Women's Health and Fitness - Sweatiquette

Gym rage is on the rise, and whether you’re about to do your first spin class or you’re a regular in the weightsroom, Gillian Nalletamby gives you some tips to help you play nice in the gym.

Arriving at the gym 40 minutes before a popular spin class was about to commence, I found to my dismay that every bike had been accounted for. Tensions rose and a fight broke out when one person accused another gym member of stealing their bike.

So how do you stop gym rage from occurring (and I’m not talking about steroid abuse) and what is the proper gym etiquette to endear you to your fellow gym members?

Arrive early to group fitness classes

It’s important to arrive on time to group fitness classes. If you are new to a class, unfamiliar with the equipment or have an injury that may restrict you from participating in all aspects of the class, you need to arrive at least 10 minutes early. This gives the instructor adequate time to speak to you about the safety aspects of the class and instruct you on proper technique.

With some classes, such as RPM or cycle, you will not be allowed to enter a class after the warm-up has ended, but latecomer participation is at the discretion of the instructor. It is also extremely bad form to walk into a class more than five minutes late or to walk out before the cool-down is finished. If you don’t have enough time to do all of the class, don’t bother attending.

Keep the noise to a minimum

Keep your mobile on silent (or switched off) and don’t pick it up unless your psychic powers tell you it’s an emergency, and this does not include your friend’s latest break-up or catching up on the latest episode of Lost. There is nothing more off putting than hearing ‘Don’t cha wish your girlfriend was hot like me?’ to make you lose your balance mid locust position. This is also probably not the best time to discuss who added you to Facebook, how you hate your job or how you had the best sex of your life last night. Two words: time and place.

iPods and other music devices must also be at a level where it doesn’t disrupt other members in the cardio room; and talking on your mobile phone on the treadmill, is a sure-fire sign you’re not working hard enough.

Don’t be a front row diva

Occasionally an instructor will forget the choreography to a routine. It happens. Instructors are not on autopilot; they are human and they make mistakes. There are regular gym members in the class who know the routines in the class by heart and insist on doing the right choreography when the instructor has spontaneously changed the routine.

Unless it’s a consistent problem, bad technique or safety issue, it won’t matter. It’s not a test. You try getting up there, learning choreography, exercising to your maximum capacity, trying to motivate people throughout the class with 30 people watching your every move. It’s not easy. Take it from me; no one likes a front row diva.

Hogging the equipment

If there’s one thing that gets my blood boiling at the gym — and no, it’s not the solarium turned up on high — it’s gym members who mark their territory with their water bottle and towel and then proceed to talk to their friends and hog the equipment. Everyone has a different motivation to go to the gym and it’s okay to socialise but do it on your time, not someone else’s.

If you arrive early to class, it may be allowed at some gyms to reserve your place in the class. It is bad form however, to reserve a place for you and 20 of your friends. And if you’re not there five minutes before the class, you may run the risk of losing your place. At peak times you also need to pay particular attention to your gym’s house rules. A lot of gyms have a rule where you can only stay on the equipment for 20 minutes.

Abide by these house rules and you will keep the lynch mob at bay. Greed is never good especially at the gym.

Make friends with your deodorant

I cannot stress this one enough: there is nothing worse than being in a closed room with little ventilation and barely functioning airconditioning and having the stench of bad body odour wafting through the gym. Spare a little thought for your fellow gym goers. Repeat after me: ‘deodorant is my friend’. Get acquainted before your next visit to the gym.

Don’t stare or compare

Eye candy is the only candy you can enjoy at the gym, and far be it from me to deprive you of the simple pleasures in life. However you need to master the art of subtlety and peripheral vision. Remember this rule: three times a stalker. Like most of us, you can apply this rule to a lot of areas in your life. Besides, it’s never a good idea to compare your body to other people.

Staring is rude and it makes people feel uncomfortable. Instead of staring jealously at another gym member, ask them to explain their routine. They will probably be flattered by the compliment.

Respect those around you.

I am not a prude by any means, but I question the need to wander around the change room naked while applying make-up. Read this slowly: underwear first, then clothes, followed by hair and makeup. Write it on your compact mirror if need be.

Dress appropriately

Flashdance is one of my favourite movies but I don’t want to see it re-enacted on the gym floor, and anything reminiscent of Jane Fonda has to go too. I like to live by the fashion adage in the gym, if you’re old enough to see the trend come around the second time it’s probably not for you. Black threadbare tights showing glimpses of your underwear ala Britney Spears is not sexy, but neither are barely-there shorts or low-cleavage tops. Less is usually more when it comes to dressing up but not at the gym.

Don’t share the DNA

If cleanliness is next to godliness, then some gym members are going straight to hell without a get out of jail pass. Bringing a towel is a stock standard rule that almost everyone seems to be able to follow, but it seems to get lost in translation for some gym members.

Make sure you clean up after yourself, whether that’s putting away free weights, or wiping down your bike after a spin class.

Don’t screw the crew

Gyms are similar to offices in a lot of ways. If you make a habit of sleeping with gym staff, instructors or gym members, the regulars will notice, and it’s an unfortunate aspect of human nature that they will probably talk about you. Gyms are a great place to meet people but it’s probably not the best place to have a series of one-night stands. No wants to be seen as the gym bike. Just my opinion; no judgement.

Going to the gym is like being in a relationship. Whether it’s a one-night stand, brief flirtation, on-again-off-again relationship or a long-term commitment, these basic rules will help you have an affair to remember.

Published in Women’s Health and Fitness Magazine, Copyright Gillian Nalletamby 2009. View PDF.

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  1. Maria, 12 August 2009, 7:32 pm

    This is really funny. This is pretty much how it is at my gym every single time I go there. I should print this out and stick it on the bathroom door!

  2. Sabrina, 12 August 2009, 8:48 pm

    This is really good Gillian. You’ve really captured the essence of the gym. Now you have to write one about catching trains!

  3. Alex, 12 August 2009, 11:40 pm

    Do you go to my gym? I can’t stand when people mind bikes or equipment for their friends and they don’t show up. It’s so selfish. I totally agreed with all of this article.

  4. Terry, 27 August 2009, 10:19 am

    Loved the article Gillian but I do have to say that as a gym junkie for 30 years and a mother of 2 boys, making the effort to get up at 5.30am for a morning class means I deserve the right to walk out of a class half way through the cool down in order to beat traffic back home and get myself to work. At the end of the day there is no impact on other participants and as an ex instructor it is understood that it needs to happen for people to meet the ever increasing demands life brings. The benefits to my health far outweigh your words “don’t bother attending”. Comments like that certainly don’t help today’s obesity problem.

  5. Gillian Nalletamby, 27 August 2009, 10:30 am

    Terry, thank you for your feedback. As someone who also has done the instructor course and team taught (although I didn’t end up pursuing it as it took too much of my time outside a full time workload), I’m sure you understand the importance of a cool down such as returing the heart rate to a normal rate, preventing muscle pain, replenishing your fluids and so on.

    The whole idea of group classes in my opinion is to encourage gym members whether they are obese or not to attend regular classes and if they do not do the cool down and walk away fatigued, dizzy or experience muscle soreness the next day, then the chance of them returning is lower. And that’s not helping the obesity problem either is it?

    The whole tone of the article was tongue in cheek. It wasn’t meant to be taken seriously as any guide or meant to offend.

  6. Becky, 7 August 2013, 10:45 am

    “Don’t screw the crew”! Perfectly worded. There is nothing more annoying than desperate people treating the gym like a singles bar.


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