Getting in shape is one of the most common New Year’s resolutions people make, but stepping into the gym for the first time in a while—or even the first time ever—can be an intimidating experience. Knowing where to go or how to move, or even what to wear and how to act can be a little tricky, especially if you have zero guidance.
The gym is a super public place, and in a way, it’s its own strange little community, comprised of everyone from triathlon trainers and meathead bros, to weekend warriors and soccer moms.
The idea is that it should be a place that’s open and welcoming to everyone. And while you’re owed common courtesy and respect, there are certain ways to ensure no one actually likes you.
Rather than let you walk into it blind and get yourself labeled as “That Guy,” we thought it might be a good idea to give you new fellas some friendly pointers to help make your gym experience as pleasant and welcoming as possible.
This one comes first on the list because it’s one of the biggest and easiest ways to piss off everyone.
You just locked down the chest press for five sets, got your stank-ass bacteria-laden sweat all over it and then decided you shouldn’t have to clean up after yourself or leave the machine presentable for the next person who wants to use it. Aside from being super rude, it also poses a health risk. One of the most common ways to get ringworm is through dirty gym equipment, mats, etc.
Which reminds us. This one isn’t a faux pas, but always make sure that, no matter what, you’re wiping down every piece of equipment before and after you use it. While the gym is a community where people should work together and be courteous, don’t rely on anyone to follow all the rules.
This one should be a given, but you’d be shocked at how often we see dudes walking around the locker room stark naked. And listen… We’re all men, your giggle bits are nothing we haven’t seen before, blah blah blah, But why even risk making anyone uncomfortable if you don’t have to? We’re happy your former-commune-dwelling parents took you to the colony that one summer, but not everyone is open as you. For the sake of everyone else around you in the locker room, towel up, bud. It won’t kill you.
We aren’t going to play the role of fashion police here, but we want to remind everyone that the gym isn’t a fashion show or a show-off contest. You’re hype on how much progress you’ve made on your lats, and we’re plenty proud of you for sticking to it. Just try to keep in mind that this is a gym, not Muscle Beach.
When looking at gym gear, focus on things like comfort and function over whether or not it’s going to show off your triceps. Is it breathable? Does it wick moisture? Will it stabilize your joints? When you try it on, how is your range of movement? Can you get a full range of motion? By focusing on the things that actually matter, you’ll not only avoid looking like the resident gym dunce, but you’ll also put your workout first—which is why you’re there in the first place, right?
Do you remember the rules of your childhood? If you take out a toy, don’t forget to put it away. If you borrow something in the classroom, make sure you return it where you found it.
Well, those rules go doubly for the gym. There is no faster way to anger just about everyone by using equipment—kettlebells, dumbbells, mats, whatever—and leaving them for someone else to pick up. Plus, if for no other reason, by leaving equipment strewn along the floor, you’re putting other gym goers at serious risk of injury. Don’t do it. Take the time and put things back where you found them.
There’s no real nice way to say this, so we’ll just come right out with it: Please don’t stink up the gym with your body odor. If you’re coming in from a long day at the office and you know you’re prone to stink, packing an extra stick of deodorant in your bag will make all the difference. Imagine the hell on earth that is trying to get in seven miles on the treadmill while the guy next to you smells like a dumpster. You’re literally trying to run away from something that’s standing right next to you through every step, every minute and every mile. Woof.
Rather than be the, “Oh my God, you pig!” type of people, we’re going to take a slightly more delicate approach to this one. We get it, guys. Like most other places, there are beautiful people at the gym. Sometimes they’re wearing yoga pants, or tight tank tops, or straight up sports bras or any other multitude of clothing that, in another context, might be “tantalizing.”
But, in the gym, none of that stuff matters. Keep your eyes ahead and keep focused on what you’re doing. Staring is impolite and a surefire way to make someone feel uncomfortable. Avert your gaze, focus on the weights in your hand, and get it done. The gym is the gym, not a speed dating session.
Going to the gym will teach you a lot about patience and discipline—sometimes, in more way than you’d think.
There’s going to come a time, especially in January and February when the New Year’s resolution crowd hasn’t thinned out yet (no offense), that someone is going to be on the machine you want. In fact, there might be a line. Even so, don’t be the person who hovers around them. We don’t care if they’ve pitched a tent under the chest press and are camping out for the night, they pay the same membership fees as you, and they have as much a right to be there as anyone else. Be polite, wait your turn and give them the space they need to workout free of distraction.
Speaking of pitching tent on a machine, there’s nothing that’ll boil blood in the gym quite like being the kind of person who stops after every set to post a Facebook status, make a business call, Tweet or stare at your phone screen. If you need to spend any significant amount of time on your phone, don’t take up valuable time on the machine while you do it. Get up, wipe it down and go do your thing. It’ll be there when you get back.
It’s pretty unfortunate that we even need to touch on this, but we hear stories about it at least a few times a year. Somebody’s at the gym working hard to feel better about themselves, and some asshole decides to rob them of their dignity and pride by poking fun at them or, worse, taking a picture and posting it on the Internet.
Far as we’re concerned, this one isn’t just a gym faux pas; it’s a violation of human decency. If you see someone bullying or body-shaming someone in the gym, report it to management immediately. Practice common sense and decency, and you’ll have no problems with this one.
We coined the term “Backseat Lifting” from the equally annoying “Backseat Driving,” which refers to people who aren’t driving, but don’t mind telling you everything you’re doing wrong—every wrong turn, every missed blinker and every rolled yellow light. They’re the worst.
In the gym, Backseat Lifting refers to the guys who walk around policing peoples’ forms, telling them what they’re doing wrong and giving unsolicited advice about workout routines. Don’t be that guy. That guy’s the worst.
We should also note, however, the operative word here is “unsolicited.” Going to the gym is a great way to meet people who know more than you, make friends and find workout buddies to help push you to achieve your fitness goals and make gains. That’s all fine and good, but don’t be the person offering up advice nobody asked you for.
It’s not uncommon to see people guzzling post-workout protein shakes or chomping down on a Power Bar in the gym, but that’s a far cry from the people who show up with mocha loca frappa dappa derp derp lattes and double quadruple quarter pounders with extra bacon grease sauce. Just don’t do it.
In fact, if you’re going to spend all this time in the gym really trying to get fit, you should probably give all that stuff up for the time being. We love mocha loca frappa dappa derp derps as much as the next guy, but those things are like, 1,200 calories and chockfull of sugar. Sorry, brother, but we ain’t wrong. You’ll thank us later.
Remember that thing we said up top about the gym being a community? Well, that community gets more intimate in the weight rack. You’ll see the same people over and over again, day after day, and you bet your ass that if you’re the kind of person who hoards weights, you won’t be making any friends. If there was a practical reason for it and you were serious about your training, we might be able to understand. But any way you cut it, there’s just no reason for you to have a set of everything from 15 to 55 pounds. Even if you want to work your way up to 55 from 15, be polite—take one set at a time.