Proper gym etiquette

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I never thought I’d have to write an article on the importance of proper gym etiquette!  Proper etiquette to me within the gym is equal to common sense in the world.  Apparently, common sense is not all that common these days! 

I remember years ago, many years past even me becoming a certified personal trainer, if you were to workout in a gym, you weren’t working out in a plush, family friendly environment.  You were working out in a basement style gym with low lighting and a musty smell to the air.  There were no nice, rubber coated plate weights and if you didn’t work out with gloves on, you most likely would be washing off the rust stains when handling the dumbbells.  Forget about structured group fitness classes or even the use of a child care facility in some gyms.  We’ve come a long way in terms of the luxuries we’ve seen within the fitness industry.  However, what seems to be a lost tradition is how we co-exist, as human beings within the gym, to reflect respect and order.

You would think that at a time where the term “meat head” was created, that there would be a lack of know-how when working out in an old dirty gym with other “meat heads!”  On the contrary, it would seem that the hard core, gym goers of yesterday, had a better grasp of gym etiquette than what I’ve seen today.  Those big guys in the back of the gym, who seem on the surface as unapproachable, intimidating members we usually steer clear from, are normally the ones putting their weights away and allowing the use of their equipment when one asks to “work-in” with them.  If the term “working-in” eludes you, than maybe you should read on!

As I’ve progressed my career from working at a YMCA to a World Gym, and Powerhouse Gym, it’s safe to say I’ve experienced the type of member who typically has a grasp on the obvious gym etiquette some of us have yet to learn.  Now you can imagine in my role as a trainer, how many self-sufficient members are buying personal training at a Powerhouse Gym?  Let’s just say that I wasn’t in the industry to make it rich!  The more the “average” person gets involved with fitness; we’ve seen a huge response with family fitness facilities which offer steam rooms, dry saunas, pools, group fitness classes and free child care.  Not to mention some health clubs are beginning to look like mini resorts!  All of these amenities, and those maybe I haven’t listed, have been added to make the modern family feel more at home in the once intimidating, gym environment.  One thing not being taught or influenced within the gyms, partly because of the common sense factor attached to it, are the rules and regulations that every gym goer should already know.  Most gym goers today learn much too late or never fully comprehend how to act towards your neighbor within the gym!  Below are just but a few of the “basics” one needs to know and implement if you’re to keep on the good side of the big guy sitting on the bench next to you!

1.) Parking:  It starts even before you walk through the door!  It always humors me to see the gym member that drives around for 5 minutes trying to get the best parking spot just to run/walk for the next 45 minutes on the treadmill once in the gym.  My suggestion, park as far as you can away and burn a few more calories.  I dare you!

2.) Dress Code:  When I approach you on the gym floor in your jeans, I’m not just trying to flex my management muscle by telling you that your dress attire is not allowed.  I’m simply trying to keep my equipment in good condition.  Jeans have rivets that in some cases will tear the upholstery not to mention jean material will inhibit your range of motion limiting your progress in the gym.

3.) Sweat Towel:  Bring a sweat towel if your gym doesn’t already provide them to wipe the sweat off of your equipment when finished.  One of my biggest pet peeves is watching that member who just got done with cardio, go from machine to machine leaving their signature head sweat everywhere! 

4.) Cardio Limit:  Depending on the amount of cardio equipment your gym offers or the time of day like after work hours, limit your cardio to 30 minutes per session when the cardio floor is full.  Some gyms even have a sign-up sheet in 30 minute increments when their members can’t grasp the ability to share. 

5.) Working-In:  Most understand what it takes to break down a muscle, in some cases doing multiple sets on one piece of equipment.  When someone asks to “work-in,” they’re not telling you to pick up your things and move one, they’re simply asking to do a set while you’re sitting there letting your muscles recover for a bit.  You never know, you may just meet your next work out partner by playing fair! 

6.) Clean Up:  PUT YOUR WEIGHTS AWAY!  Just because we have staff that are paid to pick up the gym, doesn’t mean we, as gym members, are allowed to forget what we learned in kindergarten.  Put your toys away when you’re finished.

7.) Properly Hydrate:  Water becomes very important when working out.  You’ll notice you probably drink more water in a 2 hour period than in some cases all day!  When drinking from a water bottle and refilling from the gym’s fountain, allow the member without a water bottle to get a drink in the middle of your 2 minute fill-up.  Oh, and save the spitting for outside or the trash cans, NOT THE WATER FOUNTAIN!

