"Get out of my squat rack."
As a fitness enthusiast (see “nut”) I have spent a fair amount of time in the gym since I was old enough to lift in a fitness center (usually 16 without a parent, 14 with). Over the years I have seen a lot of stereotypes confirmed by inconsiderate participants on BOTH sides of the spectrum so in an effort to keep the peace between body builders, “Resolutioners” and everyone in between I wrote this choose your own adventure style blog post. Put yourself in the appropriate category and pay attention. A little perspective will go a long way come January when two worlds collide.
I’ll start with the residents ie those who feel like they “own” the place. I am one of you so take this sitting down knowing it comes from a place of experience and empathy:
I’m sick of the inevitable jokes that land every December warning us about the waves of people coming to invade our sacred space and how we can’t wait for them to fail so we can go back to our regularly scheduled program. Aren’t we the same people who are always preaching the positives associated with working out? Instead we see the rush as an intrusion into our lives rather than a group of people who are excited to get fit. Also, Your monthly payments are as much as the new guy whose loving wife bought him a new “workout outfit”. You may know where everything is and he is wandering around looking bewildered before settling on the bench press because it’s the only piece of equipment he is familiar with but that doesn’t mean you aren’t equals with respect to who “belongs”. Lastly, he isn’t taking his sweet time playing on his phone; he simply doesn’t know what to do and is Googling something like “exercise advice, pushing weight on my back with this bar thing” hoping he gets a quick hit and doesn’t embarrass himself.
Speaking of embarrassing himself, never before has been surrounded by a more intimidating masculine environment than walking into the weight room and not knowing where to stand (think Jr High transfer student at a new school, holding your lunch tray hoping someone invites you to sit at their table before you are forced to eat in the bathroom by yourself). Give the guy a break for the first couple weeks will ya?
Ladies, I didn’t forget about you either so don’t think you are immune to the critique! I recall a certain situation where a group of ladies who usually spend their morning on the stairmaster while they talk (rather loudly) about anything from making fun all of their “friends” to cheating on their husbands only to become disgusted when they found someone new had taken “their” stairmasters. You would think someone had stolen their birthright a la Jacob and Esau! How about the woman who is at the back of the class who is trying to lose a few pounds of baby weight and can’t keep up with the boot camp instructor at the front of the room? Believe me, she knows she isn't doing great (yet) and is already completely self conscious about her body just being in public wearing workout clothes but is your judgement really necessary? We are all capable of casting judgement on those who are new to the game but instead why don't we offer a hand up to these people instead of looking down on them?
These are some real albeit extreme examples of avid gym goers and their general intolerance for the busiest time of the season when people flock into their fortress of solitude and disrupt the normal harmony of lifting, sweating, routines and familiarity.
Q: I want to be a good member of my gym, community and this Earth but what can I do?
Me: I’m glad you asked that question ambiguous audience member! :)
You are seasoned and they are new. They will be slower, will not recognize the etiquette ques, and might even throw off your workout a little bit. Simply bracing for this fact will help you when it comes time to alter your plans ever so slightly. My tip? Go in earlier or a later in the day because the newbies haven’t established a habit (addiction) yet and won’t open the gym up or shut it down like those of us who simple HAVE TO GET A WORKOUT IN.
2. Train them like a new puppy.
As someone really wise once said “Forgive them, they know not what they do”. I’m not sure if that was in reference to someone Bogarting their bench in the middle of a superset but I’m pretty sure it still applies. Plain and simple, they don’t know what to do but they WANT to know what to do. Show them how to work in with others on a machine, how to re-rack their plates when their done and how it’s not cool to text and lift. Assimilation.
3. Pump the brakes.
If we are honest with ourselves, we like to think we are elitists. We shake our heads at all of our friends who have become out of shape, who don’t take of themselves and the skinny as a rail nerds who’s arms are widest at the wrist. Every year we have access to that same group of people that we should be encouraging and yet we don’t because we are threatened. Yes, threatened. We are scared that the average Joe is going to swoop in and steal our thunder, claim to work out “just like you” and suddenly ruin your street cred. You might laugh but if you’re being honest with yourself, its kind of true. Let me help quell those fears by saying this; fitness is not a commodity. We could all have 6 packs abs, toned arms and butts you could bounce a quarter off of and it would still be cool. It’s called Sweden and they aren’t getting sick of it over there. Second, you already know how hard it is to stay/get in shape so if they magically get a Victoria Secret body in 3 weeks, just assume their on steroids and move on.
4. Be the change you wish to see (in the gym.)
You can spearhead the charge when it comes to introducing the new crop of exercise enthusiasts and all you have to do is be friendly and offer help. Take it upon yourself to spend an extra 30 seconds introducing yourself to the 90 pound wuss that you saw struggling to find his rhythm the last couple days. You will be like a Muscle Mentor or a Bicep Big Brother to the new girl/guy and that act alone will help put a human face on the other side of the equation. You are the authority at the gym, use it to act as liaison and not a dictator.
Follow these easy steps and you should be able to maintain a normal blood pressure for the next 6 weeks when we will probably (but hopefully not!) see the annual drop off of people who couldn’t maintain their lifestyle and fitness goals.
Oh and don’t bother lifting chest on Mondays. It’s never going to happen.
Happy Holidays and a prosperous New Year!
Dr. Zach and the Foundation Chiropractic team
CREATED BY: DAN VILLARREAL