Gym etiquette (for men, at least)
One of the most popular resolutions that people make at the start of any year is to get fit. Many of us will have forgotten what drunken promises we claimed to adhere to back in January, but some good souls will have kept theirs and possibly joined a gym.
I have to be honest and admit that I am the member of a gym. It’s the fifth gym that I have been a member of (I move, a lot), and as ever I am currently paying for a service that I rarely use.
It isn’t because I don’t want to use the gym, it’s just that I can’t be bothered. It is so much effort. You get in after a long day, and you can either settle down with tea and Tivo or head out in the cold and dark to a place that offers few comforts. One of which being the etiquette that you are forced to follow.
To begin with gym changing rooms are bizarre places. I can only speak of the men’s changing room, but wow are they weird. Firstly, no one speaks to each other. If the silence is broken then it had better be about football, getting drunk or problems with the mrs – the universally accepted topics of conversation when getting naked in public, between men at least.
And that’s the other thing, you are undressing in a public place. Some guys don’t care, some should really care, and then there are the guys that should be on Britain’s Got Talent with the way that they can keep a towel wrapped around themselves regardless of what they do.
The last time I was in the gym a man dropped both his iPhone and iPad on the tiled floor. I could see, almost in slow motion, the mad grab the guy made to stop the inevitable from happening. He failed and both screens smashed.
There were four guys (including me) stood in close proximity. We all felt his pain. I clasped my iPhone thankful it wasn’t me. But no one spoke. The guy was in shock. You could see he wanted to vent, but he had to remain true to the gym code. So he casually put the broken items into his bag, dressed and walked out (no doubt to sit and sob in his car).
As you move out of the changing room and onto the gym floor it’s all eyes to the ground. You are now engulfed in a sweaty atmosphere and surrounded by walls of mirrors. Then you meet the gym folk:
The wannabes: Women that turn up to the gym in full make-up with no intention of getting into a sweat. They usually have very good physiques and wear very tight clothing.
The meatheads: Usually men, but occasionally women that hover around the weights section. They tend to be very well built and scare off people who can’t bench press their own body weight.
The family guys: These are parents that have been badgered into going to the gym by the kids. They usually wear odd gym gear (bit like the gym kit you’d wear if you’d forgotten your PE kit at school). They’ll either work hard, or simply spend five minutes on the cross trainer to clear their conscience and tell the kids to zip it.
The sunseekers: (This is me) Those people that have booked a holiday and realise they need to bare flesh in the near future. With mates snapping pictures that will be put on Facebook regardless of the location, content or quality, you can’t let that growing gut make too many appearances.
I tend to head for the family guys or the odd sunseeker, but occasionally I get mixed up with the meatheads. But whoever you find yourself with the general rule is to keep quiet and act as if the other people don’t exist. It is painful, and it is lonely.
That’s why I try to break convention from time to time to make my trip to the gym more pleasurable. Occasionally I will get into a conversation – tends to be with fellow sunseekers, but I have been known to chat to the wannabes. It isn’t easy, but it’s surprising just how many people are prepared to have a chat about what they are doing and hoping to achieve.
So, if you find yourself paying for gym membership that you rarely use, then try adopting a new approach. Now I’m not saying to waltz around the changing room literally baring all to whoever will listen, but try speaking to someone on the equipment. Now some may not respond, some may think you are hitting on them, but others will appreciate a chat. It makes the whole situation less mundane, and you won’t mind sacrificing your tea and Tivo for the night.