I have a job now, guys. I work at the gym here at Northwestern, and I must say it is not the worst gig in the world. I change towels, I do the rounds, I keep everything spic and span up on the second floor—that is my domain. Unfortunately, there are a few things that simply do not belong in the gym, things that are considered universal party fouls by everyone in attendance. There are also things that are universal party-makers, if you are into that kind of thing. Lots of things can make or break a workout experience, and as a proud floor monitor at Northwestern University’s finest gym, I have the know-how about all of them.
1. Sweatbands are always in style.
A little retro throwback to the 70s and 80s never hurt anyone. You can go classic white Nike swoosh like some washed-up tennis player, or you could go neon and be all-out. This is like the gym’s version of the tie (Does that comparison work? . . . Sure). Plus, the alternative is having to look at waterfalls of sweat cascading down someone’s forehead. No thank you. Go with the flow and show off your flow; sweatbands are in.
Guys, I should actively market this stuff.
2. The guy who suggests “shirts vs. skins” in your pick-up basketball game is a guaranteed douchebag.
Scenario for you: you are starting your game of hoops, when some snapback-toting bro-monster on your team peels off his tank, “Ok, we’ll be skins!”
The other team does not care, because they are actually allowed to keep their clothes on. You look to your teammates for help. Everyone is kind of staring at each other, giving the old “Did you bring that guy? No? He came by himself? Well, dammit” look before taking off their shirts. Coincidentally, you notice that the monstrous tool now dribbling the ball successively through his legs, like an asshole, seems to be in decent shape. Surprise, surprise. Because one person cannot stop thinking about themselves long enough to memorize the general appearance of four people, your pick-up game turns into half a strip show for everyone in attendance. Thanks, douche.
3. For the love of God, keep your freaking shoes on.
There was one day at work when I had to tell someone repeatedly to keep their shoes on while doing squats. Contrary to what you would probably think, the guy was 22, and not five years old. I told him it was a safety issue and the policy of the gym, but in reality it is more along the lines of, “No one wants to smell your stale foot-sweat, amigo, so put the shoes/deflector shields back on and spare the rest of us.”
4. It is acceptable to pretend to like something so as to spark conversation with the opposite sex.
Another scenario: You are on the elliptical, working hard, because you go for it. That is right, you are standing there, chugging along, going for it, when out of the corner of your eye, you see that the girl next to you has her iPad up on the stand, and she is watching Breaking Bad. She seems nice, looks pretty, you want to chat.
Then BAM! Problem. You do not watch Breaking Bad, how do you strike up a conversation? You start out slow, like dipping your foot in to test the water. “Hey, is that Breaking Bad?”
She takes out an earphone, “Yeah! I use my gym time to catch up on it!”
You, not wanting to blow it, “That’s a great show!”
Seeing your interest, she gets into the conversation, “Oh my gosh, I know! It’s crazy, right?”
Magic. You just spouted nothing for fifteen seconds and had a good chat with a nice girl. You know how to follow up? Go home and Wikipedia the crap out of Breaking Bad, that is how. Come back, you are in the know, maybe started the pilot on Netflix because you are savvy like that, and you can keep chatting the next time you run into each other.
The initial teeny tiny fib? Totally acceptable, with girls or guys. Not the best thing to pretend to like something at all venues, but at the gym, it is totally cool.
5. Keep your body off of the drinking fountain.
It still seems that some people, even in their post-adolescent state, still fail to grasp basic water fountain etiquette. Generally, this means keeping your mouth and other body parts off of the water fountain while it is in use. No one wants to be drinking contaminated spit/sweat/water, so can we all do our best to keep hands and feet inside the vehicle at all times? This also means no leaning on the thing while other people are drinking, because then your arm-sweat is on there somewhere, and who knows what else has touched that. It is practically a public restroom on those fountains, anyway.
6. Wipe down your machine like they tell you, for Chrissake.
Seems dumb, but think about it: you take a spin on the bike, huffing and puffing, doing your thing. After climbing that last metaphorical hill and coasting to the bottom, you call it a night. You leave feeling good that you worked out. You know who does not leave feeling good? The person who used the bike after you and had the pleasant sensation of your freaking butt-sweat soaking through their shorts. Idiot. Wipe off the seat.
7. Between sets, move away from the machine.
Again, we are just talking general gym etiquette here. After you max out on the tricep curls, instead of standing there like a farthead rubbing your “exhausted” muscles, clear out for the next guy. No one wants to see you draping yourself over the bars because your set was so challenging you just cannot muster the strength to pull yourself out of there. People are waiting, dude. And no one thinks you are strong . . . just saying (silence for a moment, looking down at the ground . . . so . . . moving on?).
8. Yelling is only appropriate in tennis, not squash or racquetball.
There have been numerous occasions in my place of employment when some patrons on the racquetball and squash courts have suddenly thrust themselves into insane shouting matches as they hit the ball. Since the physical competition is not enough, both persons yell louder and louder, both to showcase their level of effort in making the return and to seemingly attract some mates in the gorilla community. Fun fact, folks: those courts echo really badly, so what seems to you like a private showcase is now a full-on imitation of a haunted choir for the rest of the gym-goers. Tone it down. It is okay on tennis courts because those do not echo nearly as badly, and everyone has sort of accepted the shouting as part of the tennis culture. Squash/racquetball culture is sweatbands (yes) and goggles (no); that is all you are allowed to have.
9. Everyone can see your “effort face”, so rep it out and deal with it.
One of the best parts about working at the gym is seeing the crazy faces everyone makes when they go for the maximum for whatever doing. A lot of guys look like they are being force-fed lemons and a lot of girls look like they are doing their best not to grunt, which is probably one of the least-feminine sounds (and words) ever. The best you can do is to just swing for the fences and not try to hide it. We see you working, so we know you do not make that face normally. No one judges you (mostly).
10. In the locker room, use the five-second rule.
Arguably the most important gym rule of them all. We all know it, but only a sacred few choose to obey. Yes, we are talking about locker rooms, and we are talking about the . . . more experienced among us showing off their . . . stuff, in said locker rooms. It needs to stop. Obviously, I only know what it is like for guys, so maybe girls have it way different, but I can tell that there is nothing beneficiary to anyone about a gentleman walking around the locker room with everything hanging out.
I understand that in the locker room, everyone is a guy, and we can all be mature adults, but for the love of Christ, do we really need to shower, shave, comb our hair, stand in front of the mirror, put on lotion, and work our way back to the lockers completely naked? Really? I do not need to be taking coat off after a long walk to the gym only to see some middle-aged man-of-confidence stroll around the corner, hands on hips, displaying the pride of the land for all to see. No one needs that. Five-second rule, man. You have five seconds of nudity, the time it takes you to change your pants. Boom. Done. Out of there. Everyone can breathe easy and not stand around ignoring the . . . elephant in the room (. . . ?) while they take care of business. No one has ever understood this habit, and no one ever will. Locker rooms right now have more frontal nudity than 99% of movies out there. Our lives should not be worse than movies.
Call it the Golden Rule of the Gym. The Five-Second Rule. It needed to be said. At the very least: man-law, and woman-law.