So, now that the country is starting to return to normalcy, the big question for gymgoers is: Has gym etiquette changed in any way?
The answer is yes it has. And in some ways, the “new normal” at the gym is a better normal.
We have truly experienced many different phases of “gym life” throughout the past 15 months, haven’t we? Personally, I was lucky enough to have a little bit of equipment in my garage, and I worked out alone for the first seven months or so. I think many of us were in that same boat- and kudos to you if you stayed on the fitness journey and strived to stay in shape or even improve yourself while under “lockdown.” It wasn’t easy, but it was definitely worth it— not just physically but mentally, emotionally, and relationally as well!
Since then, it seems that gyms have opened up at different rates around the world. Depending on where you’re reading this, you might be still training at home, while others might have a gym that feels safe to be 100% open. I’m in the Chicago area, and we are fortunate that our gym has finally been able to return to somewhat normal levels. Since I’m a psycho and I’m usually at the gym twice a day (who’s with me?), I see it all — and I’m learning the new norms in real-time, just like you guys.
As you return to the gym, and hopefully back to “normal” life, here are a few things to keep in mind to be considerate to our fellow humans:
Yes, you should wipe down the equipment you just finished using. Actually, we always should have been doing this anyway. It’s not only courteous, but it will also help protect the rest of us from the germs that causes the common cold, flu, or just from touching that gross sweaty mess you just left on that bench…This leads to our second thought …
“Working in” might not be a thing anymore. Some folks are still pretty sensitive about the six-foot rule or just about spreading germs in general, so they don’t want to share personal space or equipment with a stranger. So, if you’re walking into the gym ready for a heavy squat day, but you see someone in your favorite rack, rather than asking if you can work in, try to be patient! Maybe you can add five minutes of mobility work into your warmup while you wait for him or her to finish that part of their session.
Be flexible. If it’s chest day, then maybe you aren’t going to be able to spend 20 minutes sitting on your favorite bench press. But, if you open your mind to the 50 other great exercises for activating the pectoralis muscles, then you can substitute dumbbell presses or dips or pushups and get a terrific workout using different pieces of equipment in other areas of the gym.
That said, we should all try our best to stay off of our phones! I’m as guilty as anyone of getting distracted by an email that pops in while I’m at the gym at lunch time, so I’m talking to myself here too. We all need to realize that there could very well be someone waiting for the piece of equipment that we’re using, and if we do a set and then sit there and stare at our phone for five minutes before doing our next set, well that is just plain rude — not to mention a waste of our time and inefficient exercise tempo for our bodies. Keep moving!
Finally, I know this is a challenge for many of us, but it’s more important than ever to just BE NICE. We’re all making a comeback to face-to-face interactions with actual humans, and it seems that some of us have forgotten how. The gym has always been an intimidating place, especially for beginners or folks who are trying to restart their fitness journey after a long layoff. Since I hope you all agree with my basic belief that the world would be a considerably better place if everyone exercised, then we gymgoers especially should take it upon ourselves to make our gyms at least a little friendlier. I’m not saying you need to strike up 30-minute conversations with every new face you see, but a quick hello and a smile can really mean a lot to someone, and it costs us nothing. So, it might not be easy, but we have to break out of the hermit lifestyle we were all forced to adopt for so long and come out of our shell and actually help each other by practicing simple kindness.