Those of you who know me, realize that I am lazy and that I value proper manners. As such, I'm recycling an article that I wrote several years ago for Metro Sports Magazine. In it, I examined proper athletic etiquette. Of all the things I've written, this article generated the most emails, and I've also seen it posted in a couple of gyms. Go figure.
I'll follow up with a few "Dear Mr. Manners" submissions in the near future as well.
IN THE CLUB
In the fitness world, you’d be surprised how many basics that go without saying actually do need to be said. Jeff Glowatz, Fitness Manager for a major metropolitan Police Department has seen it all. “Nothing surprises me anymore. You can’t take anything for granted. I’ve actually had to tell people that they need to wash their clothes before they work out.” In a gym, sweat is acceptable. Fermented, day-old sweat is not, so never re-wear soiled workout clothes. And while you’re at it, make sure to wear deodorant - especially if you’re sporting a sleeveless top to show off those buffed arms you’ve been working on. Lastly, take it easy with the perfume and cologne. If you slap on the Aqua Velva, the poor slob who’s breathing heavily on the treadmill next to you will be overwhelmed by the scent. Plus, even if you spring for the good stuff, the combination of a previously nice, subtle scent mixed with sweat often results in an offensive blend.
A few other “common courtesy” items that aren’t so common after all can really infuriate the staff and other members at the gym. An old adage in the weight room is “strong enough to lift it, strong enough to put it away”, yet visit any gym and you’ll likely find it littered with dumbbells, plates and other heavy metal within minutes of opening. Leaving weights on the floor is inconsiderate and unsafe. Listen to your mom and pick up after yourself. In that same vein, mom certainly wouldn’t approve of your leaving a puddle of sweat for the poor slob who has to follow you onto the treadmill or bench. Most gyms will provide you with a towel, or at least paper towels that you can use to wipe down the equipment.
Lastly, if you wear headphones while you workout, remember that the rest of us can hear you if you sing along. Every gym has one aspiring Destiny’s Child member who sings out loud (and usually off key). At first it’s amusing, but eventually it’s just plain annoying. Save it for karaoke night, and keep it to yourself in the gym.
A DAY AT THE RACES
One of the great things about running races is that anyone is welcomed. If you’re a middle-of-the-packer, or even a slow runner, most times you can do the same race as elite runners. Still – just because you’re on the same road as them, doesn’t mean that you should line up next to them. The widely accepted procedure is that faster runners start at the front, and slower runners at the back. Forcing the speed demons to weave around you during the first few hundred yards because you want the glory of leading a race for five seconds, or because you want to get a photo op for the local paper is a major no-no. With the wide use of chip timing at most races, there’s no reason to cheat your way up to the front. Sure, there’s always a little gamesmanship and the 8-minute milers usually line up in the area marked off for the 7-minute milers, but don’t get crazy. Be fair, and line up appropriately.
Swimming can be one of the most relaxing forms of exercise, and at first glance there’s really not much that can go wrong – just go from one end of the pool to the other and come back – right? The problem arises when swimmers fail to observe a couple of simple rules of decorum.
Perhaps your kindergarten teacher was also a swimmer, because everything you need to know can be summarized in those brilliant words of wisdom, “share, share, that’s fair.” Most folks are fine if they need to split a lane with one other swimmer, but introduce a third variable into the equation, and suddenly that spirit of cooperation disappears faster than you can say “flip turn”. While John Stewart is not a kindergarten teacher, he is a popular New York swim coach who offers advice on how to share. “Circle swimming [a counterclockwise rotation that allows three or more swimmers to share a lane] is quite simple, and shouldn’t hamper your workout. Stay to the right as you swim, veer left as you approach the wall, and leave the middle open for passing. Faster swimmers have the right-of-way, so if you’re being overtaken, stay to the right but don’t stop swimming. If you need to rest, hold onto the wall at the right side, so as to not impede the progress of the others.” If you were an only child and don’t like to share, you should aim for off-peak hours, but (unless pool rules dictate otherwise) it’s never acceptable to refuse to circle swim.
The other big peeve among swimmers is others who ignore the classifications for the lanes. In case you’re wondering, no one cares about those flirty indiscretions the last time you had too many cocktails at the office party. That big sign that says “FAST LANE” refers to the speed of your swimming – not your social life. If you can’t keep up, move to another lane.
One last tip – no matter how much chlorine is in the water – it’s never acceptable to spit, pee or otherwise share any other bodily fluids in the pool.
Keep these guidelines in mind and you’ll make friends everywhere you exercise.