Be a gym gentleman

Are you a regular on the fitness floor? If you want to earn a reputation for courtesy rather than boorishness, adhere to our gym etiquette guide. By Shweta Taneja

You might have been rocking the gym for years now and know all there is to know about weights and postures, but are you “that” guy? You know the kind—the one who talks loudly on the phone, leaves behind pools of sweat on the bench when he’s done, ogles at the ladies, and is forever showing off his triceps. Everyone dreads his presence. If you are nodding your head, chances are you have met such a guy. “Most of the gyms have basic rules like allowing others to use the equipment after a period of time or wiping the seat of the equipment after use,” says Delhi-based Reebok fitness expert Nisha Varma, “but not many people follow those rules.” Here are some definite no-nos if you want to be known as a true gentleman.

Wipe that seat

Rules of conduct: Focus on the workout, not on networking.

“Who wants to exercise in a pool of somebody else’s sweat?” asks actor Rajvansh Rai, who gets upset every time he has to touch a handle or sit on a machine covered with someone else’s perspiration. “You need to be considerate towards other people who are using the same premises and equipment,” says fitness expert Vesna Jacob, of Vesna’s Wellness Clinic, New Delhi. “Imagine if the same happens to you!”

Manners matter: Always carry a towel with you and dry yourself and the bench as you move from one machine to another. “As a rule, after you are finished with a machine, wipe off everywhere you touched—the handles, the seat, the back,” says Jacob.

Switch off your phone

“I hate people who talk on the exercise floor,” says Sandeep Makkar, an IT professional, who works out four-five times a week. “They disturb everyone around them.” Most people who come to the gym are there to beat stress and not to hear you fire your employee or dish out a dozen instructions. So when you are on the treadmill, keep the telephone at bay.

Manners matter: Leave your cellphone in the gym locker, or better still, at home. Treat the time at the gym as your personal time, where you relax, bust stress and whip your body into shape. Your life won’t change if you stay away from your phone for an hour.

Don’t hog that machine

You might be really good at reserving your seat in the first-come-first-served concerts, but when it comes to the gym, keep your running-to-catch-the-window-seat instincts to yourself. “Hanging your jacket, towel, purse, sweat rag or keeping a bottle on a machine does not make you its owner,” says Sanjana Eipe, a marketing professional who works out at a gym five-six times a week. “The gym is public space and you do not own the equipment there, so be courteous and stick to one machine at a time.”

Manners matter: If you don’t plan to use the machine in the next 2 minutes, don’t monopolize it, especially during peak hours. Even if you are doing multiple sets on a machine, as common courtesy let others work out on the machine between your rest periods. If your health club has time limits for a cardio machine, respect the rules and let others use it.

Keep it quiet

“People treat gyms more as networking spaces nowadays than a place to build up your body,” says actor Aditya Singh Rajput, who works out four times a week. “I like to focus on my workouts, which becomes impossible if the person next to me taps me on my shoulder while I am doing my last set of push-ups to ask me where I got my Adidas pair from.”

Manners matter: When in the gym, follow a vow of silence. This means no grunting, no crackling at funny things, and definitely no chatting to the person who might be sitting on a machine and crunching. Keep your voice and music low. And network in a café instead.

Stop ogling

“Ogling is bad enough anywhere, but if a man stares at me while I am sweating it out, I feel completely creeped out,” says Aruni Singh, a management consultant who works out at a gym at least four times a week. Jacob, on the other hand, has learnt to take ogling with a pinch of humour. “Sometimes guys just try to be funny while you are in the gym, laughing that the gym is not a place for strong men any more,” she says. “Instead of getting angry at that, I simply invite them for an abs and flexibility competition. You should see their sweaty faces when I beat them to it.” Staring at a woman (or a man for that matter) while she’s working out her abs or shoulders is invasive and rude.

Manners matter: The girls are working as hard as you to tone up their bodies, so give them a break. In case you like a girl at your gym, a smile’s enough sign of your interest. That’s much more gentlemanly than gaping at her while she’s doing her crunches.

Don’t display your wares

You might think that your abs are custom-made to be displayed around the floor but for others, seeing your sweaty chest is not a very relaxing experience. “I hate it when men at my gym enter a sauna bath but do not take a towel with them,” says Delhi-based businessman Amit Arora, who goes to the gym around three times a week. The gym is a public space, not your personal bathroom. Strutting around in the buff in any part of the gym, including the bathrooms, is in bad taste.

Manners matter: There’s an added benefit to covering up. Since cold muscles tear much faster, a layer of cloth on your body will absorb sweat and keep your muscles warm, protecting them from tear. If you plan to do a lot of floor-based exercises and push-ups, make sure your neckline is not too revealing and your clothes are not too loose or too tight.

Don’t give unsolicited advice

You might have spent the last 20 years in a gym and have the crispest of abs around or a mountain instead of a tricep, but that doesn’t mean that someone next to you needs to hear how much you know about your weights or how the person next to you should use the treadmill or for how long.

Manners matter: Keep your gym knowledge to yourself. In case you see someone doing an exercise incorrectly, be very delicate when you approach them. Don’t preach or be derisive; be polite and ask if they need help.

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