Screen Shot 2015-02-17 at 5.49.13 PMI turn 30 later this year. That in itself is a life milestone. But this summer will mark the 15th year I first set foot in a weight room at Massabesic High School in Waterboro.

I’ve been working out at gyms for half my life. The first eight years was for high school and college football. The past seven years have been for health and, admittedly, vanity.

Through the years, I learned that common courtesy, found in almost every situation of life, also extends to the land of grunts, sweat and heavy weight. There are things you should do and there are things you should not do at your local gym.

I’ve found, however, that not everyone is in on this common courtesy. Some people haven’t learned it, some people have forgotten it, or some people simply do not care. It’s time to remind these people some of the basic rules of gym life.

Today I extend my top 5 do’s and do
n’ts at the gym. It could be bigger, but this list will help you survive certain hatred coming your way from your fellow gymgoers. These may seem like simple, logical situations, but they have been broken more times than I could ever count.

DO: Wipe off your equipment after use. It doesn’t matter if you were sweating or not. Hundreds of people use public gym equipment every single day. Germs are everywhere and while you can’t avoid them, you can certainly do your part by cleaning off your equipment after use. It also helps prevent MRSA, a serious drug-resistant staph infection commonly passed along in gyms.

DON’T: Offer gym advice unless you’re asked. Whether you’re a trainer or not, if you’re running around telling other people how you believe a lift should be done, or how cardio equipment should be used, you’ll be considered a jerk. It takes a certain level of courage to step into a public gym and openly not look your best for the sake of overall health. Don’t help those who are already self-conscious feel worse by telling them their form is off on their bench press. Only offer advice when asked. By the way, it may be possible your advice is wrong, too.

DO: Pick someone up. As you learned in your high school gym class, all bodies are different. Everyone’s fitness level is different, too. Just because you may bench 300 pounds doesn’t mean your friend who works out with you will do the same. Encourage the gains your friends make, no matter how small. Being able to run a mile longer or put up one extra rep on a lift adds up and makes a difference over time.

DON’T: Be overly social. Yes, the gym is a public place, where people meet, talk, and even occasionally get asked out on a date. It’s certainly a place to have fun. It’s also a place where the overall goal is to get work done and get healthy. Say hello to people, but respect the fact that they may have places to go and things to do. I make it a point to never have a conversation with anyone at the gym longer than five minutes, no matter who they are. By the way, people wearing earbuds and listening to music, more likely than not, do not want to be bothered, which is one of the reasons they are wearing earbuds.

DO: Keep on top of the personal hygiene. Don’t laugh, this one has been broken often. I once worked out near a man who looked like a viking, and sure enough, he smelled like one, too. Some people have stronger smells than others, self-awareness of this issue is crucial at the gym. If you are not sure of your natural odor, have a friend give you their honest advice on the subject. If it means using extra deodorant, use it. If it means taking a shower before and after a workout, do it. No one wants to be known as the smelly person at the gym.

DON’T: Do more than four sets of any exercise at a public gym. If you feel like doing super-sets, or doing six sets of squats, great. Do it at your house or on a day where no one is at the gym. Doing this on a day where a gym is busy just makes you a machine hog. It’s the No. 1 pet peeve of myself and many others. On Monday I saw a man switch off a tricep pushdown machine and a bicep curl machine for 40 minutes, taking five minute breaks in between sets to look at himself in the mirror. That’s long enough for anyone to turn into The Incredible Hulk. And no more than an hour on cardio equipment. If you still have energy after that cardio session, lift some weight. If you still have energy to burn after lifting, hit the cardio equipment.

DO: Wear appropriate gym clothing. Shorts, pants, t-shirts, sweatshirts are all fine and dandy. A sports bra alone does not count as appropriate public gym wear, no matter how in shape you are. Leggings are not a suitable replacement for yoga pants. It’s a gym, not a beach. If you even have to question whether what you’re wearing is appropriate for the gym, wear something else, please.

DON’T: Overdo it on the first day. People flock to gyms as part of their New Year’s resolution every January to lose weight or get huge muscles. Understand that if you haven’t been to a gym in a long time, most likely you will not be able to lift weights like Arnold Schwarzenegger in his prime or run marathons like Joan Benoit Samuelson. And it’s completely okay. Getting to where you want to go physically isn’t just about the end of the road, but the journey to get there.

DO: Keep the cell phone off. This is broken all the time. I don’t care if you’re Barack Obama, you’re not so important that you need to make phone calls during the 40 minutes you are in a gym working out. I’ve seen people have 10 minute phone conversations between sets, leading to hogging equipment for an hour. Texting is annoying, too. It brings down your workout and it makes others want to smash your phone.

DON’T: Sing loudly at the gym. Ever. Yup, this has been broken, too. I once saw a gentleman with his earbuds in, his music blasting and he proceeded to sing a song from the Backstreet Boys. His voice was far from American Idol quality. Of course, it wouldn’t have mattered if he sounded like Frank Sinatra; it’s still inappropriate to sing at the gym. Is it OK to sing out loud at a restaurant? At work? In class? No, and the same goes for the gym.

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