio machines have time limits for a reason. Nobody actually adheres to the 20-minute rule, but when a line of people is waiting for a treadmill, doing 60 minutes should be grounds for stoning. Instead, do 20 minutes each on three machines. You’re welcome.
9. NO PERFUME/COLOGNE. The smell of sweat is bad enough, but that’s what you expect in a gym. The smell of sweat covered by too much scent is gag-worthy, especially if you’re approaching oxygen deprivation on an arc trainer. Sweat is sweat. Live with it or train in a cave.
10. LOSE THE STREET. Wearing a hoodie or sunglasses indoors is a hostile act, designed to intimidate. In a gym, it’s just ridiculous. If you’re looking for maximum sweat, wear a plastic bag on your head. If it’s shade you’re after, lie down under the weight bench.