By: Maralee McKee, Manners Mentor
Last Friday, I took our much-doted-on Sheltie to the vet for her yearly exam. It seems I’ve been doting on her a little too much.
“Miss Lilly the Wonder Dog” (that’s her official name, so says Corbett, my youngest) is a Sheltie, which means she’s of Scottish ancestry. Being from Great Britain, she loves scones. It’s uncanny. She recognizes the packaging from the bakery.
By coincidence, guess what?
I like scones, too.
I go to the bakery, and when I get home, it’s half a scone for me and half for Miss Lilly. The problem is, a year’s worth of scones has packed the pounds on my little dog. The vet wants her to lose nine pounds. That’s a lot when you only weigh 34 pounds.
By coincidence, guess what else?
With all the sitting on my bottom I’ve been doing while I’ve been eating scones and writing over the last year, some pounds have snuck up on me, too. I also need to lose some weight. In solidarity with the dog, I’m going for nine pounds for now.
No more scones for either of us for a while, and we have to start exercising.
The dog’s exercise consists mostly of walks in the neighborhood and chasing the boys in the backyard.
This week, I’m signing up at a gym. If you know me, you’re laughing right now because you know I’m naturally unconditioned for any type of conditioning.
I’d rather have labor pains than sweat in a gym. But I know I need to do it, so I’m going to rise to the occasion to drop the pounds.
I wish they had private hours at the gym. I’d rather no one see me work out. Or, truth be told, maybe it’s more that I don’t really want to see other people work out. I’ve been to gyms before (to visit), and what I saw, heard, and smelled didn’t make my personal list of favorite things: naked women in the bathroom, sweat-dripped bicycle seats, grunting noises, machine hoarders, and stinky strangers, to name a few.
Five Sweat Etiquette Tips: Or, How to Be More Admired at the Gym Than a Size-Six Dress Size
Just like for any place else, there’s a gold standard for what to do and how to interact with others at the gym. And just because we need to summon our strength for our workout doesn’t mean we need to come on too strong. The gym is going to be sweaty, but we can sweat in dignity if we practice these five standards.
1. Load up before you begin. Double-swipe or spray-on the unscented no-stinkum before you start exercising. Don’t try to cover it up with perfume. Sometimes, breathing is difficult when exercising, and perfume makes it even harder. Plus, perfume mixed with sweat doesn’t cover the sweat smell. It just turns it into a different unpleasant aroma. Pick up plenty of towels. You’ll want one to wipe the sweat off each machine you use. (Don’t reuse it for the next machine.) And you’ll want a new towel to wipe the sweat off yourself after every machine or class. Just like we get a clean plate every time we return to the buffet in a restaurant, we need to get a clean towel for the gym. Otherwise, it’s more like we’re spreading our sweat instead of wiping it clean.
2. Don’t hog the machine(s). If there’s a posted time limit on a sign in the gym, or one on the contract you signed when you joined, follow it. Your gym is a public space, and everyone needs equal time to get to the machine(s) they need before they’re ready to leave. If someone is taking too long on the machine, ask the manager to speak to the person. Or if you know you’ll next want the particular machine that Janice now is using, and she’s not deep in concentration on it, you won’t be interrupting her to ask whether she’ll give you a thumb’s-up signal a minute or two before she gets off so you can make your way over and be the next person to use it.
3. Make friends. Everything is easier with a friend. So make some friends at the gym. Smile at everyone who makes eye contact. Introduce yourself to people. If you’re new, say, “Hello, I’m (first name) (last name)! I just joined and wanted to introduce myself!” If you’ve been around for a while, you can say, “Hello, I’m (first name) (last name). I’ve been coming here for a while now and realized I’ve never introduced myself.” When the people you’re introducing yourself to tell you their names, make sure to say their first names back to them (“It’s nice to meet you, Holly!”) and then ask a question or two to try to find common ground. All friendships sprout from common ground. Do this when people don’t have their earbuds in place. Earbuds equal “leave me alone, please.” Don’t always be an earbud person. As much as you’re enjoying that audio book or playlist, you’ll enjoy the new friends you make more.
4. Suffer in Silence or In Complete Sentences. If you’re hurt and need help, call out and tell someone what’s wrong. “I think I’ve seriously twisted my ankle.” Anything that sounds like it’s coming from a bathroom, a honeymoon, or a labor or delivery room is a private sound. Don’t make it in the gym. Yes, I know they do it on TV all the time. Yes, I know that it helps you keep your pace, your endurance, your stride, your rhythm, and a bunch of stuff. The thing is, it’s a private noise in a public place. The standard is that the comfort of everyone is more important than the workout grunts of one person. (PS: These sounds are OK in training situations, such as boxing and other professional sports gyms, outdoor sports areas, etc., where everyone either is training for bouts or understands that others are training.)
5. Modesty Trumps Nudity. I was touring a fancy, state-of-the-art gym/healthcare center/sports arena all rolled into one several years ago when the lady leading the tour enthusiastically swung open a door, motioned for me to go ahead of her, and said, “You’ll love our luxurious and roomy woman’s locker room.” Nope! Nope, I didn’t like it at all. I’ve never seen so many naked people in my life! Good grief, wear a towel — or two! Maybe you’re completely comfortable being undressed in front of strangers, but others might not be as comfortable seeing you. In public places, modesty trumps nudity. That’s the standard. Also, keep in mind that locker rooms are for getting cleaned up and ready for the next place you’re going. Shower, get dressed, do your hair and makeup. That’s fine. But locker rooms aren’t for bodily maintenance. Don’t shave your legs, under your arms, or anywhere else. Don’t clip your toenails or wax anything. That’s private maintenance, and a shared woman’s locker room isn’t private.
Wish me luck at the gym, and chime in on the comments to share what you’d like to add to the gold standard of gym etiquette. I got us started; now it’s your turn!
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Until next week,