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  • Ryan Manning

3 Unwritten Rules of the Gym

It’s that time – time to join a gym. For most of us, this is a difficult decision. You may see your local fitness center as an intimidating monolith with ancient rules that only the initiated know and gladiatorial-like fitness junkies guarding its secret treasures. It’s not – but me just writing that isn’t going to convince you. What will help overcome your fears and uncertainties is knowledge. This series is going to equip you with all the knowledge you’ll need to never let a gym frighten from ever wanting to work out again.

Walking in for the First Time

There is no going back. You’re inside already. You’ll notice quickly that there are a lot of different people here. Not everyone is a model or a muscle-bound hulk. Most are just like you, looking for a good workout. The first step is to get a quick tour of the place and ensure this is the right one for you. There is a plethora of factors that go into making this decision. We aren’t going to go into those in depth here but you need to feel like you can spend at least a half an hour in this place every other day, even if you really don’t want to. If you agree this is where you want to sweat, it’s time to sign up. Signing a gym membership is also a contract with yourself. You are making an investment into yourself and you’ll want to see a return on it. You sign your name and give the salesperson your credit card or a handful of straight cash and you are now a member. Congratulations!

Every fitness center has its own rules and regulations. Sometimes they are posted prominently. Other times they are a passing comment made by staff members once someone has crossed the proverbial line. Many of us aren’t looking to break rules – agents of chaos aside – and just want to get the workout done as fast as possible so we can head home and brag to our friends that we too are gym-goers. Let’s not embarrass ourselves and learn three of the most important rules every gym and fitness center has whether or not they want to tell you.

Ask and Do Not Assume

Okay so this is a broad rule, but it will resolve almost ninety-percent of the issues and confusions you may encounter. Here’s a scenario for you: its leg day and your only exercise left on a circuit are leg presses. Luckily, your gym has the perfect machine for just that. However, they only have one that you like and someone is setting a personal best by pressing the weight of a Camry® like it’s a walk in the park. After you go through the stages of envy and disbelief, you pick your jaw off the ground and wait for the car-presser to finish. After a grunt that moves the tectonic plates below, he jumps out of the machine and walks away from it. Are they done? If they aren’t and you jump on will they crush you with their mighty quads? No one is ever certain so be polite and ask them, Hey, are you finished here? There’s two likely scenarios to come of this. They either say, No, meaning you’ll have to be patient for another couple of minutes or they’ll say, Yes, which means it’s your turn.

This strategy will come in handy for several other predicaments you may encounter at the gym. If you find yourself in a situation where you tell yourself, I’m not sure, just ask. If you’re worried people won’t be friendly or will be personally offended from your inquiry, don’t be. You are there for yourself and as long as you are respectful you will have little issue with anyone at the gym. If you asking a simple question ignites a confrontation from someone, find a staff member and explain your side of the story. Be confidant that issues rarely arise in any fitness setting outside of a European Soccer Stadium (or Football for you purists). Most people are in the same position as you, trying to finish this workout before dreams of cheat meals dance in their heads.

Now, you’ve conquered you fears and joined a gym. You’ve mastered walking on the treadmill and have even flirted with some dumbbells. But now there’s this thing. A piece of equipment that looks more like a medieval torture device than something that’s supposed to make you stronger. What do you do? Many people will ignore it, deeming it non-essential or too complicated to even acknowledge its existence. Others will wait to watch some daring individual test their metal against the contraption. You, on the other hand, will ask someone the simple question that no one wants to ask. What are you supposed to do with this thing? A staff member should have an answer and be able to give you a quick demonstration. Don’t feel embarrassed because you don’t know. What you know isn’t as important as what you could know.

Clean Up After Yourself

Remember Kindergarten? Me neither but we all remember being told we should always pick up after ourselves. With being in a gym, safety and hygiene are paramount. Make sure to wipe down any piece of equipment you’ve used. Most gyms will have disinfectant spray and towels littered about and this is the reason why. You don’t want to sit in someone’s sweat just as much as the next person doesn’t want to sit in yours. You might think, but I don’t really sweat. Wrong. You are almost always sweating. As you read this perspiration is happening all over you. Yeah, I’ve grossed myself out too. So, when in doubt, wipe it down. And don’t drench the thing in Lysol or spray it wildly in the air.

The other rule regarding picking up after yourself is: if you grab it you rack it. Every weight you move every equipment that you take should return to its home station. Don’t leave it on the floor or still on the bar. The exercise isn’t complete until you’ve put all your weights away. The same is true for mats, stability balls, handles, grips, ropes, chains, unicycles, and any other toy you’ve played with today. Treat the gym with respect and the gym will respect you.

Come Ready and Come Clean

What should I wear to the gym? This may seem like an obvious question but not everyone is sure what attire is recommended. We’ve all seen someone lifting in blue jeans or walking in khakis. There’s those who wear flip flops in the weight room and those who march in steel-toed boots on the treadmill. So, what should you wear when you work out? The most important facet of fitness-friendly attire is if it is comfortable or not. You are most likely going to stay longer in the gym if you’re not worrying about your clothes the whole time. Do yourself a favor and shop for some easy-to-wear gym clothes. Find a pair of sneakers that keep you upright and don’t cover your feet in blisters. Even your underwear matters as anyone prone to wedgies will tell you. Find a breathable shirt and some light shorts. Maybe a hat or headband for those with longer hair. Treat yourself.

Now you have the right apparel and you’ve been going to the gym every other day for a month. That is awesome and you should pat yourself on the back. While you’re doing that, take a second and give your clothes a whiff. How bad is it? If the tears streaming down your face are any indicator, you need to wash those clothes. You may have the habit of just throwing them back into your gym bag or sealing them away in a locker. Just remember that you should wash your clothes at some point. If you can’t remember when the last time you washed them was then it’s time to take them through a spin cycle or two.

You’ve washed your clothes but something still doesn’t smell right. At first, you imagine it must be somebody else. But the smell never dies down and soon the horrible realization dawns on you; you are the source of the smell. It’s alright, things happen. Sometimes life is so hectic a shower is the last thing we have time for. Or maybe you’re just not a fan of bathing yourself – no judgements here. At the gym, however, you should be somewhat clean. Not just for yourself but for your fellow gym-going compatriots. How are they supposed to do a barbell press if one of their hands is plugging their nose? Just remember to be courteous and you will be the MVP of your gym.

So those are three of the major rules every fitness center has. Not too bad, right? Remember, you are at the gym for yourself but you can’t neglect the others around you. There will be other rules and some places will be stricter about enforcing them than others. But if you follow the three rules we’ve covered you will have no issues and will be on your way to enjoying your visit to the gym. Thanks for reading and stay awesome!

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