You're not alone if you're resolving to make your workouts more consistent for the new year. Perhaps you joined one of the nearly 30,000 health clubs currently offering new member incentives, or returning to your old club after a long break. The first few weeks of January, new and returning members pack into fitness clubs and studios with high hopes that nothing will sway them off the path this year.
Nice notion, but by March a substantial number of well-intended club members and studio-goers simply drop out. In the meantime, prepare for crowded parking lots, full fitness classes and lines for your favorite cardio machine.
Whether you're a newbie to gym culture or regular fixture at your fitness facility, there is such a thing as "gym etiquette." Remember, everyone who comes to the gym is there to de-stress and have a positive experience. Break these rules and you could be responsible for ruining someone's day, or at least their workout.
1. Wipe down your equipment after you use it. Gross is an understatement here. If your gym offers towel service, there is no excuse for leaving a bike dripping or a bench donning the sweaty outline of your tank top. If you brought your own towel and that too is soaked in your fluids, then use paper towels.
2. Play nice with your classmates. If you are taking group fitness classes at a popular gym, you will soon notice some people have their "spots." If you happen into one of those coveted spaces in a classroom, you may feel glowering eyes on you. If you were there first, you have a choice. You can either stand your ground or allow the person scowling at you to edge in on your territory. If you are the person glowering at the newcomer on your perceived turf -- please just grow up! What would you tell your children to do in that situation? Remember, you are all in the class for the same reason. Let your feel-good endorphins take over and make some new friends.
3. Observe the time limits on equipment. Some of the most popular cardio equipment will have a time limit, usually 30-minutes. Be respectful of others who are waiting. I am a huge advocate of cross training if you've read any of my other articles. If you want to do an hour, or more of cardio on machines, try switching machines every 20-30 minutes. It's a great way to work different muscles while preventing overuse injuries.
4. "Work in." If you are not familiar with that term, you might be soon become one of your gym's least favorite people. If you are using a weight machine or have the only visible pair of 20 pound dumbbells and someone asks you if they can "work in," the appropriate answer is "yes." Unless you are in the middle of your last set, share the equipment. If you are doing a circuit, politely let the other person know you'll be back shortly to complete your circuit. It's rude to sit and rest on a piece of equipment in between your sets when others are waiting for it.
5. Hydrate and rotate. If you need to fill up your water bottle at the fountain, let people who just want to take a few sips go ahead of you. 'Nuff said.
6. Can you hear me now? If you belong to a gym that still allows cell phones on the workout floor, make sure you're not invading someone else's ear space. Most people talk louder on the phone when there is background noise, so you are probably being heard by more people than the party on the other end of the phone.
7. Don't hold a conversation while a class is going on. You've been scolded for this ever since elementary school and the rule still applies. Remember, if the instructor can hear you in the front of the room, everyone between you and the instructor can hear you too.
8. While it may not be as rude as talking on the phone near others or chattering during a class, try to refrain from texting on the gym floor or while a class is in session. Personally, I don't have an opinion on the etiquette-ness of texting at the gym, but it can be dangerous. You can walk into someone heaving a heavy barbell or be unaware of potential dangers around you, just like crossing the street while on your cell.
9. Replace the equipment after you use it. Whether you're taking a class or pulling dumbbells off the rack, put it back in its proper place when you're done unless someone asks to use it after you.
10. What's that smell? Not everyone is a fan of the same perfume or cologne as you. A good deodorant is really all that's needed (and appreciated). If you are coming from work or an event and wearing a heavy dose of eau de toilette, wipe or rinse some of it off. No one wants to workout next to a person with funky B.O., nor do they want to feel like they're in the perfume department of Bloomingdale's. Too much of any scent, even if it's Chanel, can turn sour when you're hot and sweaty.
11. Follow the program. It's completely expected when taking a group class that some people will not be able to do every exercise due to physical limitations or injuries. Any experienced instructor will know this and usually offer some suggestions on modifications for difficult exercises, particularly if you tell them about any problems or injuries before class starts. However, making up your own routine while taking a class isn't just rude, but can also distract the instructor and other students trying to follow the routine. It can even cause an accident if you're going one way and the person next to you is going the other. For example, if everyone is doing jumping jacks and you can't, simply march or jog in place rather than lie on the floor doing crunches.
Here are a few more tips from the foremost expert on good manners, Lisa Gache of Beverly Hills Manners:
12: Wear appropriate workout Attire. Gym clothing that is explicit and exposes the front or the back is unacceptable.
13. Dispose of Items Properly. Return all used towel to their proper bin. Recycle newspapers and return magazines to their shelves.
14. Be Punctual. Try not to interrupt a class in progress. If you have to leave early, notify your instructor beforehand and slip out quietly.
I hadn't actually thought of those, but Lisa is right! Note to men: please heed #12, as it is not just for women who dress like strippers at the gym (even if they are). Short shorts and butt cleavage on men may even be more distracting, particularly when unwaxed! If suddenly no one wants to get on a piece equipment during prime time hours after you vacate it, might I suggest you take a moment to find a mirror or take a sniff of your armpit before continuing your workout?
As of this time last year, there were 51.4 million members of health clubs in the United States. Let's all do our part to make the gym experience as pleasant as possible and the numbers growing.