Those of us who regularly populate the health club brace ourselves as we consider your upcoming New Year’s resolution to work out. We know the onslaught of your good intentions will pave our road to a six-week hell — as you fill our parking spaces and favorite lockers and exercise classes and lanes in the swimming pool. We will alter our workout routines to accommodate the masses. We will wait in lines for showers and mirrors and blow dryers.
And we will count the days and number of New Year’s resolution dropouts until Valentine’s Day, when chocolate and champagne prevails and the health club becomes our own once again.
Sad but true.
You see, when your New Year’s resolution to exercise infringes on my old (and successful) resolution to exercise, it’s hard to encourage your success. But despite my personal aversion to crowded locker rooms and swim lanes, I thought I’d offer some sage advice that just might make your resolution a success without making us gym regulars unhappy. That means, first and foremost, you must understand gym etiquette.
[Please understand I am an expert on this matter. Self-proclaimed and unpaid, yes. Whatever. I became a gym member in 1989 and use my gym membership five days a week on average. I exercise and then shower and get ready for work nearly every weekday. Furthermore, I sought input from my friends who are also gym regulars.]
Gym etiquette can be summed up in two words: Be considerate.
When using gym equipment, be considerate of others. If you’re lifting weights, for example, don’t sit on the weight bench in between sets wearing headphones and being oblivious to the world as you check Facebook or select your next song. (Trust me, you’re taking longer than you think.) Rest a minute, complete the next set or two, but use the equipment. Don’t just sit there. If you must attend to your smartphone, then step aside so that someone else can work a set in between yours. (And be friendly; you just might find a workout partner.)
Be aware that some people will merely hover near a machine they want, silently communicating they are waiting for a machine and hoping you get the message. Don’t be obtuse. People aren’t hovering near you because they like the smell of your cologne. They want what you have — the machine.
Speaking of smells, don’t apply fragrant lotions or scents just before you work out. Be considerate. One of my health club friends has asthma attacks, which can be triggered by heavy fragrances (and hairspray and such). Remember, whether you’re getting stronger by doing exercises or not, whatever scents you are wearing are smelling stronger. (Do, however, apply deodorant. Really.)
If you’re new and you don’t know something, ask. Be a newbie who wants to know. If you’re taking a group exercise class for the first time, ask questions: “Is this your spot?” “What equipment do I need?” “If I am new, where is the best place to position myself so I can follow along?” Take your lead from others. Generally, we gym regulars want to help, for we understand that in order for a class to be offered it must have students. We want you there. Just don’t set up your stuff in our usual spot.
In the locker room, recognize that any space is a premium — be it bathroom, shower, changing room, locker, counter space, etc. That means, be considerate — and fast. As Jesus told his betrayer Judas, “What you do, do quickly” (John 13:27, NASB). Or, as my friend Connie, who has been 10th in line for 1 of the 8 showers in our locker room, says, “Speed it up, ladies.”
Don’t “reserve” a spot by placing your belongings there. I’ve seen people reserve showers BEFORE working out, reserve counter/mirror space or even a dressing room BEFORE getting a shower — and then causing all manner of angst among the locker room sisterhood that is usually unexpressed. (Not always. I have friends — and I applaud them — who will confront such individuals once their identities become known.) No matter how quickly you shower, someone could use the counter space to blow dry their hair or pluck an eyebrow — but that someone is likely too courteous to do so because your stuff is there, even if you aren’t. Consider locker room space like a school raffle: You must be present to win.
(Just today, Connie told me about someone who plopped her belongings in a dressing room — then got a shower and then stopped at the mirror before finally going to get dressed. Newbies, that is not how you win friends and influence people.)
It is inevitable that the people with lockers right next to yours will need to open their lockers the very moment you shift your bag in front of their locker doors. Be considerate. Quickly shift your stuff. Apologize. Exclaim “that always happens!” while smiling. Admit you have a tendency to spread your stuff everywhere all the while exerting your friendly nature. (Yeah. Maybe that is a bit overboard, but you understand what I mean.)
And, lastly, don’t apply makeup or blow dry your hair (especially “that” hair) while standing naked in front of the mirror. Our particular locker room has but three changing rooms and so being naked as you dress at your locker is perfectly acceptable and normal. Nakedness in the locker room should be merely a transitional state (i.e. as you remove a bath towel to begin donning clothing) not parade attire.
Gym etiquette boils down to being considerate of others or what your school teacher may have labeled “plays well with others.” It’s the first step toward gym success.