An(other) Open Letter to Our New Friends at the Gym

Dear New Gym Friends,

Hooray for you! You have decided that 2010 will be the year that you will spend getting fabulous and fit by coming to the gym for a spell after the New Year. Nice work! Good on you! Here’s wishing you great health and fitness!

Last year, around this time, I sent an open letter to the folks who had decided that 2009 was going to be their year of great success in the health department as they worked out under their brand spanking new gym memberships. You can read it here. Go ahead! Click through! I’ll wait for you here.

You’re back? Okay. Here’s the deal: the most important part of that letter was where I explained how not to be a gym jerk. Yes, I know those of us who have been there for a long time (even longer than your three month trial membership!) can be kind of stodgy and cranky and set in our ways, but I think that everyone all around will be happier if you avoid the jerk maneuvers cited in the link, and try to fit in with the existing culture of the place. When in Rome and all that.

Unfortunately, over the past couple of weeks, I have to say that I’ve seen a lot of the gym jerk behaviors mentioned in last year’s letter resurfacing, along with some new items of annoyance that will get a “jerk” tag stuck on your back in no time flat. Here are a few of the new gym jerk behaviors that the class of 2010 has offered:

1. The treadmill is not a Dance Dance Revolution machine. Yes, I’m sure that what you are listening to on your iPod is mighty infectious, but you absolutely may not bust a move on the treadmill, windmilling your arms and pointing at people in the free weights section while doing a two step. There will be no sassy dance moves at the gym, unless you are in the “Sassy Dance Moves Aerobic Class” on Tuesday nights at 7 PM, when you are contained in a room where none of the rest of us have to watch you. Exhibiting such moves on the treadmill makes you a jerk. And a particularly annoying one at that.

2. Similarly, the elliptical is not a skateboard. You may not lock one leg while “pushing off” with the other, so that your entire body goes UP and DOWN and UP and DOWN and UP and DOWN with the rotation of the elliptical’s pedals. I can’t tell you how insanely distracting and borderline disturbing this is to the people on the ellipticals around you. Such distraction makes you a jerk.

3. If you are not wearing some form of boxing, training or sparring gloves, you may not use the sole heavy bag in the entire gym. Some of us have serious issues that we like to beat out of our systems during a half hour of pummeling the bag. It makes us very irritable when we are unable to do so because you are pitty-patting at the bag with bare hands. That’s a big-time jerky maneuver.

4. There are six hoops on the basketball court. If there’s nothing organized going on, this means that six people can happily shoot layups, three pointers and more, each in their own little sector of the gym. This is not the time for you to see if you can make a three-quarter court shot, accordingly. As you heave your ball toward the hoop at the opposite end of the gym,  you might notice a grouchy old-timer there, working on his underhand scoops. Your shot will invariably fall short, narrowly missing said codger, who will be very, very unhappy, and call you a jerk. Or worse words that are synonymous thereto.

5. Yes, I know your little gremlin has mommy separation issues and doesn’t like going into the babysitting room, but that doesn’t mean that he should spend the evening following you around as you conduct your workout, hanging on the weightlifting machines or trying to make the pedals on the elliptical spin by hitting the machine’s arms, all while staring balefully at any other adults who happen to be working out near you. You need to leave little Damien at home or get him to suck it up and play nicely with the other kids in the babysitting room, please and thanks, lest he use his evil psychic powers to snap bars and cables, causing grievous injury to we innocents, which would make you a jerk for spawning him. With Satan.

I’ll leave it open to readers here to add other observations in the comments section, as they did last year, to help you avoid being a jerk. Please, please, please read them, and last year’s comments as well, and do your darnedest to avoid ending up on the gym jerk list. Everyone will be happier that way! Huttah!

Make it so, resolutionaries. Make it so.


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