If you are a college student, you probably haven’t been working out very long and are naïve when it comes to gym etiquette. Over the past few years, I have noticed a shift in the gym environment from a place of admiration and veneration for the weight equipment and fellow gym goers to a dismal pit of trash, unorganized weights, and self-centered, lazy lifters. The lack of gym etiquette is staggering, but not insurmountable. Let’s join forces and quell the spread of messy and unorganized gyms and the every man and women for him/herself mentality–our time, gains, and sanity depend on it.
4 Simple Rules:
Gyms have an eclectic group of people who have varying training philosophies and routines, fitness goals, music preferences, etc. Some lifters like eardrum rupturing music, chalk, obnoxious grunting and yelling, and air filled with obscenities and body odor. Others prefer a serene environment with smiles and laughs, good conversation, relaxation, and the smell of dandelions. Regardless of which camp you belong to, here are four reasonable rules that everybody can–and should–follow.
1. Clean Up, Clean Up, Everybody, Everywhere.
Every gym has offenders that refuse to rerack their weights. Their reason: someone else will eventually use it; I don’t have time; or nobody else does it. Bullshit! For one, when you leave your plates on the bar or dumbbells on floor, other people don’t know if you are done. They end up standing around waiting patiently for you to finish. It’s just plain rude! Moreover, leaving your weights–especially dumbbells–is a safety hazard for others walking around the gym (I have tripped over numerous plates and dumbbells). Finally, everybody’s time is precious. Students are trying to squeeze in a workout before class, mothers have to pick up their kids from school, businessmen and businesswomen have to make a flight. We are all busy! So, don’t put the dumb in dumbbells; rerack your weights!
Besides reracking your weights, you should pick up YOUR trash. Used water bottles and protein bar wrappers belong in the bin labeled TRASH not on the floor. If you spill something, clean it up right away. A few years ago at my home gym, a guy spilled his pink colored pre-workout supplement on the main gym floor, and he continued to work out as if nothing happened. He didn’t even have the slightest inclination to reach for paper towels or alert the gym employees. I guess his workout was too important to clean his pink, sticky mess. Lesson: don’t be an ass; pick up your trash!
2. Sharing Is Caring:
When it comes to the gym, this adage is still relevant–sharing doesn’t stop when you walk into the gym. It doesn’t matter how big or strong you are; unless you’re owner of the gym, the weight, machines, and floor do not belong to you. Every person in the gym regardless of their shape, size, gender, or color has a right to use the equipment. If someone wants to use a machine, a rack or bench, or dumbbells, share or let them work in with you–their time is just as valuable as yours. You never know; you may strike up a conversation and eventually become gym partners. Plus, if you ever get pinned while benching, people are usually more inclined to help if they like you, not hate you!
3. Are You Done With That?
Make sure someone is done with a piece of equipment before you decide to use it. This rule is hard to follow when people don’t clean up after themselves. How can you tell if someone is done using a piece of equipment? Look for markings. Many gym goers–including myself–leave articles of clothing, weight belts, straps, gym bags, or water bottles to indicate that a piece of equipment is currently in use. When I mark an area, it’s incredibly annoying to walk away for 20 seconds and come back to a missing rope, plate, or DB and then have to sift through gym to find the thief! For those doing supersets, it disrupts their harmony and adds more time to their workout. So please, look before you touch!
4. R-E-S-P-E-C-T, find out what that means to me…sock it to me, sock it to me.
This is the big one which is why I saved it for last. Do people even know or understand what respect means? There are many definitions, but this one resonates with me: respect is a feeling or understanding that someone or something is important and serious, and should be treated in an appropriate way (Merriam-Webster). Essentially, there are 2 key components: acknowledgement and treatment.
First, we have to acknowledge that our fellow gym goers are equals and serious (not always the case) about reaching their goals. We have to acknowledge that the equipment (dumbbells, barbells, plates, mats, etc.) belong to someone or a company who spent their time and hard earned money to provide us with a place to work out (and only for a small monthly fee!). Second–the hardest part–we have to take action (e.g., rules 1-3 listed above). Acknowledgment means nothing if we don’t take action.
Giving and receiving respect go hand and hand. I know it’s difficult to respect others who don’t give respect in return. I have worked with people who showed me little respect– some might call them assholes or douchebags. Instead of fighting fire with fire, I did my best to show them respect (e.g., going out of my way to help them), and in return they eventually reciprocated. Nonetheless, despite your efforts, some people will continue to be jackasses; at least you can say you tried.
Monkey See, Monkey Do.
I understand some of these rules may be hard to follow, especially when you work out in a gym filled will inconsiderate and rude people. Be patient! I’m a firm believer in the monkey see, monkey do principle–if more people follow these rules, more shall follow. Of course, there will always be a small, reluctant bunch who refuse to play by the rules. To them I say: good luck and may your weights always go up. Overall, if we all follow these rules, our gyms will be cleaner, there will be a greater sense of comradery and veneration, and hopefully, as a result, people will save time and experience greater gains.