Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Behave yourself at the gym

I found this article on MSNBC today and thought that a lot of you have probably experienced the same situation at your gym.

By Jacqueline Stenson
MSNBC contributor

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.

She “rummaged for a good two minutes in her bag in the middle of class for her techno-blaring phone, then screamed into her cell phone at her boyfriend not to call her during yoga class, while we were all staring at her from our down dogs,” says Sadie Nardini, owner of the new Fierce Club yoga studio in Manhattan. When she got off the phone, the woman snarkily shouted back to the astonished group, “Sorry, I had to tell him not to call me during class!”

Nardini says that when she took her aside after class to talk about the diva behavior, the woman was offended, saying, “Well, I paid for this class. I can do whatever I want.”

The stress of the times could be one factor fueling this type of bad behavior, says Nancy Lerner, a psychologist in northern New Jersey. “What underlies anger is anxiety and fear,” she says. “There are a lot of angry people out there. The gym is another place for them to be pushy.” While exercise can be a great stress-reliever and mood-booster, some people’s behavior might be worse if sports or other forms of physical activity bring out aggressive tendencies, she says.

Lerner herself is currently involved in a dispute with another woman at her co-op gym who refuses to turn down the volume on the TV. The woman blasts “Frasier” reruns — refusing to let go of the remote control — while Lerner is trying to read on the treadmill.

“I asked her to lower the sound and she told me that I would have to get some noise-canceling earphones,” says Lerner. “I plan to attend the next board meeting and strongly suggest closed captioning on the TVs when others are working out.”

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.

As Nardini, the yoga instructor, puts it, many of the rude participants she sees seem to lack an “etiquette gene.” Others just want to be noticed. “They want the audience,” she says. “They don’t want to be a participant. They want to be the star.”


  1. wow.. i can honestly say i've never encountered this at my gym, but then again, there's hours and hours i'm not there, and maybe just never witnessed it.

  2. this is crazy. I am with Cher. Maybe they don'tact this way at my gym to me or in front of me b/c I teach there :) wwww.summerfitness.net