Thursday, December 18, 2008

Rules of the Gym

‘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.

Here goes…

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.

Trust me.

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.


Meredith said...

Why is it that no matter there are a million lockers and mine is the only one taken in an area when I go to workout, when I come back the one next to mine is occupied AND the person is there changing!?

Dave said...

If all the pool lanes are taken, everyone will be doing breaststroke or walking. If only one other person is in the pool, they are doing freestyle, and they are much faster than you.

Oh, and every time you try and play basketball, there's always someone trying to do sit-ups (?!) on the court.

meredith said...

or how about the runner that wants to out run you on the treadmill. you increase speed, he increase speed, you increase more, he increases more. always has to be a little bit faster than you....but then he burns out after 7 minutes.


Go Mom Go said...

I almost lost the coffee all over the keyboard. This post should have come with a warning.

It is ALL true, no matter what gym you go to!

tribeaner said...

What kind of lotion do you use????

Andrea said...


ADC said...

Absolutely love it.

Flatman said...

I hate my gym.

Iron Maiden said...

Aaahhh! Rule #16 is soooo true. Just the other day I was sharing a lane with a relatively good swimmer. On the next lap I noticed it was a large woman that I appeared to startle. Didn't she notice I was in the lane? She proceeded to "accidentally" kick and slap me every time we passed each other. Like she was going to chase me out of the lane! Ha! No way sister! I was here first! Oh and let's not forget that the wild swimmers who talk to themselves will always want to share a lane with you, too.

Mira Lelovic said...

Too funny! I think some people just like talking to strangers naked, and they're known for it. Glad it's not me!

Jen Rife said...

LMAO, Meredith! You're right on about people racing you on the treadmills! Great post Liz - as always, you've caught the true essence of the gym experience. LOL!

D said...

Well done.
But I do have to say, I was required to carry my clip-board at one gym I trained at. I do know what I'm talking about, damn it (I'm the only one though hehe)!

Kathy said...

The magazine one was something I had never thought of - thanks!

I hate the woman at my gym who is far too large to really be wearing a G-string, but proudly waltzes around wearing it anyway, showing off her pimply, dimply butt cheeks! YUK.... I change in the shower cubicle which I know is very annoying to the queues waiting to shower, but it's better than being naked in front of everybody I say! It's not a pleasant sight.... best to save their eyes from the horrors of it all, and take up the shower for an extra couple of minutes.

rr said...

I had a bad gym exp today. And I don't even have a gym. more on that later. Love that you picked waterboy up at the hot tub.

Molly said...

*glances anxiously at training schedule to see if there are any gym workouts there yet*

*breathes a sigh of relief*

Gee, look what I have to look forward to!

GoBigGreen said...

Thanks for the pool comment! Our lame aquatics director politely asked the women masters to "please not all come at the same time."
What a dork! My lane mate told him this as well. Then a lap swimmer told us we were "violating" her space when one of us asked to swim "side by side" with her!

Funny how we can fit 8 people in 2 lanes but still be taking up space:)

And i have been knocked in the head with the lane line as the aqua aerobics lady decided she needed more space...Ah...cant wait for friday's masters:)

IronSnoopy said...

I'm positive the combination of chlorine fumes and a Speedo leads to the bizarre behavior I see in the pool every.single.time.I.go.

The oddest guy I saw shot daggers my way when we shared a lane. I was swimming in the traditional sense of the word. He...put his legs and feet up on the deck and floated on his back for a good 15 minutes while I swam around him every turn.

TriGirl Kate O said...

I met a friend to swim laps at our Y one Sunday afternoon. All lanes were taken by SLOW men, who would swim a 50 in like 4 mins, then stand at the wall....for like 10 mins before starting their next 50. All 6 lanes full of these guys pretending to swim laps. Augh, kill me now.

tina said...

i hate those that must prove their worth by loading twelve 45 lb plates and their meathead best friend onto the leg press, grunt, move it less then a quarter of an inch and then walk away....too lazy and weak to re-stack their weights......

Benson said...

#11. Guilty only that I bring my own mat. It's a personal hygiene thing.

never ever sit your bare butt on any surface. use a towel. please.

CAMI said...

And what's with the pool being the social place to hang out at the gym? Seriously? Are none of these people taking up space in the lanes actually... SWIMMING?

Hate the people who want to strut around the locker room completely naked and come right up to chat.... did I even look like I wanted to talk to you? Hello? I'm getting dressed as fast as I can so I can leave!

Great post! Right on the money as usual!

~Robyn~ said...

Hey now...I carry a clipboard and I do know what I'm doing! LOL.

Also, since I work at a gym...the pool is no where near clean...yet I still swim in it..hmmm...

carla said...

Such a great post...and for me the grunters push me over the proverbial edge.
not so much the first few times I see em hoisting the (light) weights and GRRRUNTING but by time 29874289 it is

thanks for the laugh.

Jason said...

That list is just way too accurate. Some people wonder why I set up my own weights at home. Simple answer is I now limit my exposure to all of the above to just going to the pool. That is enough.