Dumbbells and decency: Some people lack gym etiquette

Posted: April 17, 2011 in Training Tips
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Mon, 03/28/2011 – 16:58 — GateHouse News Service, Jamie Busen

Tim Schweska spends a lot of time with weights in hand.

He competes in Scottish heavy events – the tossing of weights and other objects – and hits the gym frequently. The 33-year-old acknowledges he’s a “bigger guy” and knows people are curious when he’s pumping that iron.

But don’t ask him that stereotypical question: “How much do you bench?”

“I’ve never walked up to a librarian and asked, ‘How fast do ya read?'” Schweska said.

Gym etiquette. Some have it, but many people don’t know what the phrase even means.

Tricia Cross, fitness director at two Fit Club locations in Springfield, Ill., says good manners at the gym are simple concepts to follow.

“There are tons and tons of unspoken rules when it comes to gym etiquette … what it basically boils down to is be polite. Treat others as you would want to be treated, and don’t be a slob,” she said. “Common sense should be enough to know what to do or what not to do, but I guess that doesn’t always happen.”

Wipe it off

For example, most gyms have sanitizing products so you can wipe down your equipment after use. Not everyone practices that policy, though. And it can get pretty disgusting, as Kevin Cox of Springfield noted when describing a fellow gym-goer who uses an elliptical trainer and tends to sweat a lot.

The other person’s sweat spills “onto the framework of the machine between his feet and runs down to the lowest level, where he lets it sit after quitting his workout. It smells very bad,” Cox said. “He wipes the sweat from the handholds but only with a dry towel, instead of the sterilizing wipes the club provides. I find it very distasteful and cannot bring myself to get on the machine after he’s been there.”

Cross said everyone should clean their stuff when they are finished.

“As we already know, the gym is disgusting,” she said. “Don’t add to it by leaving your sweat all over the stuff you’re using.”

Molly Suhadolnik, co-owner of CrossFit Instinct and director of group fitness and wellness at Gold’s Gym, agreed.

“Even in smaller gyms with less members, there is still usually a high number of people coming in and out, sharing equipment,” she said. ” … Gyms should provide some type of sanitary wipes and towels. Use these on machines before you use them, and wipe them off after you are done. It is nearly impossible for employees to be able to wipe down everything in between each use. It is up to you to keep things clean, as well.”

Talk it out

Schweska, who has been weightlifting for 17 years, said most gyms have signs posted regarding cellphone use on the gym floor, but “so many people ignore the warning.”

“Most of you are not doctors, you don’t work for the president or the Pentagon, and none of us have any interest what you did at the bar last night, so hang up the phone,” he said.

Cross said the gym isn’t a good place for a conversation in person, either.

“Don’t bother someone in the middle of a set,” she said. “Wait for them to finish, then ask them whatever it is you needed to. There is nothing like being in the middle of a set, busting your hump to get it done, and all the sudden there is a tap on your shoulder or you hear, ‘Excuse me, but …’ Talk about killing the motivation. Plus, it is dangerous and you might hurt someone … or someone might hurt you for interrupting their set.”

Suhadolnik said grunting is a common complaint.

“Grunting during a workout is perfectly acceptable, as long as it is by accident or on your final rep. Grunting loudly rep after rep, set after set, is simply wasting energy. Couldn’t that energy be used towards your lift to get a better number?” she said. “This is disruptive to others and usually seems as though it is just for attention.”

Share and share alike

Gyms are shared spaces. But some people behave as if the gym is a private exercise room at home.

Brooke Anderson of Springfield says she works out over her lunch break, which means she doesn’t have much time. But she says doing circuits – short, intense sessions on a variety of machines – isn’t easy when other exercisers decide to rest on machines.

“Oftentimes I have to skip a couple of machines because people will sit on them and not use them, or if they do use them, they do them half-heartedly and will sit on it for over 10 minutes and look around. Very frustrating,” Anderson said.

Cross said to be courteous to others. This includes picking your weights up when you are finished, and not hogging the equipment.

“If you are doing something that you would get mad at if someone were to do it to you, don’t do it. If you wouldn’t trash your own home, don’t do it here.”

Gym hygiene

Rules of thumb, from Molly Suhadolnik, director of group fitness and wellness at Gold’s Gym in Springfield:

* If you are sick, stay home. When people have a hard workout, your body is temporarily at a higher risk as the immune system drops for a short amount of time. So if you’re sick when you work out, you could potentially share your illness with other people at the gym.
* Wash your hands after using the restroom. Don’t do just a quick rinse-off – lather up for at least 15 seconds.
* Cough into your sleeve, not your hands. Working out involves lots of touching of weights, buttons exercise machines, etc. Coughing into your sleeve will help prevent the spread of germs.

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