Master the Gym Like a Pro

Julia Hubbel, Walkabout Saga, Horizon Huntress

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The fastest way to feel at home, show up like a pro and quickly become part of the culture

If you are intimidated by the gym, and lots of folks are, kindly, get over yourself. It doesn't take an Einstein to fit it. Fitting in is less about looking the part than acting the part. Many of us started out woefully out of shape. We get it. Most of us regulars also understand that it takes courage to show up in the first place, and even more courage and determination to stick with it for life. What regular folks at the gym don't expect is perfection. We do hope for decent gym manners.

Ask, any serious gym rat about that. We love to see new folks get serious, but we aren't fond of people who are unsafe, selfish or outright offensive in a place where manners really do matter. When you feel at home in a noisy place full of steel and dust and iron and mirrors, you're much more likely to stick around.

If 2021 is YOUR year to get in shape, and the gym- when yours reopens anyway-is one place you plan to achieve that.

After 47 years of bodybuilding, I have watched an awful lot of folks show up and leave. Five decades in the gym combined with a commitment to healthy food have paid off in an enviable figure at 68. If in fact the gym is the right place for you, you might be able to achieve great results for yoursef, whether you’re 18 or 49 or 70 or 99. by Danielle Cerullo on Unsplash

First, there’s a culture to the world of gyms.

That culture stands for any gym, be it a hardcore farts-and-chalk-and-holler place or a $2000 a year athleisure spot for the too-rich-to-sweat crowd. While the nature of the clientele has a lot to do with how welcome you feel, there are a few basic gym rules that are absolute.

Those manners have to do with Respect, Safety and Competence.

Here ya go :

  1. Start where you are. That means don’t try to handle weights you can’t. Why? Safety. This is how you injure yourself and potentially those around you. Sit your ego down and start light, then work up. Trying to show off by lifting heavier than you reasonably can handle may lead to serious injuries.
  2. Never ever ever ever drop your weights. NEVER. Only assholes do that. In fact nearly every gym I’ve been in for the last ten years will bounce you out without a refund if you drop weights. See #1 above. Strong people don’t drop their weights.
  3. Re- rack everything you use. Put gear back where you found it. It’s annoying as hell to have to spend ten minutes searching for the thirties because some rookie can’t be bothered. Or to have to unload five plates each side of the leg press because re-racking is beneath you. You use the plates, you put ’em back. And here’s why, Sparky: because the next person might not be strong enough to lift five forty-five pound plates off the leg press. And, they’re probably too embarrassed to ask for help.
  4. Clean off the machines when you sweat on them. Come ON, folks…ewwwwww. Your mother isn’t following you around. Wipe off your sweat. Besides in today's environment, we're all responsible for cleaning after using.
  5. Don’t just grab an open bench or machine. Check for weights, a water bottle, keys. Folks gotta pee or get water. Have the courtesy to ask those around if someone’s using that bench. Most people will tell you. If it was in use, relinquish it. You have no idea how long that person had to wait their turn. You can wait yours.
  6. Don’t hoard. Especially on busy nights. You share. Don’t go grab the fifteens AND the twenties AND the thirties AND the forties and pile them up like your personal Fort Knox. On busy nights, pace yourself to accommodate other folks.
  7. About sharing: Do NOT hog the machines by texting for long minutes while a line of folks waits for you to relinquish the only hamstring curl machine in the house. GET OFF. You have no clue how annoying this is to people who are seriously there to work. You’re in the gym to exercise. Don’t want to work? No prob. But get off the machines. There are plenty of chairs around for you to text away. And kindly, don’t bark at someone for “hovering” when you are wasting time taking up space without working. They are politely waiting for you to get off the machine.
  8. Do not mock, shame, harass, intimidate or otherwise interfere with people who are doing their level best. Think you’re superior? Dude, let’s talk in thirty years. Let’s see if all that arrogance and posturing resulted in a life-long commitment. More likely, you’re got Chris Hemsworth’s dad bod in Avengers: Endgame. Over the half-century I’ve been lifting, I’ve seen it again and again. There’s a Special Place in Hell for people who body-shame beginners in the one place those folks need to be. I hear that Special Place involves boiling oil. Good.
  9. Please do not interrupt people in the middle of a set to have a twenty-minute jawjack bragfest about your fitness goals. If we have our buds in, are sweating hard, grimacing from the effort, dude. Will you please let us at least finish the set. Not only is this dangerous, it’s rude. Most of us aren’t there for social hour. That goes for guys who want to flirt. NO. Just…NO. As in…NO.
  10. Do not walk in front of people who are working out. Not only is that impolite, you’re keeping them from being able to check their form. While this should be obvious, don’t grab your weights and block someone else who was there before you. Folks, those mirrors are not just for preening. Those who are training for a show, rehabbing an injury or changing a routine have to focus on form. Perfect form. Because if you don’t have good form, and resort to the sling-the-heck-out-of-it method to impress people, you are going to be in the hospital having shoulder surgery very soon. Or, your back will fail. This isn’t about the ego (for most of us anyway). It’s a safety and injury-prevention issue. Lots of folks are doing PT at the gym for injury rehab and they need to watch their form. Stay out of their line of sight. You have every right to expect the same courtesy.
  11. Learn to lift well. Hire a pro. Don’t impose on folks who are clearly focused on their own work. Pony up to learn how to lift for your body, your age, your goals. Pay for the privilege. Why? Because we are more respectful when we have to shell out real cash for results. Hire a pro. Learn. Watch the results roll in. That will help keep you committed. I hire someone for about a week at a time, then put those lessons to work. When I am ready to upgrade, I go back for tougher routines.
  12. Kindly, do not pour an entire bottle of cologne on yourself before you hit the gym. Conversely, please do not show up smelling as though you just finished a Tough Mudder and you want everyone to know it. By the same token, if farting offends you, don’t come to the gym. Because between the stupid stuff most of us insist on eating and the effort it takes get that last rep, we tend to let ‘er rip. Because, well, there are only a certain number of things over which you have control at any given time. Get a sense of humor. author at 64. NO. Not retouched.

