The Fit Student – Gym Etiquette

If you plan to make gym-going a lifestyle, learn the etiquette.

First rule for new gym-goers? Don’t chat—especially if you’re female. You want to keep training for as long as possible, right? Then, don’t get duped by Ed the gym playboy. Truly, he doesn’t mean well.

I’m in my fifties or sixties, you might think. No matter. Ed stalks them all. As authors Crowley and Lodge say, “You are not there to make friends or get laid. You are there to save your life” (p. 93).

Eds fume when you don’t respond. Yet, the moment you engage them, a hemorrhoid appears. With each passing workout, it swells bigger and bigger and bigger. No easy way to lance that lima bean. So, stay silent.

You can chat with staff. Ask them how to use the machines. Hire them to show you proper form. Just don’t tell them your plan to try-out for the Olympics. They may argue.

Do buy Arnold Schwarzenegger’s The New Encyclopedia of Modern Bodybuilding: The Bible of Bodybuilding. The book shows step-by-step pictures for each exercise. Play close attention to the page that lists his weight routines. If you must, read his diet ideas. Or walk to a McDonald’s drive thru and order 100 big macs—extra cheese, hold the buns. You might get a discount.

As a gym newbie, “you don’t know how to behave and you’re probably a bit of a loser by local standards, whatever the hell they are. The people are intimidating. “Well, the hell with them” (Crowley & Lodge, p. 93). During my first gym visit, I spotted the ideal: a muscular, lean lady. Surely, she could teach me form. So, I stood behind her and copied her routine—that is, until she stopped, snarled, and slammed her weights.

Stay silent even with same sex. And don’t sound like you’re having five babies from across the room. No grunting. Breathe in, breathe out. Simple.

Lastly, to maximize cardio, travel to and from the gym on a bicycle. Buy a sleek road-racing bike. Plant mirrors on both handlebars. Buy flashing nightlights for your helmet. Most of all, don’t get the Indy 500 cycling wear if you sport a Dad Bod. No-one needs to see your fries.

Chris Cowley and Henry S. Lodge share tips on gym etiquette and training strategies in their book Younger Next Year: Live Strong, Fit, and Sexy — Until You’re 80 and Beyond:

  • “Don’t feel like an idiot if you can barely stay on the treadmill for fifteen minutes low speed the first day” (p. 84). “Do as little as fifteen minutes the first day” (p. 90).
  • Don’t go gung-ho on day one.
  • Work your way up to forty-five minutes a day of cardio.
  • Weightlifting makes your muscles sore: a good sore.
  • Yet, certain sports make your muscles less sore: cycling, swimming, and cross-country skiing. Add these to your routine if possible.
  • Don’t think golf is your ticket to aerobics. Many chubby folk golf.
  • “You’re not doing anywhere near enough [exercise] if you’re fat as butter. If you’re short of breath. If you look like hell. Do not lie” (p. 95).
  • “Take up some entirely new sport or activity, like squash or yoga, and get good enough at it to know whether you want to keep it in your life” (p. 136).
  • Once a month, go on a three-hour aerobic afternoon. Hike, cycle, ski, skate, swim, dance, or play sports. Whatever you do, make it fun.
  • Buy a heart monitor.
  • Check with your doctor before starting a fitness routine. You might have a physical condition that heavy exercise makes fatal.

When I wore spandex to the gym, a PhD female asked me why. Good question. She wore a ballcap, scruffy tee, and baggy sweats.

Now, I bench press in oversized bunny hugs. And the girls bouncing in sports bras? They’re doomed to lance those lima beans.

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