GOODMAN: A lesson in exercise etiquette

We all have pet peeves. They’re those things that really irk us. The things that make us resist chucking a shoe across the classroom or down the sidewalk. Slow walking, gum smacking, bad drivers, those kids who prolong class by asking unnecessary questions … they’re the things we immediately tweet about, sit back and watch as the “favorites” roll in.

I’m going to take this opportunity to talk about my biggest pet peeve. And by talk I mean oh-so-politely rant.

Welcome to Gym Etiquette 101.

No matter if it’s the Rec Center, Plex, a membership-only gym downtown or a fitness center across the country, there are certain unspoken rules that must be universally abided by while working out. By no means do I practice perfect gym habits – I check myself out in the mirror a bit too much and tend to blatantly glare at people who annoy me – but I do like to think that, for the most part, I know what’s up.

Let’s begin this lesson with the worst fitness center foul I’ve ever seen.

It was around 3 p.m. on a Thursday, a prime work out time. I was lucky enough to have snagged a treadmill in one of the downstairs racquetball courts. I’m about 10 minutes into my run and in walks a girl … let’s call her Bonnie the Belieber.

Bonnie walks in and immediately checks what is on the TVs. One is set to SportsCenter and the other appears to be a home renovation show. After assessing the situation, Miss Belieber leaves the room for a minute or so, returns and stands directly in front of a television, staring at it for about seven minutes. Yes, seven. I timed it.

After seven minutes, a Rec Center student employee walks in. She changes the channel to what appears to be a VH1 recording of a Justin Bieber concert. That’s right. The channel was changed from SportsCenter to a Justin Bieber concert. Even if I liked J. Biebs I’d know how unethical that is.

Once Bonnie was satisfied with the TV, she proceeded to get on a treadmill that had just been vacated. Seeing that the room was packed, you would think she would immediately start the machine and her workout. But no. She spent the next 10 minutes standing idle on the treadmill texting, and then speaking, on her phone.

Needless to say, the Twitterverse heard a lot from me that day.

This is obviously an extreme situation that incorporates many workout sins, but here are some less apparent rules – other than wiping down equipment after use and not hogging the machines – that must be followed.

1) Please put the phone away while working out.

Think about it. Do the 10 minutes you’re on the phone before turning the elliptical on calculate into the “Please limit workouts to 30 minutes” rule that is plastered on signs all over the walls?

And if you have a phone conversation while exercising, do you really think the person on the other end wants to listen to your heavy breathing?

It’s not difficult to put the phone down for an hour. Leave it at home or in a backpack – for your sake and everyone else’s.

2) Please don’t stare at people.

Exercise is a super awkward sight. Fitness centers can pretty much be summed up by weird running styles, funny ab workouts and a whole lot of grunting. Add sweat to that and it’s a circus sideshow. Everyone looks strange – it’s not your fault; it’s just how it is. So don’t make people feel even more self-conscious by staring at them. This especially applies to all the guys out there who go to the gym solely to check out women in spandex.

3) Please don’t make it a competition. 

Speaking from experience, this is a bad idea. Whether you’re lifting weights, doing chin-ups or on a bike, don’t try to “challenge” the person next to you. No “Wedding Planner” treadmill battles, snide “Oh, you’re leaving already?” comments or trying to bench so much weight that someone has to come over and pull the bar off of you.

4) Please – and I mean this in the nicest way possible – do not talk to me … or anyone else who unmistakably doesn’t want to be spoken to.

I sweat a lot. Probably more than most girls. It’s awkward and embarrassing. So when I’m working out, if you come up and comment on how sweaty I am, it’s probably not the best thing to do. And if someone looks like they’re in the zone, don’t break her of his focus. It’s easy to pick out the people who are okay with being spoken to, so talk to them.

5) Most importantly, please abide by these rules at the beginning of each semester.

The Rec Center and Plex at the beginning of a semester are almost unbearable. People travel in packs, everyone has New Semester Resolutions to stay in shape and the wait for equipment is about 30 minutes long on a good day. Regular gym-goers get frustrated and newcomers feel judged.

So please follow the Gym Etiquette 101 rules … it’ll make a better workout experience for everyone.