‘Tis the season to spend a lot of time at the gym.
Yoga, strength training, treadmills, spinning, masters, pilates classes of sudden core muscle death…all at the gym.
I love the gym. I walk in and I feel like I’ve found my mothership. The whir of the machines, the bright lights, the sound of weight plates lifting up and down. It’s a language that I can speak and understand no matter where I travel in the world. Makes me feel right at home every single time.
But when you spend enough time there – like every single day – you start to become aware of the little things. The grunters, the excessively naked people in the locker room, band aids in the pool. These little things add up to big annoyances that make you want to scream or run away.
Since many of you are likely spending time in the gym, too, I thought I’d put together a survival guide for the gym. I’ve found myself in all sorts of awkward situations in the gym and it makes me feel better to know that someone, somewhere might learn from it and not have to experience the same.
Rule #1: Even though you are a cyclist, you are a not a spinner. Spin class is really just a place where pent up, overzealous people who are tolerant of having a sweaty person within 1 inch of them sit for an hour and sweat it out. The goal is to simply see how high your heart rate goes before you implode or how fast your legs can spin without losing a crank. Do not attempt to spin unless you are ready to exceed zone 5c for the entire time. And understand no matter how fast you spin your legs to get away from the sweaty man next to you – you will never be able to drop him. You got people right on your wheel the entire time. So much for draft-free.
Rule #2: Nudity and conversations do not mix. It is never appropriate to engage someone in conversation when naked. Lucky for me, I seem to be a magnet for this. There I am attempting to covertly dress myself under a towel big enough to cover a two year old and someone asks me about my lotion or when I learned to swim. At that point, I lose my grip on the world’s smallest towel and I’m talking about something from Bath and Body Works with all my goodies hanging out. I don’t want to come across as rude but I also don’t like the awkward energy that seems to happen between two people when one is COMPLETELY NAKED and talking.
Rule #3: Beware the (non)psychostalker. It’s happened to you, you just don’t know it yet. A friend was showing me how to use the cable machine the other day. Meanwhile, we notice someone off to the corner watching us. We do a few more moves and that someone is still there. I take my turn – still there. Finally I make eye contact with her and I ask if she’s waiting for the machine. She replies with a “no, and I’m not stalking you.” Thanks. Because it didn’t look like you were ready to pounce and come in for the kill or anything. Remember, nothing says psychostalker like admitting you are not one in the first place.
Rule #4: Avoid anything with the word “hot” preceding it. For example, hot yoga. Hot tub. Hot stone massage (think about it: you are probably paying good money to have someone’s pet rock microwaved and rubbed all over you). Hot boys in the gym (if they are hot and in the gym chances are they are half your age – for legal reasons, stay away). And, if your husband is being courted by a hot high school swim instructor half his age in the hot tub – do not attempt to stop it. Instead, every time you enter the hot tub tease him about his hot tub hottie for…..oh about the next 4 years.
Rule #5: Anyone holding a clipboard has no idea what they are doing. Enough said.
Rule #6: 10 televisions going in the place and none that have anything you are remotely interested in watching. Golf? Can you think of any quicker way to make people hate exercise even more than most already do? Soap operas? Seriously? I used to work in a men’s prison and they would watch soap operas all afternoon. Need I make more of an analogy? Oh, and the treadmill with the television 3 inches from your face? Not a good idea no matter how tempting it sounds.
Rule #7: Realize and accept that anything but swimming has top priority in the swimming pool. There is no sense in arguing this with the aquatics teacher. If you choose to ignore the teacher you can expect to have the lane line pulled right over you while swimming. If you choose to argue the logic of taking up 2 entire lanes for 4 people not swimming in the swimming pool you have just wasted 10 minutes where you could have just exited the pool and hopped on the treadmill instead. In other words, you will not win.
Rule #8: Don’t laugh at the old people in the therapy pool. One day that will be you.
Rule #9: Just say no to the steam or dry sauna. Both are hot boxes of hell. Enter the steam room – first clue that you should not go in – you can’t see inside. Second clue – there’s a sign on the door that says no shaving, no nudity. As for the dry sauna – it looks like no one is in there then you go inside to find a strange man laying on the bench covered in towels, wearing a heart rate monitor and squirting himself with a water bottle every 5 minutes. Sound the creepy siren and get the hell out.
Rule #10: 280 lockers and guaranteed that someone will be RIGHT next to you when you are at yours.
Rule #11: You are allowed to hate anyone that brings their own yoga mat, blanket, special socks, a block, a belt, an extra shirt for Shavasan all to just go in to a room and…stretch.
Rule #12: It doesn’t matter if what they are doing doesn’t make sense, really won’t work or will eventually kill them. If they believe it works, they will keep doing it. This includes the man doing jumping jacks in the dry sauna. The guy climbing the stepmill backwards. Or the guy swimming 25s while grunting (how do you grunt and swim) in a style that makes you want to jump in an perform rescue breathing.
Rule #13: Can we talk about bench hogs? You have 20 lockers in a cubicle-like area and a bench big enough for two people to sit on. Correction: a bench big enough for one woman, her towel and her gym bag. As she sits on the towel while taking off her socks – carefully – you stand there trying to find everything in your gym bag on the floor when all of a sudden the world’s smallest towel falls off of you and once again you are naked with your bare ass right in front of her face. Right then she asks what lotion you are putting on.
Awkward conversation involving nudity – yet again.
Rule #14: You have the right to be disgusted by Cheerios in the locker room sink. First explain to me how someone felt it was even hygienic to eat in the locker room. Then how they thought it was acceptable to pour Cheerios into the sink. Lastly, answer me why a grown adult was eating Cheerios in the first place.
Rule #15: Do not expect clean conversation on the basketball court. The men playing have no idea that the curtain separating you from them is not a concrete wall. What they say and do will be broadcast to the entire gym no matter what type of sign is posted. Also you should not do sit ups near the curtain or you risk being steamrolled by a grown man that has gone out of bounds. And if he has his shirt off (ick), it’s kind of like being naked steamrolled – something you’d rather not talk about.
Rule #16: All of the bitter, angry people in the world are right now collected in your gym’s pool. That has just been my experience.
Rule #17: Don’t fool yourself – cleanliness and your gym’s pool do not co-exist. I was once politely reminded (scolded) not to wear street shoes on to the pool deck because what is on your shoes goes into the pool. Yeah, like what is in the pool in the first place is sparkly clean. Have these people any idea how many people are peeing in the pool? And when was the last time you showered before you got in? The person that complains might as well lick my shoe. I’m just saying don’t complain about what is on my feet or on the pool deck because what’s on most everyone’s body is probably 10 times more disgusting.
Rule #18: The mirrors in the weight room are for checking yourself out. Duh.
Rule #19: No matter how tempting – never, ever pick up a gym magazine. Like a man’s socks once they enter the laundry basket, the journey is long from done. That magazine will – within a week – catch someone’s sweat on a bike, become someone’s tissue on the stepmill, used as an eye cover in the steam room, lose about 10 pages from dry heat crinkles in the sauna, and if that’s not enough, get turned by the hands of dozens of sweaty people that probably didn’t wash their hands after eating Cheerios out of a baggie in the lockerroom.
Rule #20: And most importantly. If you see me there, I am not looking for my soulmate in the hot tub. I found mine years ago sitting on the side of the hot tub and every week for a year he wooed me into thinking we were meant to be. Maybe it was heatstroke, maybe I should have followed rule #4 and avoided anything hot in the first place. But I’m pretty sure my hot tub hottie and I were eventually meant to be. Because, after all, I married him.