I spend most of my time in two places--the church and the gym--and there's a lot of overlap between them in my life. Both are integral components of my rule of life; both are sacred spaces that allow me to stay healthy and grounded; and both are places of great discipline and commitment. I often work out pastoral problems or sermon ideas when I'm lifting or running, and there's more than just a passing resemblance between lunges and genuflections. More importantly, each milieu has its code of conduct, its rules for proper behavior that have been formed by the consensus of the assembled community. When these rules are transgressed, the community reacts negatively, and often chastises the naughty party for their misstep. So, I want to kvetch on a subject that's rarely addressed these days: etiquette.
Growing up a scrawny, rather unathletic kid, I became attracted to the gym because of its focus on personal empowerment and commitment to a disciplined way of living. No doubt I gravitated to the church in part for the same reasons. Over the twenty-three years I've been working out, I have become initiated through trial-and-error into gym etiquette. Unfortunately, gym neophytes aren't usually presented with a list of "dos" and "don'ts," and so they often inadvertently violate gym culture taboos. Although I try to be patient, I have to admit that I too have my pet peeves. The following list may sound a bit harsh, fussy, or uppity, but please just bear with me. There is a theological point to all this nagging. So, here are my Ten Commandments-style "Thou shalt nots,":
- Thou shalt not stand right in front of me in the mirror after I've already started lifting. I'm short, so I can't see over you to check my form. Besides I can't move huge pieces of equipment to accommodate where you want to stand.
- Thou shalt not monopolize the same piece of equipment for a half hour or longer. I agree that the Smith machine and the pec deck are awesome, but there are others who want to use them, too.
- Thou shalt not monopolize several pieces of equipment at the same time. I know you think you're doing a "circuit," but actually you're just preventing the rest of us from getting through our workouts.
- Mainly for the guys: Thou shalt not grunt or shout obscenities when lifting heavy. You may be a man's man, but it's very distracting and unpleasant for other people.
- Mainly for the ladies: Thou shalt not do thy calisthenics and stretching in the free weight area. I realize that the big mirror in the free weight area might seem like a great place to watch youself do calisthenics, but it's really exasperating when I'm doing 85 lb. dumbbell flies and you're dancing around me while I'm trying to lift the equivalent of a person over my face.
- Thou shalt not leave the weights on the machine or lying about. Put them back where you found them. You're mother isn't here to clean up after you, and dude, wipe your sweat off the equipment. Gross!
- Thou shalt not sit on a piece of equipment doing light reading, talking on your cell phone, or having an extensive conversation with someone else, and then get angry with me, when I ask if you're still using the equipment. This isn't a library or Starbucks.
- Thou shalt not talk loudly on thy cell phone. Not only is it distracting, but I'm not really interested in being included in your fight with your girlfriend, your conference call for work, or your plans for Friday night.
- Thou shalt not invade my privacy while working out. I know some people use the gym as a place to socialize, which is fine, but I'm actually here to work and to have some me-time, so trying to engage me in a full conversation when I'm gasping for breath on the elliptical is kind of annoying. Let's talk afterwards or go out for coffee.
- Thou shalt not invade my personal space. Gyms can get really crowded, especially at peak times, so please don't hover over me, take up too much room, work out a mere inches from my bench, or throw weights down by my feet.