You Found a Gym — Now What?

Copyright 2006 Dave Draper

The gym is across the street, and the time has come. You’re a big girl (or should I say a big boy?), but you wish this part were over. You’ve made the phone calls, and your fingers have done all the walking they’re going to do. The rest is up to the feet and the big chicken stuck to the other end.

First time to the gym, is it? I can’t tell you what to expect because every gym is different depending on the community, size, style and the ownership and staff’s personality.

You’ve narrowed it down according to location, convenience, word of mouth and the trusty phone calls. Very cool. And the free pass is at the front counter waiting for you as promised.

Move the feet and enjoy the experience. You’ve got work to do. You want to get past the strategic front counter with finesse, eyes, ears and smile fully engaged. Once on the gym floor, practice your walking, breathing and relaxing. Attaching yourself to a stationary bike for 10 minutes will give you a safe perch from which to observe and prepare your next stunning maneuver. Also works well to warm up the body, get those neuropathways activated and start distributing endorphins. They calm you, kill pain and generally make you feel better.

There is nothing more pleasant than a pleasant gym member. There is nothing more obnoxious than an obnoxious gym member. Here are some hints to keep you in the right category:

• Look for any posted rules and observe them. These might be common courtesies, time regulations regarding aerobic equipment, carrying a towel or limiting the use of fragrances.

• Be aware of the space around you. Equipment and bodies are forcefully moving in different directions. A crowded gym can be a red zone. Do not whack anyone in the head or other body part with a dumbbell.

• Replace barbells, dumbbells and plates in their designated places after using.

• Carry only the gear you need with you and leave your gym bag in a safe place off the floor or in a locker. Prevent clutter and hazard.

• The age of leotards has passed with Sputnik. You can relax and train comfortably in sweatpants or shorts, a T-shirt or sweatshirt.

• Proper footwear is important for your health and performance. Pick up a pair of your favorite Keds at the mall and reserve them for your workouts. A smart gym won’t allow street shoes, sandals or open-toe footwear on the gym floor.

• A towel to keep you and the equipment you use dry is a smart idea. Good hygiene is very popular.

• A breath mint, when necessary, is a crowd pleaser.

• While we’re on a roll, fresh gym clothes and deodorant never disappoint anyone. However, excessive fragrances will turn up noses, and body oils are gooey.

• Don’t commandeer any piece of equipment; accept that people might want to share in its use. Sharing equipment is called “working in.”

• Nix on forcefully clanging dumbbells or dropping the weights.

• Excessive noise in exerting force is less popular than some people think. Boisterous conversations and raucous behavior is disturbing to the majority. Be cool.

You’re doing just fine. Oh, by the way, your sweats have a hole in the bottom.