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The gentleman’s guide to gym etiquette

Unless you have a private gym, you’re exercising in a community - and cleanliness has never been more important. Here’s how to make the most of your workout without making it hell for others...

Step away from the snack cupboard. Lockdown is over. Shops, restaurants and gyms have reopened and it’s time to try and get back to the new normal. Unfortunately, that paunch you’ve put on looks like it’ll be sticking around. So open your wallet (for something other than the sales), dust off your gym membership and head for the elliptical — it’s workout time.

Unfortunately, it’s likely so long since you hit the free weights that you’ll have forgotten how the gym works and your sense of gym-going decorum and decency could well have slipped your fragile quarantine mind. However, it’s never been more important to make sure your gym use in as hygienic and unobtrusive as possible. So, before you head back into the iron-pumping jungle, refresh yourself on these gentlemanly rules of gym etiquette.

Always wipe down the equipment

It’s nice to see that you’re trying your very hardest, but no-one wants to experience your blood, sweat and tears first-hand – especially now. That’s why, chief among any post-workout practices, should be wiping down any equipment you’ve used immediately after you’ve used it.

Look; it’s a gym — no-one’s going to chastise or victimise you for sweating a little. But if you drench a bench and then leave it wet, you’ve only got yourself to blame if trouble runs your way. And, with packs of muscle-bound, pumped-up alphas stomping around the place, we wouldn’t like to see you inadvertently anger anyone. Beef with the beefed-up is to be avoided at all costs. So pick up a towel.

Return your weights every time

Again, this one’s just common courtesy. There’s nothing more infuriating than following a workout regime to the letter, and then finding that the particular free weight you need has gone walkabout. No-one goes to the gym for fun — if you do, you need a more exciting life — and most of us just want to get in and get out. So, wasting half an hour hunting for the dumbbell that you dropped over by the rowing machine is not going to go down well.

It’s really not that hard; use the weights and then return them to the rack (having been thoroughly sanitised). Even if another gym-goer has replaced their weights in the wrong place, just take a little time to swap them back over and reorganise them correctly — just think of it as an extra bonus set.

Lower the equipment — don’t drop it

If there’s one sound you’re guaranteed to hear over the rhythmic thumps and thuds of pounding gym playlists, it’s the clanks and crashes of optimistic lifters. We know you’re just trying to push yourself, but it’s still important to know your limits when it comes to the weight you’re lifting. If you don’t then you might damage yourself and, more importantly, the equipment.

Broken barbells and dented dumbbells do not for a conducive workout environment make. Take care with the equipment and lower it gently back onto the rack or ground — and that way it’ll still work next time you come back to it. If you want to throw your weights around, invest in a home gym.

Put your phone away

If you like to think of yourself as a ‘fitfluencer’, don’t. In fact, if you use words like ‘fitfluencer’, it might be time to rethink quite a lot of things. That aside, your phone has no place in the gym — unless you’re using it to keep track of your timings or workout. That’s it. The minute you turn the camera onto those mirrors for a spree of selfies, you’ve given up your phone privileges.

Keep it in your pocket, invest in some of the best sweat-proof headphones for working out, and use your phone as it was intended to be used in the gym — to blare incentivising techno at you. And don’t even think about taking a phone call…

Don’t be selfish, share the machines

Above all, a gym is about keeping fit. But community comes a close second; these are places where your push and drive will fuel others to become their best selves. But how can they do that when you’ve left your water bottle on the chest press bench during a completely unrelated warm-up?

If you’re squeezing in a workout, the likelihood is that others in the gym are, too — and there is no excuse for spreading your stuff around at peak times. Keep your possessions close, your timings tight and remember to always share the machines. And, while we know you may be attached to your usual circuit, you can help stop the spread of germs by using one piece of equipment at a time, wiping it down and putting it away. Going to and from the wright bench over and over is no longer acceptable.

Don't try to chat up women

Perhaps the golden rule. Let’s not go about perpetuating the bulked-up, entitled, gym-guy stereotype, shall we? Regardless of what your hormone-addled brain may think, no-one is going to the gym with the explicit aim of being asked out. They’re there to work out. And she isn’t going to take kindly to your advances while she’s trying to break her PB for tricep dips.

Instead, and if you’re really interested in her, maybe strike up a conversation over a socially distanced post-workout green juice. Otherwise, wait until you’re back in your street clothes and ask her out as you’re leaving. Because nobody wants their first impression to come when they smell like a gym mat and have a forehead slick with sweat…

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