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Rant #259
(published December 29, 2005)
Gym Etiquette: For Those Who Don't Know Or Don't Care
by Charles Clifford Brooks III
The desire to get into shape is a trend that started in the 1980's with Jane Fonda deciding to make aerobic exercise tapes instead of straddling Vietnamese cannons and the loveable, albeit a very excited, Richard Simmons greeting America every morning from our televisions to, "Get up and sweat!" From these seminal characters the 1990's rolled around and with it came the shift from working out at home to getting into the gym where every man hoped to build biceps like Arnold Schwarzenegger and all the ladies killed themselves to have rock-hard abs like Brittany Spears. All-in-all this is a very productive, self-esteem building, health conscious trend that leads away from obesity which can cause numerous health problems and an untimely death. Would you like to join the ranks of self improvement? If the answer is yes, let me set some ground rules for the novice trainer and those that have been doing it for years and perhaps just not aware of the small courtesies that make life in the gym better for everyone.

1) LEAVE THE KIDS AT HOME! I work with kids from Monday to Friday and do not for a second feel that my vocation is not a rewarding one. I believe that kids need to learn healthy eating habits and get exercise to help calm their energy levels and teach them a health conscious attitude they can carry into adulthood. However, for those who are going through a midlife crisis to get back into a pant size you wore in high school, don't drag your kids into it. Children want to play and there are machines and literally a ton of weights spread all over the gym that will only lead to the youth getting hurt. In my gym there is one gentleman who brings in his son who is no older than eleven, and has him work out when the kid is way too young to be bench pressing anything. Medical research shows that weight training too early in life can lead to permanent damage to a child's body and result in, among other things, stunting their growth. I am sure the kid will be able to lift a Buick, but at 21 years old he'll look like a pro wrestler from the Land of Oz. Many gyms have playrooms for the kids where they can watch Sponge Bob Square Pants until their hearts are content . . . and stay out of the way of everyone else. If they don't want to go in the kid's area, enforce your strength as a parent or make arrangements to leave them at home.

2) NO ONE WANTS TO SWIM IN YOUR POOL! When you are in the heat of battle with whatever workout you have decided upon, the body will sweat to cool itself. This is completely normal. Yet, if you are sitting in one of the machines or lying flat on the bench press, more than likely you are going to leave sweat behind when you get up. Please take two seconds to use a towel provided by the gym and wipe it up. If you perspire like a gorilla, and instead of a damp spot you excrete a Lake Lanier after benching 400 pounds, use several towels. Leaving that for the next person is not only inconsiderate, it's simply nasty!

3) IF YOU WANT TO TALK GO TO A BAR! I have been going to the same gym for about four years now. I have met many interesting characters in there over that period of time as well as my wife, who still goes there religiously with me. I chat with the boys between workouts, but my primary goal is to complete my chosen exercise, run a few miles, then get out and onto the rest of my life. On the other hand, like enormous children, there are those who pay membership dues and do nothing but stand in the way of everyone else and run their mouth. Why is that? Paying good money to chatter in a business built for exercise is like buying a car you never plan to drive. What's the point? If there is some sort of discord with your spouse, and you are avoiding home by hiding in the gym, fix that problem instead of creating one by loitering where others are lifting heavy stuff . . . or take up space at the Waffle House! (As long as you order coffee you can stay as long as you like!)

4) DRESS THE PART! With the Politically Correct Brigade running the country at the moment, I feel it is my duty to help those who may think they are being "objectified" by the way others in the gym leer at them. Women shouldn't be appalled or offended when some of the guys stare when they wear spandex that has more material stuffed up in their behind than on the outside and hopping around in a sports bra that looks like it was purchased from Strippers R Us. I have no religious or moral objection to this attire, (other than it just appears quite uncomfortable) it just annoys me when I overhear someone complain that they are being, "stared at like a piece of meat" when what they are wearing appears to be spray-painted on!

These are just a few of the highlights that make life easier on everyone who pays money to have an hour or so of stress-free Zen while staying in shape. There are other, smaller rules that can help such as putting the weights back when you are finished and keeping any seriously vulgar language to a minimum because there are ladies and children within earshot. For those who think that I am only picking on the way some ladies dress in the gym, I will also say that men do it too! Far more men wear t-shirts cut to the size of spaghetti-strapped evening wear and those cliché cotton parachute pants that are elastic around the waist and ankles which give me the urge to shout, "Can't Touch This!" and do that MC Hammer dance he made famous by shuffling back and forth in his music videos. (I won't even go into the guys that spend more time flexing in the mirror than picking up a dumbbell.) And don't think for a second there aren't things I do without thinking which the rest of the gym pokes fun at. Just remember, it's all fun and games until an unsupervised child gets hurt or a pair of spandex explodes and knocks someone else unconscious!

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