ASK A TRAINER: 'Where Did Gym Culture Go Wrong?'
Hello everyone. Yesterday Shai from LA stated his dislike of gyms and, more specifically, the people who frequent them. (To view that column, click here.) Shai is clearly not a gym person and that's okay. I am a gym person. I have been hearing that with increasing frequency recently, "I'm just not a gym person." Or, "I enjoy lifting weights. I just can't take all of those gym people." Toward the end of yesterday's column, I posed the following question to myself:
"How did we get to a point where there are gym people and non-gym people? Where did gym culture go wrong?"-Michael B., New York, NY
There are a number of offenses committed by gym folk that make non-gym people want to steer clear. I would like to take advantage of this platform to point out where gym culture has gone wrong and urge my fellow gym folk to change our ways so as to convert some of those non-gym people into gym people.
Gym owners: Stop making it so difficult for members to cancel. You shouldn't run your gym as if it's a cult. By the time someone gets around to cancelling a gym membership, they probably haven't used the gym in over a month. The business model of a gym depends on selling memberships to more people than the facility could possibly accommodate. I think people are on to that and it leads to the distaste some people have for gyms and gym people.
Volume control. While that 600 pound deadlift is indeed impressive and it's understandable that you would want to draw attention to such an impressive feat, your screaming and grunting and breathing like you're in a Lamaze class, is distracting and disturbing to others.
Clean up after yourself. We should all be working up a sweat in the gym. We should also all be wiping down our equipment after we've soaked it in perspiration.
Dress appropriately for your workout. Yes, you should dress in clothing that facilitates movement. Yes, it's great that you take pride in the body you've worked so hard to create. As a rule of thumb, and this goes for members of both sexes, no one should be able to see your nipples and/or your butt cheeks while you workout. It freaks non-gym people out and it fuels their reluctance to step foot inside.
Act appropriately where you undress. Locker room etiquette is an important part of being a good gym citizen. I think the human body is beautiful and, in the right context, have no qualms with nudity. Try and limit the amount of time you're naked in the locker room. It's nice that you're comfortable with your naked body. Nobody else is as comfortable with it as you are. Also, there are certain activities that really should be "at home" activities. Clipping your toenails, for example. I once saw a man shave his friend's back over the locker room sink after a workout.
Pick up on social cues. The gym isn't the library. There are people that use the gym for socialization. I am totally cool with that but please pick up on a few social cues if a person does not want to engage in conversation at that moment. If the headphones are on and someone is clearly in the zone, don't ask them for tips or for a spot or what they're doing for dinner later. Sometimes I'll have a random gym-goer ask me for fitness tips, WHILE I AM WITH A CLIENT. I tell them, "I'm sorry, I can't address that right now, I'm working with a person that is paying for the benefit of my expertise. If you want me to answer your question, you can..."
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