Many years ago, long before women were the fixture they are now in the heavy part of the gym, a few very good guys taught me the ropes, from gym manners to proper form. I’ve invested in training from some of the best the business. I do not use bodybuilding for my ego. The strength I have today has kept me alive in my adventure travel career. Not only that, I am in serious training for my eighties, which are far closer than they used to be. I’ve got weights all over my house and use them, especially on bad snow and storm days until my state reopens my favorite sweat shop.

It doesn’t need to be an intimidating place. You don’t have to clean the house before the maid gets there. Show up as you are but ready to learn. If you respect the rules, and most are common sense, not only will you swiftly feel at home, soon we’ll be teasing you when you’ve been out for a while.

That’s when you know you’re home. by Scott Webb on Unsplash

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Welcome home. You are HOME if you like irreverent, smart, funny, in-your-face writing. You are HOME if you like stories about interesting people of all ages, cultures, stripes, backgrounds, beliefs doing amazing things because they made different decisions. You are HOME if you wanna learn about aging vibrantly, being in the outdoors, getting and staying fit no matter our number. You are HOME if, on occasion, you like to laugh so hard you spew your drink of choice on your lap cat/dog/gerbil/centipede/soon-to-be ex. I work hard, ride fast horses, do lots of sports, fly high and still leap out of airplanes. Yeah, really, and I am 68. And yes I love, respect and appreciate feedback, including stuff that's hard. Because hard is the recipe for resilient. Wanna play? Let's. Please. Pull up a chair. There's room by the fire. In summer, there's room on the patio. (Okay so I don't have a patio. I made that up.)Get comfy. Bring a towel for your lap. Welcome home.

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