The Fitness Five: The Unbreakable Laws of the Gym

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So you just joined the gym… the hard part is over right?  You already dealt with the meathead trainer’s high pressure sales pitch, purchased enough Under Armor to put Ray Lewis to shame when it comes to who must “protect this house,” and even splurged for a pair of lifting gloves packaged with a Hulkamania back support belt.  Little do you know that your work has only just begun; now is the time to become familiar with the basic rules of gym etiquette.  A fitness club is a social institution just like an office, mall, Starbucks, brothel, etc.  Some general rules of conduct and politeness apply that the testosterone-overdosed salesman may not have mentioned and, if followed, these often unspoken agreements will make for a far better overall workout experience.  So please join us as we take a look at the five sacred laws of the gym; abide by these and take comfort in knowing that you will never be known as the Dumbbell Douche in your weight room.

1. Be quiet.

Whether jabbering away on your Blackberry or doing your best Freddy Mercury impression as your iPod blares “Fat Bottomed Girls” (fitting exercise song, right?), making too much noise on the gym floor is frowned upon in a big way.  Put yourself in someone else’s Reeboks, do you really want to hear some stranger’s conversation about how they discovered the best salad place in town and swear they serve the world’s most delicious chickpeas?  Didn’t think so.  This rule also applies to group classes – this isn’t middle school, so don’t be that dick that is talking in the back of the room.  While we’re at it, let’s also keep our mouths shut when lifting weights.  Grunting wildly and spewing obscenities is not going to make the barbell any lighter, so quietly redirect that energy towards the workout.  Keep in mind that when you distract someone else’s mental focus, it hinders their ability to reach their fitness goals and makes you look like an assclown.

2. Clean off the machines.

 You’re in minute 32 of a 35-minute mountain-run program on the treadmill.  You may feel like a million bucks, but you are sweating like Pat Ewing in the late third quarter against Jordan’s Bulls – not pretty.  Have some common courtesy for your fellow gym rat and wipe down the machine with a towel and some disinfectant spray when you are finished with your run.  You can avoid the sweaty equipment problem altogether by covering seats or benches with a towel beforehand.  Yes, I really did just say sweaty equipment, but this is no laughing matter.  Thoroughly cleaning machines after their use will protect you from germs that are easily transmitted through sweat.  Do the right thing; it’s a no-sweat decision.

3. Handle weights with care.

Few things are more jarring to a workout than the mini earthquake caused by dropped weights – it’s nearly as distracting as Samuel L. Jackson in Star Wars.  I mean Sam is a top notch actor, but Jedi are known for their serenity and calm and Mace Windu is a loose cannon who took shit from no one and cruised the galaxy with that baller purple light saber.  Getting back to my original point, you should never allow the weight stack or any piece of equipment to slam down.  Not only is it disruptive to others in your training area, but it can also severely damage the equipment and cause injury to the lifter since they are no longer in control of the exercise.  Only use weights that you are comfortable lifting and remember to put them back on the rack when finished.

4. Share the equipment.

Sharing is caring, this is day one stuff guys.  Simply put, if you are circuit training, trade off sets with someone else, that way you can rest while someone else lifts.  Common sense demands that if someone is already using a piece of equipment that you want to share, wait until they are done with their set before asking them.  If you ask them in the middle of a set, they may lose concentration. Even if they do respond, it could interfere with their breathing.  Similar rules apply for cardio training as gyms have time limits for treadmills and ellipticals for a reason – they are the most sought after machines during peak hours and everyone should be able to benefit from their use.  After all, where’s the fun in getting jacked up if there is nobody else around you to chest bump?  

5. Be mindful of your appearance (and odor) 

It sounds so fundamental right?  How can anyone violate a rule dealing with proper gym attire and hygiene?  Well, as a regular at my local gym I can tell you that I have seen (and smelled) some shit man.  I’m gonna keep this as elementary as building blocks: don’t wear anything too revealing, clean your gym clothes, and shower immediately after each workout.  I have no major hang-ups with a sexy lady showing some side- or underboob outside the gym, but when I am about to hoist 200 lbs. over my chest, the last thing I need is a trip to cleavage island.  As far as tight pants are concerned, girls get the green light here since it apparently is most comfortable for their legs and men’s eyes.  Guys, on the other hand, need to keep their junk contained in some long shorts or sweatpants.  Booty shorts are only cool if you are Megan Fox, Jessica Biel, or John Stockton… keep those nut-huggers away from the weights buddy.

Follow these rules and you will be marching down the fitness highway en route to a body like this guy:

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