OK, I’ll admit it. The gym is my sanctuary, a place to build and empower my fitness community. But I understand that it come off as a smelly, sweaty, intense, and painful (physically and emotionally) place. And, if you’re new to the gym scene, it can be downright intimidating, especially when everyone looks fitter, stronger, and more familiar with those complicated pieces of equipment. Here are some simple tips to familiarize newbies and refresh the advanced gym-goers on the fundamentals of gym etiquette. Mind your gym manners!
Locker Room. Lock your stuff up in the locker room (use an actual lock- better to be safe than sorry!) and carry the minimum while working out so you can move around easier. I recommend a water bottle and towel, with optional items such as your MP3 player, weight lifting gloves, and a pen with small notebook to track your lifting progress. Also, minimize the space you utilize to change clothes – nobody likes a space hog – especially if there are limited benches and counter space. For the comfort of others, limit time on your phone until after you’ve left the locker room. This is not the time to call chatty Aunt Kathy or change your Facebook status!
Weight Room. Logging in your cardio on a treadmill or elliptical machine is pretty straightforward. Worst case scenario, you’re faced with a control panel of doodads and you press the big green “Go” button and work from there. My only tip here is to pay attention to any imposed time limits on machines out of consideration to your gym family. What can induce anxiety is strength training, which often entails a weight room with grunting Arnold-esque beefcakes and cacophonous clanking metal. Some of the machines are complicated and unmanageable. Steer clear unless you can get knowledgeable assistance. If you’re a newbie, I recommend free weights (start with the 5-8 lb. set and work from there). No need to do anything funky or complicated. Keep it simple, focused, and strong. Hold your core in tight, shoulders back, and keep your knees slightly bent to protect your lower back.
Group Fitness Room. Group fitness classes are a great addition to the gym, especially when included in your overall membership costs. You work out under the supervision of a trained group fitness professional, while enjoying the support and collective energy of a fitness community. You can also get a great bang for your buck with circuit training or interval training classes, which typically include both cardio and strength training components in the workout. Avoid walking in late. This is especially important if the classes utilizes equipment, as the instructor may have already provided a safety tutorial at the beginning of class. If you do decide to take the class, quietly walk in to the back area so that you don’t disrupt the focused students. Lastly, if you’re taking a class that requires a yoga mat or large pieces of equipment, be mindful of your space and open to shifting it around to accommodate fellow students as the room fills up.
Getting the hang of these few simple tips will make the gym a more manageable environment so you can focus on the endorphin-rush during your workout, and the satisfaction of a job well done when you leave. Now you get why I love it so much?