The 7 Gym Personalities: Learning Gym Etiquette

Brad Borland

Coach

Strength and Conditioning, Bodybuilding

Fitness, etiquette, newbie, social norms, commercial gyms

 

To some extent, we are all guilty of goofing off in the gym. Maybe we’re just not in the zone, not “feeling it,” or have had a stressful and distracted day, and just need to go through the motions to get it over with. We all have had those days.

 

 

But there is a certain segment of the gym population who take it about ten steps further, and treat the gym like their home away from home. They act like it’s time to hang out, chill with their friends, and chit-chat. Below are several dumb habits you can observe in most any gym. Ask yourself if you’re guilty of any of these, and read on for some simple fixes. 

 

The Pretend Superman

Lifting heavy is a must to attain goals, reach objectives, and even to compete, for some. It’s often a prescribed practice to stretch your capabilities just past what you think you can do. Growth begins at the end of your comfort zone, as the old saying goes. But how far is too far? I see a whole lot of lifters attempting things they shouldn’t even touch. For them, injury is a certainty, not just a possibility. If you overreach your overreach, even if you don’t get hurt, you aren’t going to make progress like you should.

 

The remedy: Dial it back a little. Make a deal with yourself. Decrease the weight by 10 or 20% and focus solely on form and function. Clean up any breaks in technique and get back to feeling each lift the way it was meant to be. Aim for perfection on every rep. As for that guy you know is about to drop the bar on his throat; if it’s a dangerous situation, don’t just sit back and laugh to yourself. Help them. Use your knowledge to lead them down the right road.

 

The Cell Phone Addict

Unfortunately, phones in the gym are a part of the scenery now. Call me old-fashioned, but I remember a time before cell phones, when you just trained in the gym. No selfies, and no scrolling. Now, picking up their phone seems to be everyone’s accessory lift between every set. You’d think everyone had a pregnant wife about to go into labor any minute, with how often they check their phone. 

 

The remedy: The short answer here is to simply leave your phone at home, in your vehicle, or in a locker. The world will not blow up if you haven’t checked your phone for an hour or two. If you do manage to suppress your addiction for that hour, you’ll experience more focus during training. And who knows, you might a human for once in the gym. 

 

The Expert Tracker

There is now literally an app for everything. They’ve become our little helper elves, enabling us to do amazing things with our lives. Or enabling us to play games and waste time. Now, there are several gym-appropriate apps that have merit when used correctly and appropriately. But let’s face it, do you really need to track every single, rep, set, pound, carb, protein, fat, step, heartbeat, belch, hours spent Netflix-and-chilling, times you said the word “literally,” or sighed? Tracking major training variables: great. Tracking every nuance of life: too much! Stop it.

 

The remedy: One thing many lifters do not realize is that meticulous tracking takes time away from training. You lose pace in the workout because you’re obsessed with recording every move. Put the phone away, train hard, and then input all of your data later. You’ll be surprised at how your workouts may evolve once you break free from the uber-strict scheduling and programming you’ve followed like a robot all those months. 

 

The Wallflower

This is for both the newbie and the experienced lifter in every gym. We’ve all seen the look on the face of the classic intimidate newcomer at the gym, especially around this time of year. They shuffle around and avoid eye contact, scared to get too involved. They are shy, new to the atmosphere, and look downright lost. They tend to observe from the sides of the room, without any real plan of action, much less actionable commitment. Normally, the regular members like to shake their heads and laugh, as they relegate the newbie to taking up space and nothing else.

 

The remedy: If you’re the newbie, don’t be afraid. No one will bite you. It isn’t the jungle where everyone has to mark their territory. You have every right to be there and train just like the juiced-up meathead that has a look on his face like someone just ran over his hamster. If you’re the seasoned gym stud, it’s your responsibility to help. If you think you know a lot about training, then pass it on in a polite, tactful way to those newbies. Be a solution and a contributor, instead of a roadblock. 

 

The Campaigning Politician

As with anything in life, things can go too far. Helping others is a great trait, but being a know-it-all is quite another. Fitness, training, nutrition, and all subtopics in between are ever-changing and evolving subjects. It seems like new research surfaces daily on methods, results, and techniques. Acting like a politician at a debate won’t boost your trustworthiness as a knowledgeable person who can be relied upon for help. 

 

The remedy: Take the perspective of helping others, versus making yourself look good. The goal should be to pass on your knowledge, help where you can, and then get honest feedback from the person you’re trying to help. It isn’t a green light to brag, boast, and try to impress everyone in the gym. They’ll get more out of the experience (and so will you) if you create a two-way road of communication and stay humble. 

 

The Exercise Extrovert

Have you seen this man? That guy over by the pull up/dip station doing a human flag? Or how about the guy getting ready to bench press a mountain, flanked by three (yes, three) spotters? Or how about the ultimate functional fitness master, who overhead squats, throws around a kettlebell, and then runs over to sprint on the treadmill, while staking his claim on all three stations? Point is, don’t be flamboyant just to impress.

 

The remedy: Don’t be that guy, but also don’t make enemies. If you see someone going crazy in the gym only for recognition or to impress others with their incredible superhero abilities, then let them be and move on with your workout. As long as they aren’t going to hurt themselves or someone around them, they have every right to act like a clown.

 

Fitness, etiquette, newbie, social norms, commercial gyms

 

The Social Club With Barbells

Believe it or not, there are many lifters who do not know the difference between a gym and a bar (the kind where they serve drinks). They are there to scope out the hotties and catch up with the bros. Additionally, they use this time to socialize, either on the phone or in person. Whether you’re the type who’s guilty of this mindset, or just one who witnesses these train wrecks, they belong elsewhere. 

 

The remedy: It doesn’t matter which side of the fence you sit on, it’s important to cultivate an atmosphere of respect and camaraderie. This may come as a shock, but most women go to the gym to train, not to meet guys. A word or two between sets or before or after training is fine—you don’t want to be Mr. Serious all the time—but know when to say when. Be friendly, but respectful. 

 

Learn and Practice Gym Etiquette

This all isn’t to say that you need to become a hermit and keep completely to yourself. The gym should be a community. We should help each other, talk training and nutrition, and be generally friendly to each other, regardless of age, experience, sex, or training style. Treat the gym as if all the members are your roommates. We all pay rent, should be respectful to each other, and get along. Cultivate a helpful atmosphere to breed mutual success.

 

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