The fastest way to feel at home, show up like a pro and quickly become part of the culture
Come on Man. Who cares about manners any more? They’re passe, right?
You and I see it from drivers to trollers to people who let a door slam on a pregnant woman struggling with her groceries. Nobody cares.
Except everyone does care. So much so that when you and I enter a new culture, such as a dance studio or a martial arts Dōjō, part of learning how to be there is understanding the rules. If you don’t, you swiftly get the feeling you’re definitely not welcomed. You are welcome to leave, any time.
After 46 years of bodybuilding, I have watched an awful lot of folks show up and leave. This year, with all the typical stories about how to stick with it- and honey I have through thick and thin- I wanted to provide a different angle. One that won me fans, supporters, excellent feedback, confidence. Those very things that helped me make a commitment, which by now is my entire adult life. I’m a very serious gym rat. I’d like you to enjoy, engage, and get successful in the gym too. If in fact the gym is the right place for you, which you will find out. It can be, too, whether you’re 18 or 49 or 70 or 99.
There’s a culture to the world of gyms.
That culture stands for any gym, be it a hardcore farts-and-chalk-and-holler Gold’s or a $2000 a year athleisure spot for the too-rich-to-sweat crowd. While the nature of the clientele has a lot to do with how welcome you feel, there are a few basic gym rules that are absolute.
When you know and honor them, you start fitting in. Not only do we regulars love to see you coming, we want you to stick around. We love to see folks succeed.
Those manners have to do with Respect, Safety and Competence.
I invite my gym buddies Zack Harris and Sean Kernan to weigh in here, pun intended.
Here ya go :
- Start where you are. That means don’t try to handle weights you can’t. Why? Safety. This is how you injure yourself and potentially those around you. Sit your ego down and start smart.
- Never ever ever ever drop your weights. NEVER. Only assholes do that. In fact nearly every gym I’ve been in for the last ten years will bounce you out without a refund if you drop weights. See #1 above. Strong people don’t drop their weights.
- Re- rack everything you use. Put gear back where you found it. Put the weights where they belong. It’s annoying as hell to have to spend ten minutes searching for the thirties because some rookie can’t be bothered. Or to have to unload five plates each side of the leg press because re-racking is beneath you. You use the plates, you put ’em back. And here’s why, Sparky: because the next person might not be strong enough to lift five forty-five pound plates off the leg press. And, they’re probably too embarrassed to ask for help. There were times after rotator cuff surgery that I didn’t have the use of my right arm, and moving that kind of weight was impossible. I have no problem asking. But too many folks won’t.
- As Sean wrote this morning, clean off the machines when you sweat on them. If I want you to sweat on me I am dragging you to my bedroom. Otherwise, folks…ewwwwww. Your mother isn’t following you around. Wipe off your sweat.
- Don’t just grab an open bench or machine. Check for weights, a water bottle, keys. Folks gotta pee or get water. Have the courtesy to ask those around if someone’s using that bench. Most folks will tell you. If it was in use, relinquish it. You have no idea how long that person had to wait their turn. You can wait yours.
- Don’t hoard. Especially on busy nights. You share. Don’t go grab the fifteens AND the twenties AND the thirties AND the forties and pile them up like your personal Fort Knox. On busy nights, pace yourself to accommodate other folks.
- About sharing: Do NOT hog the machines by texting for long minutes while a line of folks waits for you to relinquish the only hamstring curl machine in the house. GET OFF. You have no clue how annoying this is to people who are seriously there to work. You’re in the gym to exercise. Don’t want to work? No prob. But get off the machines. There are plenty of chairs around for you to text away. And kindly, don’t bark at someone for “hovering” when you are wasting time taking up space without working. They are politely waiting for you to get the F*ck off the machine.
- Do not mock, shame, harass, intimidate or otherwise interfere with people who are doing their level best. Think you’re superior? Dude, let’s talk in thirty years. Let’s see if all that arrogance and posturing resulted in a life-long commitment. More likely, you’re got Chris Hemsworth’s dad bod in Avengers: Endgame. Over the half-century I’ve been lifting, I’ve seen it again and again. There’s a Special Place in Hell for people who body-shame beginners in the one place those folks need to be. I hear that Special Place involves boiling oil. Good.
- Please do not interrupt people in the middle of a set to have a twenty-minute jawjack about your fitness goals. If we have our buds in, are sweating hard, grimacing from the effort, dude. Will you please let us at least finish the set. Not only is this dangerous, it’s rude. Most of us aren’t there for social hour. That goes for guys who want to flirt. NO. Just…NO. As in…NO. We women (most of us anyway) didn’t show up for you to eye-fuck.
- Do not walk in front of people who are working out. Not only is that rude, you’re keeping them from being able to check their form. While this should be obvious, don’t grab your weights and block someone else who was there before you. Folks, those mirrors are not just for preening. Those of us training for a show, rehabbing an injury or changing a routine have to focus on form. Perfect form. Because if you don’t have good form, and resort to the sling-the-shit-out-of-it method to impress people, you are going to be in the hospital having shoulder surgery very soon. Or, your back will fail. This isn’t about the ego (for most of us anyway). It’s a safety and injury-prevention issue.
- Learn to lift well. Please don’t ask folks to be your trainer if a) they’re busy with their own workouts, b) they don’t have the chops, or c) they’re using really bad form or have bad manners. You become part of the problem. Serious folks take their bodies seriously. That means we’re in it for the long run. The care it takes to lift correctly, to understand our why. That means be clear about what you expect body building or weight lifting to do. Hire a pro. Don’t impose on folks who are clearly focused on their own work. Please- take it from a chick who gets it all the time, it’s not sexy to ask for help while staring at my tits. They might be spectacular, but get a fucking grip, guys. Pony up to learn how to lift for your body, your age, your goals. Pay for the privilege. Why? Because we are more respectful when we have to shell out real cash for results. Hire a pro. Learn. Watch the results roll in. That will keep you committed.
- Kindly, do not pour an entire bottle of cologne on yourself before you hit the gym. Conversely, please do not show up smelling as though you just finished a Tough Mudder and you want everyone to know it. By the same token, if farting offends you, don’t come to the gym. Because between the stupid shit most of us insist on eating and the effort it takes get that last rep, we tend to let ‘er rip. Because, well, there are only a certain number of things over which you have control at any given time. I learned years ago that the occasional emanation from the guy next to me (and thank you, anyone standing too close when I’m doing squats) is part of the price we pay. Get a sense of humor.
Many years ago, long before women were the fixture they are now in the heavy part of the gym, a few very good guys taught me the ropes. From gym manners to proper form. I’ve invested in training from some of the best the business. I do not use bodybuilding for my ego. It has kept me alive. Not only that, I am in serious training for my eighties, which are far closer than they used to be. It’s such a good habit that I’ve got weights all over my house. And use them, especially on bad snow and storm days.
The gym is my second home. It’s open to everyone, but it’s welcoming to those who respect the culture, learn the rules, play fair, play well, play safely and clean up after themselves.
Same rules most of us learned in kindergarten. They all still work.
It doesn’t need to be an intimidating place. You don’t have to clean the house before the maid gets there. Show up as you are but ready to learn. If you respect the rules, and most are simple common sense, not only will you swiftly feel at home, soon we’ll be teasing you when you’ve been out for a while.
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