Gym Etiquette: Seven Deadly Sins! Flirting, Phone Calls and Funky Pits?! Shape Up!

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By: Darrell W. Butler
ACE, NFPT, ISCA Certified Personal Trainer

When my friend Carmen came back from her trip to Miami last weekend, she returned with more than just a deeper tan and some tacky souvenir t-shirts. She also came back with a few horror stories about her experiences at some of the local gyms that she utilized while she was down there.

At the first gym she visited, one of the guys there kept forcing her to stop her iPod so that he could hit her with stale pick-up lines and cheesy come-ons, despite her numerous attempts to get rid of him. At the next gym, she was startled to find some elderly hippie-chick doing impromptu nude yoga poses while standing on one of the benches in the women’s locker room!

To her surprise, I was actually unfazed by these two stories because after training at gyms around the world, I have literally seen it all. Unfortunately many people simply don’t know any better; especially newbies who may have never set foot inside of a fitness center before.

How can you avoid being the subject of a future gym horror story? Without further ado, I present to you the Seven Deadly Sins that you should avoid during your next workout!

1. Thou shall not take extended cell phone conversations inside of the fitness room!

If you’re expecting an important call and can make it quick, then most people won’t mind you having a brief conversation. However if you plan to have your best friend “keep you company” for the entire hour that you’re on the treadmill, resulting in your screaming loudly into your cell for 60-minutes straight, this might not be the most polite tactic to keep yourself entertained throughout your cardio session.

Instead, try listening to music, reading a magazine, watching television or actually focusing on your workout and save the phone calls for the parking lot. If you have been committing this heinous sin you may now repent with 20 push-ups and a vow to cease and desist immediately. Can you hear me now…?

2. Thou shall not use the gym as a pick-up bar.

Depending on the culture of your gym, it may be a great place to meet someone with similar interests and possibly form a romantic relationship; however the fitness floor may not be the best location to make your move. A smile or a quick hello is always nice, but staring or stalking is not! Once you’ve broken the ice, see if they initiate further conversation or wait until they’re done and possibly strike up a conversation in the lobby or by the juice bar.

During their workout you could serve as a major distraction, since many of the people in the gym simply want to get through their workout without being interrupted. If you have been committing this heinous sin, you may now repent with 30 sit-ups and an immediate visit to eHarmony or Match.com.

3. Thou shall not expect everyone else to put your weights away.

I’m always amazed how many “big strong guys” seem incapable of putting their weights away after using them. If you’re strong enough to load 700 lbs onto the leg press, then you should be strong enough to take the weights off instead of leaving them for an 80-year-old grandmother to have to deal with when she goes to use the machine after you.

There’s nothing less motivating than walking into a gym with equipment strewn everywhere and the entire rack of dumbbells out of place. The way that I see it, putting your weights away is a part of your workout, so unless you’re Tiger Woods and have a caddy putting all of your equipment away; you’ll need to start doing it yourself. (If you are Tiger Woods however, re-racking weights should be the least of your worries, so feel free to leave them out…)

If you have been committing this heinous sin, you may now repent with 40 minutes on the cross trainer and a call to your mother for her to explain why it’s not her or anyone else’s job to pick up after you!

4. Thou shall not hog all of the equipment!

If the gym is extremely busy, you can’t reserve or camp out on a piece of equipment that someone else might be waiting for, especially if you’re not even using it! If you’re only using the bench as a seat to have your conversation or read a magazine, get up and let someone else use it until you’re ready to resume your workout. Or if you’re using multiple pieces of equipment in a circuit, allow someone else to jump in between your sets.

Also, try not to block an entire rack of dumbbells to jump rope or admire your biceps in the mirror when someone else may want to use the weights that you’re standing in front of. If you have been committing this heinous sin, you may now repent with 50 squats and a single-spaced one page report on the Sesame Street episode entitled “Sharing is Caring.”

5. Thou shall not be the creepy exhibitionist in the locker room.

Sure people are changing and showering, so a little indecent exposure here and there is to be expected, but some activities simply do not require nudity. For example, if you’re shaving your face or applying make-up, do you really need to be naked?

If you’re drinking a protein shake, flossing your teeth or taking a phone call, do you really need to be naked? Nude flexing in the mirror? Clipping your toe nails in the buff? Posing like the Captain Morgan guy while blow-drying “intimate areas”? Shaving those intimate areas? No, none of that is okay!

I think it’s cool that some people have that much self esteem that they want to bare it all, but some activities should be reserved for a nude beach, or perhaps the privacy of your own home. If you have been committing this heinous sin you may now repent with 60 jumping jacks… but for the love of mankind, please at least put a towel on first!

6. Thou shall not reek of strong odors!

It may often not make sense to shower before you come to the gym and get sweaty, but depending on how “ripe” you are, the rest of us sure would appreciate it! Working out is hard work, so it’s expected that you may not smell like roses by the end of your routine. However, if you haven’t washed your gym clothing after multiple uses, that goes beyond the statute of limitations!

On the other end of the fragrance spectrum, try not to lay the perfume or cologne on too thick either, since it’ll only get stronger as you begin to sweat…especially if that cologne is merely masking the fact that your shirt hasn’t been washed in weeks. This also goes for those of you who may try and work off a hangover by coming to the gym straight from the club, still reeking of booze and cigarettes.

None of these strong odors are appealing in general, but especially not at the gym, so if you have been committing this heinous sin you may now repent with 75 b… actually let’s just skip the workout penalty here and send you straight to the shower asap!

7. Thou shall not leave sweat all over the equipment.

There’s a woman at my gym who’s a big fan of self-tanner so she leaves neon-orange pools of sweat on every piece of equipment that she touches, yet never wipes any of them down. Yes, I did say that “sharing is caring,” but this is one case where that mantra definitely does not apply.

Nothing skeeves me out more than someone else’s bodily fluids dripping down the sides of a weight bench, and there simply isn’t any excuse for it as most gyms at least have antibacterial spray and a paper towel dispenser on hand.

I think it’s great when someone is giving their all to a workout and sweating profusely, so like they said in Coming To America, go ahead and ‘let your soul glow’! Just be sure to handle your business first before moving on to the next machine. “Clean up in aisle 4…”

If you have been committing this heinous sin you may now repent with 100 alternating lunges and a trip to Bed Bath and Beyond to buy yourself a set of towels.

Sure, most of these sins seem to simply boil down to basic etiquette and hygiene, however since I’m still witnessing these same things happening on a daily basis, it’s apparent that some people just aren’t getting it.

If you run into one of these offenders or if you are one yourself, feel free to print this article to help serve as a reminder to repent and do the right thing! As for me, I’ll be off trying to figure out where in my apartment to hide this tacky “I Heart Miami” neon pink flamingo lamp that Carmen brought back for me…

About Author

Darrell Butler

Darrell W. Butler is the creator of the gut busting ®Fat Darrell Sandwich, and is also a certified personal trainer with the American Council on Exercise (ACE), The National Federation of Professional Trainers (NFPT) and a Performance Enhancement Coach for Parisi Speed School. He carries a diverse array of coaching and group instructor credentials including Insanity, Training for Warriors, ISCA kickboxing, TRX/Fitness Anywhere Group Suspension Training, IndoRow, Technogym Kinesis, TEAM Fitness, TEAM Weight Loss, TEAM Boot Camp and the Take it off Weight Loss Program. My Fitness Muse is the Fitness division of ®Fat Darrell’s LLC. Follow me on Instagram @Fatdarrellsllc