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Gym etiquette

Experts tell you how to deal with jerks.

By Lisa Butterworth

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The problem: Unsolicited advice
Brooklynite Tuesday Bassen, 22, has encountered her share of lunkheads who say things like, "Nice try, little missy, but let me show you how to really do it." These circumstances are "a bit of a mixed bag," according to Anna Post, etiquette expert. If you're actually doing something wrong, you could get good advice, but if it's guidance you truly don't want or need, she advises saying, "'I've got it, thanks. I'll let you know if I have any questions.' A simple shutdown is what's in order." Fitness coach Miranda Zukowski, who has nearly 15 years of experience in a workout environment, adds that it's "could be men trolling for phone numbers." But what if the overeager exercise buff isn't another layperson? "I have a problem with personal trainers interrupting my workout, either with advice or a free body-mass calculation," says Fort Greene resident Gilbert Ford, 34. "It is inevitable that [you're] in need of a six-session package." Zukowski confirms that trainers are generally looking to sign clients, but that they also "have more knowledge about what needs to be done for the member to achieve their fitness goals." Still, if you're not intrigued, she suggests telling them nicely that you're on a schedule and don't have time to speak to them. If they persist, tell them that you're simply not interested.

The problem: Malodorous clientele
"There's an older dude at my gym who just doesn't use deodorant," says Downtown Brooklyn dweller Leah Zibulsky, 36. "I think I'm going to die of asphyxiation every time [I smell him]." Working out may not be the most pleasingly aromatic endeavor, but the atmosphere shouldn't choke you either. Zukowski acknowledges that this is a problem. If the person in question is working with a trainer, she suggests approaching the trainer one-on-one, since they're better equipped to handle situations like that. Post agrees that nothing good would come from confronting the offender directly. "Even if you said it incredibly nicely, it gets really awkward and personal really fast," she says. Instead, she suggests planning workouts around the stinky individual. If that's not possible, "have a chat with management and ask what they recommend."

The problem: Leering looks or disparaging remarks
"I use the weight room a lot," says Eliza Thompson, 24, who works out a Park Slope athletic center. "One time, this comely lady walked by and a guy commented loudly on how great her ass was." The salacious remarks continued, and even though they weren't directed at her, Thompson was still extremely disgusted. "What I wouldn't do is get into a fighting match with the guy," says Post. Zukowski agrees, suggesting that in a situation like this, it might be best to simply remove yourself: "If men are saying weird, lewd or rude things about other women in a sexual way, don't put yourself in that atmosphere," she says. "This is New York City—there's another gym around the corner." But what if you're locked into a membership? She says that if you talk to gym management about the problem and they are unwilling or unable to solve it, you should demand a refund.

The problem: Machine hogging
With limited resources in crowded gyms, folks who commandeer machines for exorbitant amounts of time are a particularly annoying phenomenon, one that henna artist Kenzi, 45, sees all too often. "There are people who sit on a machine texting for a long time, supposedly resting between sets," she says. "It's so pervasive, it makes me wonder if this is the acceptable behavior." Both Post and Zukowski agree that it's not. But Zukowski says the onus is on the disgruntled party: "When the person is done with a set, say, 'Would you mind if I work in here?' and tell them how many sets and reps you plan to do so they know what to expect," she says. "It's actually a nice way to meet people in the gym and create a friendly atmosphere." That advice is something that Post has actually done herself. "People are always really friendly about it," she says. "Sometimes people just sit there because they think no one else wants [the machine]."

The problem: Cell-phone addicts
Listening to strangers yap incessantly on their cell phones is annoying anywhere, especially at the gym. "There's a woman who gets on one of the ellipticals and has marathon, top-volume calls," says Brooklyn gym-goer Ayun Halliday, 46. "As the conversations get more involved, her pace always slows to a leisurely shuffle. It's irritating." Post agrees that making a call in a gym is "a no across the board." She suggests nicely asking the offender to take her discussion outside; if the gym has a no-cell-phone policy, it adds authority to your request. Zukowski deals with tech addicts on a regular basis, particularly in the group classes she teaches. "I'll nicely ask the [offender] if anything is wrong," she says. If it's not an emergency, she tells the person to get off the phone or leave her class.

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