One of my favorite movies of all time is A Christmas Story. One of the scenes involves Ralphie waiting in line at the mall to see Santa so that he can give him his wish list - a Red Ryder, carbine action, two-hundred shot range model air rifle - when the Wicked Witch of the West from a Wizard of Oz comes flying up and gets in his face.


Ralphie is focused. He just needs to get to Santa. Peripheral distractions are annoying the hell out of him, and he’s already been bugged by goggles-kid enough to be on edge. When the witch comes up and screams, “I’ll get you my pretty!” Ralphie just turns to her and says, “Don’t bother me. I’m uh, I’m thinking.”


Here, you can watch the whole fantastic scene:


Breaking Muscle Shop


Now, imagine this is you: You have warmed up for a six-minute AMRAP of 3 muscle ups, 6 snatches at 135lbs, and 9 bar-facing burpees. You know the pain-fest that awaits you. You are standing there, ready, fixated on the clock as it counts closer and closer to the top of the minute, where you will begin.


With fifteen seconds to go and you in full zone, someone walks up and says, “So…what do you have goin’ today?”


Needle scratch.


“Don’t talk to me. I’m uh, I’m thinking.”


A CrossFit box is, without question, a community. A place to be social, mix and mingle, enjoy the company of others, and generally spend time with your gym family. But, ultimately, it’s a place to train. And sometimes, a lack of situational awareness can impede that ability or, at the least, make it frustrating. We’ve seen a lot of writing about box etiquette that has to do with making chalk messes and cleaning up your DNA, putting away weights, and so on, but this top 5 list is brought to you by the Gym Etiquette Situational Awareness Council (GESAC).


1. Respect the Platform

When someone is on a platform, it’s sacred space. There are certain things that should never, ever happen when someone is on a platform lifting - not only for safety reasons, but for common courtesy.


For starters, treat it like it’s someone’s lawn. You don’t cut across. You walk around. Even if the person is between lifts, strolling across someone’s lawn so you can go grab your 2.5s is rude and encroaches on an athlete’s personal space. Go around, and leave a wide berth. And if the person is prepping for a lift, and you are within ten feet - stop. Never cross behind someone, never cut across a corner. Stay off the grass.


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2. Respect the “Zone”

At boxes where everyone works together class-style, this isn’t as much of an issue, but at many boxes where there are multiple training levels, individual programming, competition athletes and the like, lots of people will be working at many different levels and times. In which case, you may walk in to warm up and someone else may be about to do “Fran.” As such, it’s important to respect the zone.


Sometimes it’s best to get a lay of the land before you start socializing. Get a sense of who is doing what. It’s sort of like walking into a dark theater - it takes a second for everything to come into focus, but soon you will know who is working out, who is done, who is stretching, and who is about to 3, 2, 1, go.


If you see me standing still in front of a bar, and my eyes are fixed on the clock, then it’s a good idea to just leave me be. It’s not that I don’t want to chitchat with you, but seriously - I am already in the zone. If you bring me out of it to ask me what I am up to, my focus is broken. Nothing personal.


3. Respect the Space

Part of situational awareness at the box is getting a sense of space. This is similar to respecting the platform, but it goes to the remainder of the box. Case in point: If someone is prepping for a nice little thruster and pull up combination over on one corner of the rig, and literally the entirety of the box is empty, what are the odds that you migrate over toward the one person prepping to go HAM on his workout and start hanging from a bar? 


Crazy, right? We’re social animals, yes, but have you ever found yourself in someone’s way as he or she is bouncing back and forth between bar and rig, kettlebells and wallball? If you’re dodging someone, you’re in the way. Take your foam roller away from the hot action and watch from afar. 


4. Yield

There is an axiom in aviation that the right of way goes to the larger, slower vessel. If you’re flying at 5,000 feet in a Beechcraft Skipper and there is a 737 taking off from a runway at the airport and headed in your general direction, you are the one who skittles off out of the flight path.


Similarly, if you’re walking over to chalk up and you notice one of your classmates is lumbering across the floor with two 45s cradled under his arms, the right of way goes to him. If someone is rolling a C2 across the floor zigzagging in and out of bodies standing around doing PVC pass throughs, someone is not yielding.


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5. If You Aren’t’ Sure, Leave the Chalk

See that jump rope on the ground? Before you pick it up and start practicing double unders, consider whether that might belong to someone whose chipper ends in double unders.


If there is a piece of chalk sitting on a J-hook, before you carry it off, consider whether it might not belong to someone who will be heading over to start a series of chest-to-bar pull ups once she finishes the thirty cleans she is doing.


If there are thirty Piggly-Wiggly brand twenty-ounce waters in the fridge and one large Smart Water, consider that the Smart Water isn’t up for grabs.


Before you drag that 24” box over to adjust the rings, consider whether I am four rounds into a long box-jump-and-wall-ball workout.


And for the love of god, before you reset the clock - give a quick shout out. If I am about to PR my "Helen" time and come in from the third run and find the clock has been reset to 0:00, it’s clobberin’ time.


I once heard a comedian say, “There is a weirdo on every city bus…and if there isn’t, you’re it.” Similarly, if any of the above has happened to you, then very likely you are conscientious and have a solid grasp of gym situational awareness. And if none of the above has ever happened - you’re the one doing it.


Now, don’t bother me…I’m uh...I’m thinking!


Photos courtesy of CrossFit LA.