Of unconscious behaviour: at the gym

14 Jul

I’m very aware that once the day’s wardrobe is replaced with mostly non-descript gym clothes, identities are lost and we have trouble sorting each other out because the visual cues that tell us about people’s occupations, social standing, etc. are missing. I find gyms really interesting for this reason.

Gyms also interest me as I observe the behaviour of the people there. At my gym, I’m mixed into the 95% male gym users because I weight train. This gives me an advantageous insight into the world of men.

Sometimes it seems, guys at the gym forget they’re in a public place and behave as though they were in the men’s room, engaging in behaviour that should mostly be kept private. Images of bad public behaviour burn in people’s brains and can leave a haunting, lingering picture that you may not be able to recover from.

This is the second post I’ve written on unconscious behaviour, that is, actions done without thinking, especially without thinking about how our actions will affect other people. This is also the second post about my observations about behaviour in gyms. I’m melding these two concepts together this week to draw your attention to gym behaviour, how acting badly can affect the way people think of us, and tips on how to behave like a gent at the gym.

The following examples are real experiences I have observed at my gym. See what you make of them.

Use machines for their intended purpose and hurry up about it

During my routine on the machines one day, I noticed a guy with his heel resting on the forearm platform of the calf machine, stretching his hamstrings. I assumed he was just getting a kink out would exit momentarily.

He didn’t.

I would be using the calf machine but to be polite and give the fellow the benefit of the doubt, I worked around him and did reps on three different machines, saving the calf machine for last.

And he was still there.

I had given him 5 minutes to stretch and decided that he may not realize that someone else might be waiting for the calf machine to work on their calves, so I walked over and asked him if I could please use the machine.

“I’m stretching,” he said.

“Yes, but this machine is for calf raises, not stretching,” I replied.

“Five minutes,” he said.

“You know there are rooms for you to stretch in, instead of using a weight machine,” I said.

Unrelenting, he repeated himself and turned away from me.

What could I do? I walked away and shook my head. I guess this fellow didn’t realize that when using a machine for an extended period of time AND using it for purposes other than what the machine was built for, he’s definitely not casting a good light on himself AND annoying others. I for one, will not be able to disassociate this experience from this guy when I see him.

*Gentleman’s tip: Assume that other people are waiting to use the machine you’re on, do your set, get off. Easy. No one could possibly label you as a fill in the blank for being efficient with the weight machines.

How about the people that sit texting and relaxing on a machine that you want to use? The same principle applies here: be aware that other people may be waiting for the machine you’re languishing on. I’m not sure why anyone would bring their phone into the working gym to begin with unless they were waiting for very important news maybe, because last time I checked, gyms are for people to exercise in.

Just because you can’t see it

Sometimes people don’t realize that other people can see what they’re doing. Gyms are large, open spaces with mirrors that shoot your reflection all over the room, so people can see whatever you’re doing even if you’re not aware of it.

While on the treadmill recently, I watched a guy about 10′ in front of me sitting on a quad machine with his finger stuck up his nose. I had to look away when he pulled something out. When I looked again to see how he was going to dispose of this treasure, I saw no tissue and and didn’t wait to see where he wiped.

Now, come on, man! This is disgusting. Please think before you pick in a public space – public transit included.

*Gentleman’s tip: Keep your fingers out of all orifices while you’re in public.

From my treadmill perch, I see other amazing things. The treadmill faces a cluster of weight machines in front of a full-mirrored wall, giving a good, wide view of almost half of the gym. Sometimes I’ll see guys stand in front of the mirror and they’ll do one of three things:

1. pose and admire themselves,

2. check and re-style their hair, or

3. squeeze pimples or razor burn bumps.

I watched a guy last week spend a few minutes in front of the mirror squeezing things on his face. I was really amazed that after popping a pimple that hit the mirror, he wiped it off with a bare finger and then walked over to the machines and started pumping. After a couple of reps, he came back to the mirror and the process started again.

I know that nasty things go on in the locker rooms (though I will say that the brotherhood is pretty tight-lipped about what really goes on behind the men’s room door), but once a guy is out of the can, the public persona should really be taken on – the one that keeps a guy in check and exercises respect to other people.  This pimple-popper was not extending consideration to others in any way, shape, or form, and worse, spread the insides of his body around. I will recognize him as the pimple-popper from now on and I never forget a face.

Again, a public space is not the men’s room and any Jackass tactics should be kept private.

*Gentleman’s tip: Be hygenic and go wash your hands when you touch bodily products beyond sweat.

Steam room

Though I don’t know what happens in the gents’ steam room first-hand, a very good source has confessed that he’s watched men behaving very badly in steam rooms at his gym. He’s seen guys sloughing off dead skin from their feet and spitting on the floor in the communal steam room, much to the total gross-out of everyone else in the room.

*Gentleman’s tip: If you steam, just sit there and steam instead of spreading your DNA samples.

The potentially scary idea behind acting with disregard at the gym is that because the visual wardrobe cues have been removed, we don’t know who is who. What do you think would happen if the next person you network or interview with goes to the same gym and saw you squeezing blackheads in the gym mirror? What would they make of you? How do you think women would react to you? Is this the impression you want to make on other people?

If you think of your life as a chess game, know that  your every move will affect you and the rest of the players on the board now and in the future. One wrong move can cost you the whole game.

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