It's been a few weeks since those shiny, brand-new resolutions were spoken or penned – and now is a good time to reflect on your goals. One of the most popular resolutions every year is to get back into the local gym and start working on that body. Now is the time to get it ready for the beach, for your big 40, for the summer weddings or that high school reunion that's been haunting you since the mix of Photoshop and Facebook.
As we reflect on many sessions in the gym or the absolute resolve to start next week, a few things come to mind. First, there are several different types of people in most gyms across the U.S. Which are you? Second, in most gyms you'll find a set of posted rules. What is not posted are the expected rules of etiquette that exist in a building that's housing many body types, sweat and locker rooms.
Please, do not set out to be like one of the following types of people – though you can probably picture someone who fits each of these descriptions.
Screamer. This is a man or woman in the weight-lifting area – or worse, on the fly machine – who lets everyone around him know how hard that repetition was. Occasionally, if there's a group of young admirers watching, the screaming reaches a primal level that no woman in childbirth can match.
Speed dater. This is the guy or girl who's there for the sole purpose of scoring a date, or maybe just a phone number. You'll see them speed up on the treadmill if an attractive candidate approaches the neighboring machine. They'll carefully spend hours creating that “just worked out, but not too much” look. A casual hair tussle. A light sheen on the forehead. And when they're counting reps, expect the number to magically increase when another candidate walks by.
The voice. I love music like anybody else. But I do not love everybody's music at one time. With advancements in technology, we now have affordable “noise reducing” headphones readily available. Spend 10 minutes on the weight floor and you'll hear someone singing (very badly) to an Eminem or Beyonce song. And you'll need your own ear buds to drown them out.
[Read: 2014 Fitness Trends: What's In, What's Out.]
Free viewer. This person stays in constant contact with the TV monitors because he or she can't pay the satellite bill this month. They are pretty much harmless unless they get sucked into the "Bachelor" marathon and there are no more bicycles left.
Scary veins. Also known as "The Meathead" – or "The Lift Things Up and Put Them Down" guy. He might be wearing a tiny, ripped shirt that makes him resemble the Incredible Hulk. Of course, it might be a woman, and that might not be so obvious. So, go easy with the “sir” or “ma'am” if you're not sure. The "scary veins" person is someone to watch closely and steer clear of, since 'roid rage could strike at any moment.
And for some rules that nobody pays attention to, but should:
Sweat is good, sweat is gross. Use a towel. Most gyms provide equipment towels. If you leave butt sweat on the equipment, wipe it off. Spin bike a little slippery? Wipe it down. Do your hands sweat a lot while in the free weights area? Don't assume athlete's foot can only grow on feet.
Cover up. Guys, keep the bits where they belong. Girls, keep the girls strapped down. Nobody likes to see stuff flying all over the place, no matter how awesome the person looks. Unless that person is a speed dater and only there for the attention, most people just get annoyed by such displays of desperation. Be comfortable in your skin. People can tell who's there because they're serious about getting in shape. Nobody cares if you're wearing old sweats. The serious people get the respect. And if the speed dater put on an extra spritz of perfume or cologne, try not to bash their head in with a weight plate – even if you start sneezing or wheezing.
In the locker room, respect personal space. If you choose to bare it all, keep in mind that not everyone is comfortable with full nudity. Don't try to strike up a conversation inches from another person, especially if they can't make eye contact. Put clothes on and try again. On the same note, if you're shy about baring your body, don't be judgmental to those who are more free thinking – and don't be shocked to see naked people in a gym locker room.
If in doubt, ask. This is for those gym-goers who aren't sure how to use equipment. We all do the same thing: We lurk quietly while we're on treadmills so we can watch an experienced person on the equipment. Then we jump on and try to make it work without any idea how to do that. At the risk of injuring yourself or breaking equipment, just ask someone. Most people who are at the gym for serious reasons will be happy to help other people who are there for the same reason.[Read: Lessons From Tony Horton's New Book 'The Big Picture.']
Put the phone down! Talking or texting in spin class should be adequate reason for the brief break in sanity that might afflict someone and cause them to do something irrational, like yanking the phone out of your hand and smashing it to dust. Nothing infuriates a class instructor more than blatant disrespect – and taking a selfie during instruction is a huge NO. Save that selfie for after class, when you have all that sweat to boast about. Nobody needs to know you were lifting the pink weights during Body Pump. Girls, that goes for you, too. February is here, and by now, the weak or injured have left the building. If you survived the January rush, keep a few of these rules in mind and work on being the best you can be for your health. Be yourself. Be honest with yourself and your goals. Just be nice, and treat others like you want to be treated. And when the "Lift Things Up and Put Them Down" guy walks by with his gallon jug and protein powder dust billowing, just keep walking. He is in his own zone, and you should find yours, too.