Credit: Danielle Cerullo via Unsplash

The basic rules of gym etiquette

By Natasha Coyle

Whatever you do, don’t be a space hog!

If you’re a regular to Power Play or Pulse in the Stevenson Building, you’ll have seen the space hog sign plastered on every other screen in the gym. It’s also become a meme in the library and JMS. But there are still many (too many) space hogs at our University, and they often congregate in gyms.

Whilst you might think that sitting on a bench scrolling on your phone is technically better than doing the same thing on your sofa at home, you are a space hog. Okay, you are allowed to do this in the gym. But only as a break between sets. Besides, I need a pause to change my music and play a bit of AC/DC when I’m going for my biggest lift. So you get let off for resting and scrolling on your phone. Two-three minutes is acceptable. Ten is not.

However, if you’re a person who enjoys sitting on a piece of equipment in the gym without actually doing anything, please do the polite thing and look at the space hog sign and reflect on your actions. A soft skill you should have learnt as a student is self-reflection. Clearly, some people haven’t been paying attention in their lectures.

I have nothing against people taking up space. Contrary to the fact, I think people should be more confident in taking up space in public spaces, especially women and non-binary people. In a busy gym you have to take up a space, otherwise you might not get your workout in. But, don’t be a git about it. I love doing a superset, but doing a superset while hogging equipment at peak gym time, is a slightly douche-y move. Save the supersets for a quieter time. Remember, don’t be a space hog!

The Stevie does get particularly busy, unsurprisingly, as it’s one of the cheapest gyms for UofG students. You’ll often encounter people asking you how many sets you might have left on a certain exercise or machine. There’s nothing wrong with this if asked politely. Tone is everything. But if you’re the person who is enquiring about another’s occupation of said equipment, do not do that thing where you hover watching them finish their workout. It’s weird. Not to mention that it’s unsolicited policing. No one has asked for Big Brother to monitor your quad extension. It can make people feel uncomfortable. Once, I was using a leg press and two guys came over to me and asked how long I had left. This is how the conversation went:

“I’ll be five more minutes,” I said.

“Okay,” one of the men replied.

After our riveting conversation, they didn’t do the respectful thing and give me space; they hovered. I was being stared down by two lads who looked to only have recently discovered the existence of the leg press.

Please don’t be the person who hovers. But don’t skip leg day either! The best thing to do is to give the user their space and once they’ve finished, they should kindly relinquish the equipment in question to you. If you’re the person using the equipment, don’t take the mick. There are others who want to use the space as well as you.

I know I said to save the supersets for a quieter time at the gym, but when the gym is quiet, don’t allow people to pester you. Once, I was doing tricep extensions and lateral pull-downs for my upper-body session, during the Summer months when most students vacate the West End – the gym was half-full. I had a lad come over to me and ask me if I was using one of the cables. I said yes and that I was doing a superset. He huffed and puffed as he walked away. Only a moment later, he stormed back over and demanded to use the other cable whilst I was resting. I told him I was doing a superset and to leave me alone. Why couldn’t he use one of the cables upstairs (I checked after the incident, they were both empty). He revealed his internalised sexism and told me to, “stop getting aggressive.” The reality was, I was standing my ground, owning my space, and wanted to be left alone to exercise. Not to mention, the gym wasn’t heaving and I was simply trying to enjoy my workout. His negativity left a bitter taste in my mouth.

Whatever you do, don’t be this person. The gym community should be about supportiveness, and not the un-chivalric behaviour displayed during this encounter by a stranger.

To summarise the rules of basic gym etiquette so far: be polite, don’t pester / hover, and carve out your own space, adjusting accordingly to the number of people in the gym at the time.

Please put your equipment back. There’s nothing worse than a powerlifter beating a PB and leaving 200 kg worth of plates on a bar for another gym user to put away. Just as you’re expected to clean up after yourself in a shared flat, the courtesy is extended to the gym.

If you’re a super sweaty person, first of all, well done on smashing that workout. But remember to clean your equipment. It’s not pleasant for anyone having to sit on the shoulder press with the perspiration from your backside coating the seat.

Most people don’t mind being filmed, I mean c’mon, there’s CCTV everywhere and Gen Z is the generation of cameras and the internet. But if you’ve got someone’s full body and face in your shot, the reasonable thing to do is to let them know you’re recording. Especially if you’re intending to post your content on social media.

Capturing your post-workout selfies is a great confidence booster. It’s also great to take them to compare your gym progress. But if you’re taking them in the changing rooms, just be wary of who’s around you and the environment you’re in. I know some gyms have a no photo policy in changing rooms for the reason of preventing any accidental pictures being taken of others getting changed. Just be wary and remember the environment you’re in.

If you follow these rules, a harmonious gym experience is on the cards for you and your fellow lifters, hiit-lovers, and cross trainers.

So remember:

1) Don’t be space hog

2) Don’t hover / stare / or be rude

3) Pack away and clean your equipment

4) Make sure to inform others of any content you might be capturing

5) And finally, you’re all members of the same gym and that your etiquette defines your training environment. Good vibes only people!


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