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Working out? Know the rules

Summer is almost over and cooler weather will be here before we know it.

As the mercury in the thermometer drops, many of us will be looking to work out and pursue many of our favorite physical activities indoors. For some people, this may mean joining the recreation center or a local gym, possibly for the first time. If you are one who happens to fall into this particular category, there are a few general rules and guidelines that you should probably familiarize yourself with regarding proper gym etiquette when you are training. If you already happen to be a recreation center member … you probably are already familiar with most of these rules. Whether or not you actually observe them is an entirely different story. Nevertheless, it certainly couldn’t hurt to have a brief refresher; so here goes.

Every recreation center or gym has its own specific set of rules that its members are expected to adhere to. Most gym rules are generally the same wherever you go, but keep in mind that they probably will vary somewhat from one gym to the next. As a member, it is your responsibility to find out exactly what these rules are and, more importantly, to obey them.

The first rule is perhaps the simplest and most obvious, yet ironically it is also probably the rule that gets broken the most often. That is to simply be courteous. Yes, you are in a recreational area and it is a fun and casual atmosphere, but it is also a business. A recreation center or a gym is no different than a store or a restaurant in terms of proper conduct and behavior around other people. Sometimes we may become so deeply immersed in our own training that we may tend to forget that we are sharing the facility and use of its equipment with the other members.

Be aware of how much time you are spending on a certain piece of equipment. For example: if you happen to be using the bench press and people are waiting, you should probably ask yourself how long you have been using that particular piece of exercise equipment, and better yet, how much of that time has actually been spent exercising. I can’t tell you how often I have seen someone train for 30 seconds and just sit around for 5 or 10 minutes before they resume training. Bottom line, do your exercise and move on to the next one — don’t dilly dally around.

Likewise, if you happen to be waiting for a particular machine that is being occupied at the moment, don’t stand there and hover around like a vulture circling a carcass. Give the person his or her space and patiently allow them to finish their exercise. Nobody likes to be rushed, especially in the gym. It is difficult to concentrate on what you are doing when somebody is standing right behind you and breathing down your neck (I speak from experience). Simply move on to your next exercise and return later when the machine has been vacated. A very useful gym concept to understand is “working in.” This is simply when two people share the same machine or piece of equipment. One person trains while the other rests and vise versa.

Speaking of equipment, another important guideline is to use it properly. When you are using the free weights, don’t just drop them with a loud bang after completing a set. Lower and release them gently. Be sure to return them to the rack when you are finished, as well. Don’t just leave the weights lying around. If you are using a bench press, squat rack, etc., make sure you remove the weight plates from the bar and return them to their proper place when you are finished. It is an incredibly huge pain in the butt to put your workout on hold, while you take time to remove the weights that have been carelessly left behind by the previous person. (Again, I speak from experience.)

I will continue this lesson in gym etiquette next week. Over the last 22 years, I have seen so much in the weight room that what I have to share far surpasses the space for my column each week.