Joe Gold, legendary bodybuilder, movie stuntman, and founder of Gold’s Gyms, had some simple rules for gym behavior:
1. Drop the weights and I’ll drop you out the window.
2. Put the bar back or I’ll put you in the dumpster.
3. Crack the dumbbells and I’ll crack your head.
In these times, such brief commands won’t cover it all. What about cell phones? Tight spandex? Bacteria-filled bodily fluids flying about?
Today, we need a whole article for gym etiquette. Hopefully you at least know some of these things. If you don’t, you’re probably the most unpopular guy at the gym, whether or not you realize it.
Just because you want to look like the Hulk doesn’t mean you have to act like one. And wouldn’t you like to prove wrong all the people who call us lifting lunks and ironheads?
The world is getting more crowded, and this includes the gym. Your good actions will help you, could inspire others, and hey–it’s just the right thing to do. Be like Miss America, and strive for world peace. At least in the world’s gyms, that is.
BEFORE YOU GO
Yep, you have to start before you leave home or work. Use deodorant. You’re going to sweat, but others don’t want to inhale the noxious reek of new sweat upon old rancid sweat. If you haven’t showered for a couple of days, can the 1990s grunge style and clean up, even though you’re going to take another shower in a couple of hours. Don’t think you stink? That’s only your nose’s opinion. Don’t care? What if you meet an attractive woman at the gym? Your boss? Your future boss?
Watch what you wear. You don’t have to be fashionable, but at least make sure you’re covered. If you’re already in good shape, you might think those tight shorts or bike pants appeal to the ladies. But women want to get to know you through conversation, not by getting flashed. And most other guys don’t want to see a detailed outline of your man-berries.
Speaking of those, if you’re the type of clod who likes to wear loose shorts and no undies, sit in front of the mirror at home and spread your legs. This is just how you’ll look when you sit at the weight bench. Yikes: too much information. If that’s your gig, take Polaroids at home.
ON THE FLOOR
Whew, where to start? Let’s have a list!
* Don’t drop the weights. You look stupid if it’s intentional. You are lifting too much if it is not preventable. It doesn’t matter if the floor is rubberized or cushioned.
* When you’re done with weightlifting equipment, put it back. “The other gym members are here to train, not to participate in a scavenger hunt,” says Steve Richter, correspondent for AskMen.com. Also, not everyone lifts the same amount as you. If you don’t put the heavy weights away, “this is especially annoying to women,” says Oscar Gan, a certified personal trainer in Makati City, Philippines. “Likewise, someone bench pressing 300 pounds would not like it if they have to deal with putting away those 10-pound plates.” In addition, he says, “Leaving dumbbells on the floor can cause someone to trip over and fall.” Wanna get sued?
* Do not hog the equipment. This problem, like the previous one, is often caused by your being in a hurry. If you’re that rushed, schedule your workout for a different time of day.
“Rest, repeat, and move on,” says Richter. “Should you be doing supersets, notify the others and let them use the machine while you’re busy elsewhere.”
It doesn’t matter how much you pay to belong to your health club, bub. You don’t own the place. “The gym equipment is for all members to use,” says Gan.
* Don’t “save” a machine by putting your towel or water bottle on it. You can easily alter your routine if one particular piece of equipment isn’t open and waiting when you expect it.
* Don’t walk in front of someone lifting in front of a mirror. Also, don’t walk too close to anyone lifting heavy weights, especially at a flat weight bench. You might startle or distract them.
* If someone is in the middle of a set, don’t ask him to work in, don’t glare, don’t sigh or act impatient, and don’t even ask to spot him unless he seems to be struggling in a might-break-my-own-neck way.
* Don’t insist on “working in” with another guy if he resists. You might end up getting some impromptu boxing practice.
* Respect the water fountain protocol. Don’t spit or leave gum in it. Don’t fill up your bazooka-sized water bottle when someone else is waiting.
* Shut up with the cell phone already. If you’re a doctor on call, okay, keep the ringer on vibrate or low and talk quietly when it rings. Everybody else, put the damn thing away.
“Leave your cell phone in your locker,” suggests Gan. “You will only be away from your cell phone for an hour so put it away where it is safe and avoid the stress it provides.”
* Don’t have loud conversations with buddies around others. Don’t make loud grunts if you don’t have to, just to impress others. If people want to hear that, they’ll go to a forest and find a moose.
* Don’t give advice, even if you’re personal trainer. If you see someone doing something really wrong, you may ask, “Can I give you a tip about that?” or a similar question to invite them to let you talk.
* Everyone else is not entitled to your bad mood. So what if your day sucked? Behave whether you want to or not.
* “When taking an exercise class, show up on time,” says personal trainer Gan. And, “do not distract the class by creating your own routine.”
* Most important of all: wipe off the bench after you’ve used it. No one wants to lie in your sweat. Even if you don’t sweat, it’s courteous to do so. If you don’t, may you be gifted with a nasty fungus the next time you use the bench press.
IN THE LOCKER ROOM
* Put your nasty-smelling gym clothes on the floor, not on the bench, or in your locker while you’re showering.
* Clean up your mess at the sink. Wipe up your water with paper towels and throw them away. If you blow your nose, wash your hands, even if you’re on your way to the shower.
* Spit only in the sink (then rinse it) or in a tissue that you throw away. Keep your goobers to yourself.
* Flush the toilet already! You don’t have to pay the water bill.
* Dry off inside the shower stall or in the shower area. It’s gross to have to walk through water that you know has just dripped off the crevices of someone else’s body.
* If you’re wearing a Band-Aid and it falls off, pick it up and throw it in the trash. Even the cleaning staff doesn’t want to touch that.
* Don’t take long showers if the club is crowded, suggests Gan. There might not be a line, but guys might be dawdling at the sinks because every shower is full.
WHEN TO TATTLE
What if someone else’s Neanderthal behavior is bugging you? It’s okay to ask politely, but don’t get aggressive or yell. If you don’t get a knuckle sandwich, you might get kicked out of the gym. If someone is barking at you and you didn’t solicit it, contact a staff member.
Which brings us to the subject of when to squeal on the pigs that keep breaking all the behavior rules. There are some things to bring up and others to leave alone, primarily because the issues might be too prevalent or personal for management to want to handle.
Tattle when someone else consistently: hogs the equipment; does not put away weights; aggressively offers advice, products or personal training services when you have already said no; is loud, cursing a blue streak, or is trying to start a fight you didn’t provoke.
Don’t tattle about: cell phones; tight clothes (they’ll just tell you not to look); someone who stinks.
For all situations in the workout environment, one rule should apply: Do unto others what you would want others to do unto you at the gym. Either follow this Gym Golden Rule or you’re gonna get Joe Gold’s Golden Rules.