Mind your manners

Heading to the gym? Don't be guilty of these workout faux pas

March 1, 2011 

There's always going to be that guy at the gym. The guy who's talking on his cell phone on the stationary bike, forgetting to wipe off the sweaty seat when he's done. Or the guy who sounds like he's giving birth when he's only lifting weights.

Don't be that guy (or gal).

Going to the gym requires a certain etiquette. Some of it should be obvious (don't hit on the girl wearing headphones on the treadmill -- she clearly doesn't want to talk). Some of it may not be, though.

A few local fitness center managers and trainers gave some advice on the dos and don'ts of going to the gym.

HOLD THE PHONE

Time at the gym is a chance to escape a busy business day. So imagine how annoying it is to suddenly have people around you talking like you're back in the office.

Some fitness centers ban cell phones. Some allow for exemptions -- a phone can be used to play music, for example.

Aside from leading to annoying conversations, just having a cell around can possibly lead to a violation of privacy.

"Most phones can take photos and post them to the Web," said YMCA of Beaufort health and wellness director Charles Ridlehuber. "So you don't want any cell phones in the locker room or anything like that."

KEEP YOUR GRUNTS DOWN

Lifting weights can be a grueling exercise. But that doesn't mean you have to let the whole club know about it.

Weightlifting can lead to grunting -- sometimes, loud grunting.

The national chain Planet Fitness (which has locations in Charleston) isn't afraid to let people know when they're getting too boisterous. A loud lifter gets one warning, then the "lunk alarm" -- a flashing blue light and a siren that sounds like an air raid is coming.

The YMCA caters more toward families, but occasionally it does get the enthusiastic weightlifter. The problem is quickly remedied with a short conversation.

"The thing is, that it's startling," he said. "If a 25-year-old Marine working out next to an elderly lady starts yelling, it can be quite alarming for her."

DON'T SPREAD YOUR GERMS

If you've been stuck in bed for a few days with a cold, heading out to the gym can feel like a great way to lift your spirits. Just be careful you're not handing your cold off to someone else.

Keep in mind that a fitness center potentially has hundreds of people coming in and out every day, so take precautions to make sure no one goes to the gym and leaves with a cold.

"We make sure we have disinfectant wipes, and we really emphasize the need to wipe stations after working out and often suggest people wipe them before," said Don Foxe, owner of Beach City Fitness on Hilton Head Island.

Even if you're not sick, it's just good manners to wipe down equipment, especially contact points on things like treadmills.

"We have people who sweat a lot," Ridlehuber said. "If there's a small lake under you, try to wipe it up."

PUT WEIGHTS BACK

In general, if you've used equipment during a workout, be sure to put it back. That's just the nice thing to do. This breach of etiquette is especially problematic at the weightlifting station. Some guys have a tendency to rack hundreds of pounds on a leg press then forget to take it off.

"That can pose a problem for the next person who may need to ask for help if they can't remove it themselves," said Glen Carrigan, head trainer at Progressive Health and Fitness Center on Hilton Head.

CLASSES: BE PATIENT, SHOW UP

Instructors know you're excited to start that Zumba class. Just be patient -- don't barge in on others.

"I cannot seem to get members to wait for a class to finish and allow the class participants to leave the studio before they are bursting in to set up their little 'nest' for their class," Foxe said.

That said, if you're coming to a class for the first time, arrive early.

"If you're taking a studio cycling class for the first time you should let the instructor know so they have time to set (you) up on the bike properly," Ridlehuber said. "The person will have a better experience, and it will reduce the risk of injury."

OVERALL, JUST BE NICE

Egregious rule breakers aren't the norm, gym owners say. Beach City Fitness operates under the classic "good neighbor" rule -- treat others how you'd want to be treated. It's up to the members to create an atmosphere they'd want to work out in.

"We make sure we address the (problem) quickly and with a sense of humor," Foxe said. "No one breaks rules on purpose, they just sometimes get caught up in the moment and forget where they are."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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