5 Simple Suggestions for Those Starting a Fitness Program

This is the time of year when many people start to think of getting in shape. It’s that whole New Year’s resolution thing, which I really hate. My feeling is that if you realize it’s time to make some changes, you should make them, whether it’s January 1st or August 18th. Let’s face it. These New Year’s resolutions are made to be broken, and almost always are.

Something else that I’ve never been a huge fan of: fou-fou work out clubs, the sort of places where people spend hundreds of dollars a month to show off their designer fitness clothes, and where the women spend more time applying their pre-workout makeup than they spend exercising, a word that I must use loosely, since these babes wouldn’t want to break a sweat, lest they muss their hair. Don’t even get me started about the men, another word used loosely, and their “manscaping.” YIKES! I prefer the sort of gyms that might be mistaken for moldy, dank “Befores” on a basement remodeler’s website. You would not believe some of the pits in which I have attempted to reduce my bodyfat percentage, and that’s the way I like it.

Many of you know that, in a previous life, I was a personal trainer. You might even say that I wrote the book on it. So, give me a couple of dumbbells, a simple pulldown machine and a few square feet of empty space, and I’m good to go. The place that my partners and I use now is no exception. Forgive me if I sound harsh, but I want to be completely honest. You could call it the “low budget alternative.” Not only is it not fancy, the “fitness professionals” who work there appear to split their time between this club and graveyard shifts working as bouncers at neighborhood taverns, and I doubt that they could distinguish a rotator from a pant cuff at gunpoint. In addition, I would put this place up against any gym in America for the following titles:

  • Most members who weigh at least 60 pounds more than Oprah
  • Fewest members who speak English as a first language
  • Most members who qualified for Medicare during the first Reagan administration

Not only are many of the people who work out at this place, to be completely frank, fat, old and/or non-English speaking. They are unfortunately and distressingly clueless about basic good manners. Today, as I was suffering on the Stairmaster, a guy a few feet away from me was coughing his fool head off without any thought to covering his germ-spewing mouth. This man was no kid. He was older than Methuselah. I guess mothers back in the 19th century didn’t tell their kids to cover their mouths when they coughed, since the concepts of “bacteria,” “viruses” and “infection” had yet to be discovered, but that’s no excuse today. C’mon, Pops, give us all a break!

Needless to say, what with good manners being in short supply these days, so is gym etiquette, especially among the new gym members who show up every January, ready to implement those irritating and short-lived New Year’s resolutions. So, as a public service, and in the spirit of tough love, here are a few simple reminders about how to behave in the gym:

(1)Sharing Doesn’t Apply to Germs

As previously mentioned, as much as we all like sharing, that doesn’t apply to your germs, be they air-borne or carried by your bodily fluids. Most facilities, even the low-budget variety, supply germicidal spray and paper towels. Use them. Wipe off benches and equipment after you use them. And please cover your mouth when you cough.

(2)Working In is Good Manners

If you aren’t actively using a machine, it’s polite to let your fellow gym members “work in,” that is, use the device between your sets. This is good sharing. Sitting there in your 1980’s terrycloth headband and polyester bermuda shorts glaring at anyone who asks to work in is not only cool. It makes you look like an inconsiderate doofus who doesn’t belong there, leaving people who work out all year long silently taking comfort in the knowledge that Groundhog Day will find your fat rear end either lying in bed or wedged into a seat at a doughnut shop rather than keeping us from finishing our workouts.

(3)The Gym Isn’t a Reading Room

If you want to read magazines, the couch in your den is probably a better venue than the leg extension machine. (You know who you are.)

(4)Silence is Golden

Screaming, grunting or otherwise emitting strange, guttural sounds doesn’t indicate that you are pushing the envelope and getting in touch with your inner Eye of the Tiger. It makes us wonder if we should call the paramedics.

(5)Put it Back

No one is impressed when you walk away from the leg press, leaving several 45-pound plates on each spindle for someone else to remove, unless you mean impressed by how rude you are. If you’re so strong, do us all a favor, and take the plates off the machines when you’re finished.

That about covers it. I wish you all the best in your fitness endeavors, and I know that when I ask to work in, you’ll hitch up your bermuda shorts and let me get my set in.


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