In the interest of completeness, I offer this simple post on politeness at the health club—some of it having very clear relevance to communication and some not so much.
The ever-popular health club generally follows the rules of politeness of the general society but has a few additional rules that are unique to the gym. And violations of these rules—as you may remember from a classic Seinfeld episode—are severe. When George peed in the shower, he was banned from the gym. The most important and most general rule to follow in all these kinds of situations is to observe the customs operating in your specific health club. If the club has specific written rules, read them and follow them. Here are several more specific rules that some health clubs expect members to follow.
1. Know the equipment—learn how to operate the equipment. Generally, avoid asking another member to help you; this only imposes on that person’s time and attacks that person’s need for negative face. When in doubt ask a club trainer. If you can’t find a trainer and you feel you have to know how to do something, then wait until the person is resting or between sets. At the same time, don’t offer advice if you aren’t asked; resist the temptation to offer suggestions even when you know your suggestions are exactly right.
2. Wipe your sweat off the machine when appropriate. Carry around a workout towel and use it to be polite to your fellow members.
3. Avoid hogging the machines and spending more time on a machine than is customary. If the club has time limits for certain equipment, observe them.
4. If you use weights or other portable equipment, put them away after using them. If you don’t someone else will have to. Also, if you use heavy weights remove them after your workout; the next person may not be able to lift your 200 lb plates. The same goes for towels; put them away.
5. Don’t bring your child and use the gym as a babysitter. Most people don’t enjoy having children gawk at them as they’re lifting or running.
6. Avoid leering or ogling other members—they may look great but in many cases it just makes the other person uncomfortable. Wait until you get to the juice bar to flirt or hook up.
7. Moderate your noise level. While not a college classroom or theatre, the gym is still a public place and depending on the number of people and the acoustics, noise can be a problem. Keep your exercise-related screaming and grunting to a reasonable decibel level. And avoid dropping your weights on the floor with a thud; this may tell people you’re using heavy weights but it’s annoying.
8. Allow work-ins if appropriate. When an exercise requires machine workouts spaced by rest periods, your club may encourage working-in where you and another person share the same machine—one working the machine while the other is resting. It’s considered polite to ask to work-in if the club is crowded or that machine is in high demand. And it’s considered polite to invite someone to work-in with you if you sense this person would like to.
9. Beware the cologne. Many club members who fear offending others by their sweat will pour on cologne to the point where it is worse than any other body odor could be. Try to control both sweat and anti-sweat cologne so that neither proves too offensive.
10. Be friendly. If small talk is the customary form of interaction, then try to engage in it. Even if this is not your general way of interacting, it may be expected at your club.
11. Observe the nonverbal rules or customs, for example, don’t take up space with your gym bag or clothes (you probably have a locker), don’t touch others unless requested, don’t stare at members as they work out, don’t stand too close to people (respect their space).