Face it: gyms are really strange spaces of pride, masculinity, and ritual. Gyms can be intimidating, confusing, and even embarrassing. Starting a membership at a gym is a very vulnerable time, like being the new kid at school. Yes, the whole class is going to look at you, trying to decide if you have anything good to trade at lunch. They will take in your backpack, your lunchbox, and your shoes, sizing you up to decide whether your mom will bring cupcakes on your birthday. It’s true. But, like on the first day of school, you have some sizing up to do as well. Who is the stinky kid? Do you really need an elevator pass? Who sits with whom at lunch?
My best advice is to just bite the bullet and go—once there you’ll find that you’re not the only one who is new. But I am not going to lie to you—there is some weird stuff that goes on, and some unspoken rules you need to be prepared for. I could write about this topic all day long (and I just might, in a dissertation…), but for now I’ll keep it short with just ten tips. For those of you who are gym regulars, take it easy on the new people, and feel free to laugh at the funny stuff we do. Add to the list by leaving a comment!
- Monday is Universal Bench Press Day. I know, this isn’t listed anywhere in the rules, and there is no way you could have known. But now you do. So if you’re new to a gym and don’t want to have to figure out when it’s your turn to use a bench, just take my advice and don’t EVER try to work chest on a Monday.
- There is no such thing as So-and-So’s [fill in the blank]. If you need a bench, and no one is using it, it’s yours. Same goes for dumbbells, cables, or any other piece of equipment.
- Just because there are no other women in the weight room does NOT mean that women are not welcome. Claim your space!
- There IS an alpha somewhere in the room—but do not be intimidated. Identify this person; he or she will help you out.
- Be very careful about accepting advice from the loudest person in the room—this is the wanna be Alpha, and the noise is meant to confuse and distract you from his or her insecurities.
- It’s totally ok to look at yourself in the mirror—but if you’re going to do it, don’t try to hide it. We see you.
- When a random person cheers you on or tries to encourage you, this is a sign of acceptance. Just in case you were wondering, this is generally a good thing.
- Don’t try to talk to someone while they are in the middle of a set.
- When someone is about to lift something heavy, do not walk in front of the person, make any loud noises, or cause a distraction of any kind.
- Every gym has a Creepy Bastard. He’s annoying, creepy, and…well, kind of a bastard, but generally harmless.
Bonus tip: FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, wash your hands after you use the restroom!!!! People will notice, and they will tell others. Then you’ll become the Stinky Kid and your life will be over and you’ll basically have to switch gyms…