Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Gym Etiquette: The Golden Rules

If there's one place our self absorbed
culture doesn't belong, it's at the gym.
"In my case, self-absorption is completely justified.  I have never discovered any other subject quite so worthy of my attention."  -Jay Dratler

In the natural order of things, important life lessons are passed down from generation to generation.  This paradigm, for it to function, assumes two things; great teachers and great listeners.  Sadly our society is littered with examples of the absence of both.  Take for instance the concept of selflessness.  Those great listeners who had great teachers learned at a very early age to have a greater concern for the needs and wishes of others than for their own.  And while that concept is foreign to many, at the very least we should strive to have an equal concern for the needs and wishes of others.  Yet our society today encourages selfishness in the guise of self-absorption.  This is no more evident than at our modern high volume low dollar gyms.  

I consider myself incredibly fortunate to have been taught the lessons of selflessness by great teachers.  In this case, my parents.  As a young person this broader lesson was specifically practiced in the one place that used to demand it...the weight room.  Thirty-five years ago the weight room that I visited was a different place; dark, dirty, loud, intimidating, and no nonsense.  It was, in fact, all of the things that today's fitness facilities are not.  But what it lacked in polish it more than accounted for with a very simple set of rules.  These rules, by their essence, promoted the life lesson of selflessness.  Modern gym members could make the experience better for everyone by following these simple rules created by the tank top clad lunks of my past.

Rule #1:  Never Obstruct A Mirror
In a weight room, mirrors have a number of uses.  One of them is monitoring exercise technique by providing immediate feedback to body positioning.  This is especially true in a "free weight" area where dumbbells are often combined with adjustable benches to perform specific exercises.  The open chain nature of these exercises makes the constant monitoring of the movement (by watching in the mirror) important to both safety and efficacy.  When you are in the free weight area make sure to pay particular attention to others around you and avoid, at all cost, walking or standing in front of their mirror while they are performing an exercise.  This sometimes means you may need to wait 10-20 seconds or walk an extra 10-20 steps so as not to interrupt the person actively performing an exercise.

Rule #2:  Don't Sit On The Equipment Between Sets
Most fitness facilities have selectorized strength equipment (ie. strength machines) that attempt to target certain muscle groups.  These strength machines are generally organized to be done in a circuit where the user performs one set and then moves to the next machine.  However, certain strength training routines require multiple sets of a particular exercise with very specific rest intervals between sets.  In that case it is proper to perform a set of the exercise and then stand up from the machine to allow someone who is waiting to perform their set while you rest.  This is particularly true if you are using a unique piece of equipment (ie. the only one of it's kind in the facility).  

Rule #3:  Take What You Need And Leave The Rest
It is only physically possible to use one set of dumbbells or one piece of equipment at a time.  Yet in the ultimate act of selfishness, some gym goers cache multiple sets of dumbbells and take residence on multiple pieces of equipment at one time.  Interestingly this tends to be the more "advanced" user who should be setting an example rather than perpetuating the character flaw.  Be considerate of others and use only one set of dumbbells or one piece of equipment at a time.

Finally, there is one additional rule that my father could not have imaged to teach back in the summer of 1983;

Rule #4:  Leave Your Phone At Home
Today's "smart phone" has become a great distraction.  The gym isn't the place to look at cat memes or post selfies sitting on the equipment (see above).  The gym is unique in that it really only has one assumed purpose...for working out.  Anything outside of that simply distracts from that objective, wastes time, and potentially reduces the benefit.  You'll get a better workout, waste less time, and potentially impact others less if you just leave your phone at home.  

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