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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Hey musclehead, be polite

By Paula Rath
Advertiser Staff Writer

J.J. Bush, right, and Eden Zamarin of the Nu'uanu YMCA illustrate some of their pet peeves on gym conduct. Donít use a machine for rest or reading. Be courteous and let someone else work in a set.

GREGORY YAMAMOTO | The Honolulu Advertiser

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  • Wipe up after sweating

  • Put away stability or Bosu balls, as they can be hazardous.

  • Re-rack weights so no one will trip over them.

  • Remove hair from the showers.

  • Stack exercise mats neatly.

  • Put used towels in the hampers, not on the floor.

  • Use enough towels in the sauna or steam room to cover the benches and your body.

  • Be on time for classes.

  • Avoid inciting gym rage ó talk to club management rather than confront an obnoxious person.


  • Use a cell phone (especially a photo phone) in the locker room or gym.

  • Shave in the sauna or steam room.

  • Forget your deodorant.

  • Spit or blow your nose in the gym or pool. Duh.

  • Blast your iPod so loud that others can hear it.

  • Wear bikinis to the gym.

  • Fill up your 24-oz. water bottle while others are waiting to get a drink at the fountain.

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    Three gym doníts: 1. Wearing shoes on exercise mats. 2. Not wiping up sweat. 3. Leaving towels on the floor.

    GREGORY YAMAMOTO | The Honolulu Advertiser

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    Do return your weights to the rack. Leaving them lying around could get someone injured.

    GREGORY YAMAMOTO | The Honolulu Advertiser

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    Hair dye splashed in the locker room basin? Used tissues tossed on the floor? Puddles of sweat around the elliptical machine? Towels piled on the floor? Yogurt smeared in the steam room? Ewwwww. Disgusting, but each of these locker room atrocities has been reported here in Honolulu.

    Sadly, lack of gym etiquette comes up frequently on folks' lists of reasons why not to work out. That's why we thought a friendly reminder about gym manners might be helpful to those trying to get fit in the new year.

    When arriving at the gym, the first thing to remember is that you are not alone. Consideration of others is key.

    "It really comes down to 'What I need to know I learned in kindergarten,' " said Mike Doss, district vice president for the YMCA. It's like Mom and our first teachers told us: "If you make a mess, clean it up. If you use it, put it back where it belongs."

    "There are written and unwritten rules of etiquette for the gym," Doss said.

    Some issues to consider:

  • Workout attire. "All areas beg deference to proper attire. Brief swimsuits and bikini tops are not acceptable attire in the gym," Doss said. "No slippers. No men's shirts that are so ripped up that they don't cover enough. No shorts with holes in the butt area. And please, no shorts with anything hanging out!"

  • Unsolicited advice. It's seldom appreciated in the gym. Even if that guy who's grunting under an overloaded barbell is using atrocious form and may be headin' for hurtin' territory, mention it to a club professional rather than offer advice directly.

  • To chat or not to chat? Some people view the gym as a social place and welcome interruptions and conversations. Others are on a tight schedule and will argue that a 10-minute chat will set them back for the entire day. Try to be sensitive to cues. A polite nod, followed by a quick return to focus on the machine, is a clue to cut the chit-chat.

  • Sharing the machines. It's impolite to waste others' time by trying to reserve a cardio or weight machine by leaving your newspaper or a towel lying on it. If you are not actively working out on the machine, stand back so the next person can use it.

    On the other hand, it's rude to jump on a machine, change the adjustments and start working out when the previous occupant is just doing a quick stretch and plans to complete another set right away. When in doubt, check with those around you and ask if someone else is using the machine, and how many sets they have left.

    If the gym is really busy, make a plan B, working out on another machine until the one you want becomes available.

  • Personal space. "Some people just don't grasp the concept of personal space," Doss said. It's a cultural issue and in Hawai'i's melting pot of cultures, misunderstandings have led to hard feelings in some locker rooms, observers report.

    In recognition of personal space considerations, Ray Sagum, manager of the Hawai'i Athletic Club, suggests that whenever possible you select a locker that is not right next to another person's locker. Look for the row with the fewest occupants.

    He added that it's considerate to limit the space you use while changing clothes. Avoid spreading clothes out all along a bench or placing your workout bag in front of someone else's locker. Confine your clutter.

    Crowding in an exercise class can raise ire. Leave enough floor space for others' mats, stability balls or spinning cycles.

    Staring is always uncool, but in a gym or locker room setting it's totally unacceptable behavior. Better to avert your eyes.

    And nakedness is also viewed differently by different cultures. "Keep yourself covered when getting in and out of the shower," Sagum advised. "I would also advise people not to talk to someone who is totally naked ó it may freak them out."

    Gym etiquette is about common courtesy and sensitivity. Whether it's a more social environment or a serious setting for hard-core athletes, stay attuned to other members and the unspoken code and culture of the health club.

    Reach Paula Rath at prath@honoluluadvertiser.com.