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A Guide To Gym Etiquette

by StephenKelly

Even though some men live the type of cultured, tasteful lives ripped from the pages of Martha Stewart Living, a lot of guys use a trip to the gym to get in touch with their Cro-Magnon roots. What is it about a testosterone-filled environment of sweaty, grunting men that causes common courtesy to fly right out the window?

You've probably seen, and no doubt rolled your eyes at, these guys and their overly demonstrative shows of manliness, with the grunting, the groaning, the ejection of copious amounts of saliva ... and not just in the locker room.

Once in the weight room, these are the same guys who'll leave machines loaded with weights for someone else to put away, ignore the sweat slicks they leave behind on machines and benches and foul the air with body odor that would test the patience of the most extreme fetishist.

For many guys, this flouting of society's conventions is the top pet peeve (and turn-off) of the gym experience. And for beginners, being subjected to this type of behavior can really ramp up the intimidation factor. Let's take a look at some of the more blatant gym etiquette faux pas. If you're guilty of at least two of these infractions, perhaps you too need a shot of gym courtesy.

Rerack your weights
It's the sign that everyone sees but so few actually read: "If You Can Lift It, You Can Put It Away." So simple, so straightforward -- it's almost Zen. But how many times have you gone to use a machine only to find that someone has left their weights for you to put away? People walking away from fully loaded machines are a major source of annoyance.

Analyzing the psychology at work here is a waste of time. Whether the perp's motivations are misguided displays of alpha-male dominance or good old-fashioned laziness, it's just wrong. In the end, you'll probably wind up putting the weights away, adding insult to possible injury in a classic lose-lose situation.

The bottom line: Rack your weights when you're finished using a plate-loaded machine or curling bar. Remember that the next person who comes along may not be as strong as you.

Personal hygiene in a public place
Because of their warm, moist environments, gyms can be an ideal breeding ground for germs and viruses. Fortunately, the majority of gyms do a great job of keeping their facilities clean. But if it's true that cleanliness is next to godliness, some guys are going right to hell.

Gym cleanliness is an important issue for most people, especially in gyms with large gay populations where some members may have immune systems compromised by HIV or AIDS. Colds and viruses are easily transmitted in public places like gyms where many people use the same machinery. So preventing the spread of germs at the gym is as much your responsibility as it is that of the guy sneezing on the dumbbells next to you.

Of course, cold prevention comes down to the common-sense stuff, like covering your mouth when you sneeze or cough. Avoid touching your eyes or nose; wash your hands a lot, and if you're sick, don't go to the gym. By paying attention to your own hygiene habits, you can help keep the spread of germs in check.

You should also do your best to keep the workout area clean. Carry a towel and wipe equipment down when you're finished. And don't drop your trash on the floor for someone else to throw away. Gym cleanliness is not up to the gym's staff alone. Keep the gym as sanitary as you would your own home, where I'm guessing there isn't any sweat pooling on the leather sofa.

Don't be a hog
By now you should be getting the picture that the gym is a social environment that's a lot nicer when people are respectful of each other. But there will always be a large segment of the gym community with the idea that the gym is their own personal play space.

So they dominate machines, even though "hogging" equipment offers the greatest potential for altercations between members, particularly at peak hours when the gym is at its most hectic. So here's another important rule of thumb: Let people work in with you when the gym is crowded. When working in, keep your sets focused and efficient, resting no more than 90 seconds between sets. This way, two guys are able to use one machine and everybody's happy.

This one's all about sharing and the intricacies of interacting in a crowded public space. Again, let common sense prevail. If you think your behavior is selfish and annoying, it probably is. In the gym, as in society, it shouldn't be "every man for himself."

Look at me!
By the erotic nature of its blatant physicality, the gym is a place of much posturing and preening, ranking right up there with the beach or the dance floor as an ideal venue to show off your wares. So newcomers to the gym should be prepared for full-on blasts of narcissism, particularly in gyms with large male populations.

Again, there's nothing you can do about these guys, except to roll your eyes like everybody else. And while there's nothing wrong with being proud of how you look and feel, there's a big difference between pride and preening.

Does the guy on the bench press whose orgasmic groans of exertion after each rep have you thinking, "I'll have what's he's having"? Probably not. He's preening. Ditto the guy who lifts up his shirt to check out his abs after every set, no matter what body part he's working on, the guy whose stretching routine scream lap dance, and anyone wearing gym shorts two sizes too small.

Rise above it all
Like it or not, shocking displays of rude behavior are all part of the workout experience. So don't let the gym jerks keep you from getting the best of your workout. The best advice is to take it all in stride and try to find some humor in it. Because even in the "Lord Of the Flies"-type environment that can be the gym, there's still a place for good manners and civility.