Thursday, February 5, 2009

Exercising Etiquette: Don’t Be A Gym Diva

“Heading to the gym to blow off some steam? Good idea, as long as you don’t take out your stress on everyone around you. It’s likely that anyone who’s spent time at a health club has seen some bad behavior, including the equipment hogs, the slobs who leave cardio machines dripping with sweat and the muscle men who grunt loudly as they lift oh-so-heavy weights that they have no intention of putting away. But these are just a few of the ways that exercisers can be rude and obnoxious at the gym, fitness instructors say. Sometimes, things get downright nasty. ‘I had to break up a cat fight,’ says Peggy Gregor, group exercise director at Healthtrax Fitness and Wellness in Bethel Park, Pa. It happened after a woman new to an ongoing fitness class took the spot on the floor that another attendee regularly claimed. A verbal argument ensued and quickly turned physical. A yoga instructor in New York says a participant in her class let loose on the whole group — after she took a call on her cell phone. While stress may underlie some bad gym behavior, it’s a poor excuse nonetheless, says Diane Gottsman, an etiquette expert and the owner of the Protocol School of Texas in San Antonio, which specializes in corporate etiquette training. “Just because you’re more stressed doesn’t give you a free pass to be rude. We’re all stressed.” Oftentimes, the way people behave at the gym is similar to their behavior outside of the gym, says Gottsman. So the person who’s rude at the gym is likely to be one of the people cutting in line at the coffee shop or screaming at a kid’s soccer coach. Overall, most gym-goers don’t bother other exercisers too much. But even one bad apple can ruin everyone else’s workouts, says Gregor. The trouble-makers are enough of a problem that she recently wrote an advice article for fitness instructors on how to deal with them. In the article, titled ‘Pruning the Prima Donna Participant’ and published in a trade magazine called the IDEA Fitness Journal, Gregor lists some of the more common diva types in group fitness classes. Among them: ‘Chatty Cathies,’ those who show up late and make a grand — and disruptive — entrance; ‘spotters,’ the ones who insist on having the same place in class each week (so they can look at themselves in the mirror); and ‘soloists,’ those who choose to do their own routine rather than following the program (usually, Gregor says, because they want the attention). So how should you deal with these divas and dolts at the gym? If someone is hogging the triceps press, you could politely ask if you could take turns. Or if they’ve left huge weight plates on the leg machine, you could ask the person to please remove them. But Gregor and other instructors generally recommend speaking to a gym employee about bigger complaints. Taking matters into your own hands can breed animosity among members, sometimes even causing brawls. They say good fitness professionals stay on top of bad behavior and nip it in the bud when it starts. They talk to the offender, which usually goes a long way. In some cases, they may need to give warnings and even revoke memberships if the behavior doesn’t improve.”

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