8.) Proper Breathing:  Breathing is a necessity for proper weight lifting.  Always exhale on the hard part of the lift or the exertion.  Exhaling doesn’t include grunting or yelling on the top of your lungs.  It’s annoying to others and embarrassing to you.

9.) Workout Privacy:  The universal symbol for “leave me alone.  I’m trying to work out,” is my headphones are in and I’m making no attempt at removing them when you smile and begin conversation.  It always humors me when I see the attractive female trying to work out with headphones in and ball cap pulled low and still “that guy” approaches her for conversation!  Now if I’m approaching you, proactively taking out my ear phones, talk away!

10.) Locker Room Behavior:  I understand as a war vet or a person with no filter, you may have been exposed to naked people sharing the locker room with no shame or maybe you just don’t care.  Others may not have been that fortunate, or unfortunate depending on the way you look at it, to have the shock of your nakedness be viewed as okay.  Please cover up as necessary.  Changing in front of your locker, OKAY!  Walking around, styling your hair, shaving and anything else that requires you to look like a nudist in the locker room, NOT OKAY.

Now that you have your list of dos and don’ts, put them into practice!  You may find that those negative looks you’ve been getting across the gym may have been justly deserved! 

Free Weight Plate Shrug (trapezius muscles) - 1 min
Holding on to each plate with both hands in front of body with shoulders back, raise your shoulders as high as you can simulating trying to touch your ears.  Complete movement for up to 2 minutes.

Free Weight Plate Shoulders (anterior, medial and posterior deltoids) - 2 min
1.) anterior deltoid -  Holding on to each plate with both hands in front of body with shoulders back, raise plates up to shoulder height being sure to keep your arms straight.  Complete movement for 30 seconds.
2.) medial deltoid - Holding on to one plate in each hand on the side of your body, raise plates up to shoulder height being sure to keep your arms straight.  Complete movement for up to 30 seconds.
3.) posterior deltoid - With feet shoulder width for balance, bend over at the waist as far as you are able being sure to keep back straight and shoulders back.  Begin with straight arms hanging loosely down towards the floor.  Raise plates up towards the side of body being sure to keep arms straight.  Complete movement for up to 30 seconds.
4.) all heads of the shoulder - Holding on to both plates, begin with plates just above one shoulder.  Raise plates up and over your head to opposite shoulder.  Complete movement for 30 seconds.

Bent Over Row (Back) - 1 minute
Starting in the same position as the posterior deltoid shoulder raise, raise your elbows high keeping the forearms pointed down towards the ground being sure to squeeze with your shoulder blades at top of movement.  Complete movement for 1 minute.

Ball Curl (biceps) - 1 minute
Sit on front end of ball with feet together and at a 90 degree angle.  While sitting up straight and elbows directly to your sides alternate a bicep curl being sure to keep elbow stationary.  Complete movement for 1 minute.  Raise one foot off the ground for added balance and stability

Ball Extension (triceps) - 1 minute
Lay down on the ball.  Bridge up to engage core being sure your head is supported by the ball; bring both plates directly overhead with arms straight.  Keeping elbows stationary allow both plates to drop down along the side of your head.  Complete movement for 1 minute.

Ball Fly into a Chest Press (pectorals) - 1 minute
1.) Staying in the same position as above with arms straight and directly overhead, allow your arms to fall down to your sides keeping parallel to the floor.  Complete movement for 30 seconds.
2.) Transition the fly into a chest press for an additional 30 seconds.

Ball Crunch (abdominals) - 1 minute
Roll back on ball till lower back is directly on top of ball.  Holding both plates together straight above your head, crunch torso following the circumference of the ball.  Be sure to “hinge” from the abdominals and not to bring the lower back off of the ball.  Complete movement for up to 1 minute.

Single Leg Lunge with Trunk Rotation (quadriceps, glutes and core) - 2 minutes
Standing in place while holding ball straight out in front of body, lunge forward and hold at the bottom of movement.  Pivot with torso in the direction of lead leg for a full 90 degrees and back to starting position allowing your head to follow the body.  Step back into place.  Complete movement for 1 minute on each leg.