Here’s A Tip

March 18, 2007

Judging from comments on the web, unsolicited exercise advice is a chronic problem at the gym.

To be fair, I’ve often had the urge to run up to people and ask what in the world they are thinking. However, I respect people’s space. I’m open to at least the possibility that a person is working around an injury, intentionally using partial reps, or trying something new. In any event, it’s not my problem and none of my business. I’m just there to train myself (and I can make fun of them later in this blog).

But how are you supposed to react when your classic gym busybody isn’t offering fitness advice, but stock tips? I never figured that one of the challenges of working out early in the morning is that you’re also training before the market opens. Added to the list of most obnoxious distractions: Guy rambling on about his big trading plans for the day.

Well, buddy, I’ve got a tip for you too: Just shut up.

Too Much Information

March 9, 2007

A couple readers have suggested an 11th thing not to do at a gym water fountain: put your mouth over the entire spout like you’re trying to suck the water straight out of the pipe. I guess this is akin to double-dipping your chip; it’s like putting your entire mouth in the bowl. In any event, it’s gross.

Thanks for sharing.

The Broken Windows Theory Of Health Clubs

March 7, 2007

All this talk of barbells sailing through actual gym windows got me thinking about sociologists’ theory of Broken Windows.

Some researchers believe that municipalities can prevent serious crime by addressing problems when they are small: Repair broken windows quickly and vandals are much less likely to break more windows or do further damage. New York City applied this theory on a wide scale in the 1990s, cracking down on turnstile jumpers, public drunkenness, urinators, and the rest. Rates of both petty and serious crime fell.

I wish that gyms would adopt a similar approach to their facilities.

I belong to two gyms with equipment of similar quality. Gym A is well lit, the machines sit atop new carpeting, and management is responsive to comments dropped in the prominently displayed Suggestion Box. As you would imagine, members cooperate when it comes to re-racking weights, sharing equipment, and attractive women aren’t scared away. At Gym B, the carpet is coming apart in patches all over the place. Weight plates load down unoccupied machines. Workouts often include a five minute hunt for matching dumbbells. And of course, the membership roll provides marvelous fodder for this blog.

But here’s the thing: It’s really a bunch of small details that lead to a sustainable business versus a place in decline. If you don’t vacuum the floor enough, if you don’t promptly repair broken equipment, members receive a clear message about how to treat the club. At some point, you might even experience actual crime: equipment that can fit inside a gym bag starts to disappear (barbell collars, cable machine handles, small weight plates). Items left in gym lockers are no longer safe. Pretty soon you’ve got your very own fitness version of the 4-5-6 subway line heading too far north.

The sociologists are right, at least when it comes to gyms. Run the vacuum at least once a day, clean the bathrooms, empty the trash. You might save yourself a bigger headache down the road.

Top 10 Things Not To Do At A Gym Water Fountain

February 21, 2007

My sister thinks that the commotion surrounding a gym water fountain is just knee-slapping hilarious, and that this blog would be incomplete without a more thorough analysis. Ok, Elana, here you go:

Top 10 Things Not To Do At A Gym Water Fountain

10. Take a big gulp of water, turn around, and cough into the face of the person waiting behind you.

9. Empty the remnants of your sports drink into the fountain, especially if it’s red (tends to streak like the blood from snot or spit; see 8-7). Come to think of it, I don’t want to see pools of orange or green either.

8. Spit in the fountain.

7. Blow your nose in the fountain.

6. Bathe in the water fountain. This means no coming out of the spinning room and rinsing your whole face in the fountain stream.

5. Hog the water fountain. If you need to fill up your water bottle, be considerate of the people waiting for a quick sip behind you.

4. Hold a conversation right in front of the water fountain.

3. Never, ever change the stupid newspaper article hung directly behind the water fountain.

2. Rinse out your Tupperware, yogurt container or any other item holding food residue in the fountain.

1. Fail to report/fix water as hot as piss coming out of the fountain.

Air Pollution

February 20, 2007

Nick Nilsson’s Unwritten Code of the Gym:

19) Don’t wear excessive cologne or perfume in the gym. It can be very unpleasant for others who are breathing heavily.

Well, there’s the understatement of the year.

To this gem, I would add only a distiction between the cardio and the free weight areas of the gym. Once you get going on your treadmill or stair stepper, you’re trapped. You don’t have the option of moving your bench, or entire person, away from the noxious cloud. And, adding incense to injury, a cardio session by its nature consists of inhaling big gulps of air.

Now, I think we should all step back a second and appreciate that some people are acutely aware of the connection between perspiration and body odor. Still, I can’t help thinking this situation is similar to the women who arrive at the gym wearing entirely too much makeup. In my experience, the people who soak themselves in perfume the most are also the ones sweating the least.