New Year's Day is my favorite holiday. Resolutions are better than presents to me: I love to make them, and I love to hear about other people's plans for the coming months and champion them along the way. Like many people, getting in better shape was on my list for 2015 for sure. Though I'm a gym rat, I go through times in my life when I just can't bring myself to set foot inside my place of worship. But in 2015, I moved to erase that can-don't mindset and began an intense workout regimen and fairly sensible diet plan that I am now successfully five days into.
Over the five days that I have spent calorie-counting and planning my workouts, I have become reacquainted with the gym and all of my favorite fellow fitness freaks. But stepping off of the StairMaster the other day, I was startled by an older gentleman -- shirtless, wearing only cargo shorts and white Seinfeld tennis shoes -- flexing his pancakes in the mirror. In shock but motivated, it was this immodest public atrocity that inspired me to share five things that I think we can all do to make the gym a better place (and, yes, wearing a shirt is one of them).
5) Get off of your phone Just like other shared public spaces, the gym is not the place to talk loudly on your cell phone. Yes, most of your fellow exercisers are in their own worlds, listening to music on their earbuds -- but we don't want to be yanked out of that world by you talking so loudly to your mom or whomever on the other end of the line. And, really, if you talk on the phone that much and that loudly, you're probably just suffering from lack of attention in your daily life. I would suggest taking acting classes or joining a band or something. That way, you can make your way to a stage to get attention instead of bothering everyone at the gym with your babbling.
4) Clean up after yourself Your mom doesn't live at the gym, and even if she did, it wouldn't matter, because it's 2015 and women have been liberated from that role. Picking up after yourself seems like it would be a no-brainer, especially in a place where you have to sign a contractual agreement just to work out. But time after time, I see paper towels on the floor, the spilled neon goo of energy drinks in the stretching area, and magazines ripped in half and nowhere near the garbage receptacle or magazine rack. It's like babies take over this place when I'm not looking and trash the joint. It's pretty easy to throw stuff away: Just put it in a trash can, like you would do at home while your mom was watching.
Also, there is usually a cleaning spray of some kind next to the trash can. Use it to wipe down the cardio machines when you're done. Please. I'm telling you this as a person who dutifully wipes down her machines and still spent half of 2014 with a nasty case of ringworm my doctor was 99 percent sure came from the gym.
And a note to gym employees: It helps if you refill said antibacterial spray for your customers so they can use it. Also, if you take the trash out more often, less of it will end up on the floor. Meaning, if there are twelve of you standing around at the check-in counter (where you don't even have to check members in; we check ourselves in while you just stand there), please take five minutes away from flirting with your co-worker to walk around the gym and see what needs attending to. You will be doing your part to keep the gym ecosystem in harmony, and as people who pay to hang out there, we will appreciate it.
3) Take care of the equipment -- we all want to be able to use it Hey, lady on the elliptical going 200 miles an hour: You're gonna break that plastic horse, and there will be a "do not use" sign on it for the next six months, and we will all be pissed because that's one less spot to work out in in this overcrowded human pen of sweat. Dude lifting weights so big and so hard and so badass-like that the machine falls apart from overloading? Not only do you look like an idiot when this happens, but you ruin it for the rest of us.
On a recent trip to the gym, I was minding my own business on a weight bench doing chest-flys when a bro pulls up next to me and starts THROWING his barbell on the ground as he completed each set of reps. If you are an extreme-fitness weirdo, that's cool. But if your routine endangers other people or the equipment, then go home, get on the Internet, order yourself a weight bench, and work out in your garage alone. You are not fit to share a public facility with the rest of us.
2) Wear proper attire Like, if you're the granny in elastic-waist jeans and hush puppies, you're cool. Or if you're the dude in head-to-toe Under Armour and Timberlands, you're also cool. Even you, guy on the treadmill wearing a trash bag to make sure you sweat enough? I'm cool with you, too. I'm not going to tell you that you have to wear the latest in breathable athletic technology to be a member at a gym. You don't even have to wear athletic shoes if you don't want to.
But the guy with no shirt on? Get the fuck out of here. We all pay the same $26 a month or whatever to belong to this gym, and like anywhere else, it's no shirt, no shoes, no service. The last thing I want to think about when I'm pressed up against the seated chest-fly machine is your hairy, sweaty, shirtless back rubbing on it before me.
Or to my fellow fitness friends who like to wear tiny shorts to the gym -- you are cool. But underwear is not shorts. It's just not. If the world can see your butt crack through your tiny shorts, then they aren't tiny shorts; they're panties. Same for you, dad in inappropriate '80s running shorts. If you're doing those creepy-gym-teacher leg stretches in your Daisy Dukes and your junk peeks out the bottom, go home and put real pants on before I call the police.
1) Be aware of the space you take up (bros, check your privilege) Speaking of unbelievable behavior, weightlifting dudes: You are not the only people in the gym. Spending twenty minutes on one machine (mostly because you are pacing around it being a Chatty Cathy on your phone) is not appropriate or fair or cool. Some of us wanna work out and get the fuck out of here. We don't want to spend all day waiting for you to be done with whatever it is you are doing.
This kind of behavior used to not bother me, but it has become a social epidemic. It reminds me of that blog Men Taking Up Too Much Space on the Train: The entire world is not yours! You have to share this space with the rest of us, and hogging machines (or, worse, staking your claim on two weight machines at once) is not how it works. You don't get a free pass to act like a selfish child just because you are the biggest guy in here.
And to others who set up an entire circuit-training session in the middle of the common area at the gym? Um, again, we aren't paying a large monthly fee for you to do your own CrossFit session in a shared space. If you are taking up that much room for your workout, you might want to join a CrossFit gym (though none of them are as cheap as, say, 24 Hour Fitness, I know). Better yet, come to the gym during the off time; avoid peak gym hours when all the 9-to-5ers are corralled in, and you can have all the space you want! I work out at 8 p.m. on Friday nights like a loser with no friends, and let me tell you, there is never anyone there.
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Watch me tweet your embarrassing gym behavior live from various 24 Hour Fitness locations in the metro area five days a week via Twitter: @cocodavies