How To Know If You're The Jerk In The Gym

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I love going to a not-very-popular gym at off-peak hours. I’ll camp out in the squat rack all workout, and nobody cares. But since hogging the squat rack is a classic jerk move, it got me thinking: maybe I am the jerk at my local gym.

We are all, perhaps, the jerk in somebody else’s eyes. Context matters, too: I can still sleep at night because I only hog the squat rack when the gym is otherwise empty. But just in case, I’ve gathered a list of the jerk moves people seem to complain about most, and what to do if it turns out you’re the jerk.

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People who go to the gym every day tend to be happy with their habit — that’s why they keep coming back. But plenty of folks aspire to do that, and haven’t quite figured out how. Since I am one of those people (I even work out on holiday, sorry) I’d like to help you learn to love the gym — but it depends what kind of person you are. Go ahead and read whichever sections apply.

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You leave weights on the bar and walk away

Your justification: Somebody else is just going to put weights right back on it

The reality: Plenty of people in the gym don’t intend to warm up with 61kg, ok? Especially smaller people, people who are new to lifting, or people who like to start their workouts light. There are plenty of folks who would have trouble even getting a 20kg plate off the bar, because they only intend to bench the empty bar or maybe the bar plus a couple of smaller plates. We all had to start somewhere.

There’s another issue: when you empty the bar and walk away, it’s clear that you’re done with your workout. But if you walk away while the bar is loaded, people figure you’re resting for a moment and you’ll be right back. Please unload your bar to clearly signal that the station is free.

You don’t wipe your sweat off things

Your justification: Nobody cares. I don’t sweat that much. The wipes are too far away.

The reality: People notice. They care. Maybe not everybody, but enough that whenever I ask about the biggest jerk moves in the gym, this one often tops the list. Just go get the darn wipes, or at least lay down a towel.

You play your music out loud

Your justification: It’s good music!

The reality: This is literally what headphones are made for. You can listen to your music, other people can listen to theirs. Your gym is probably already playing music over the loudspeaker, so your neighbours definitely don’t want to hear a battle of the bands from multiple tinny speakers.

If headphone cords are the problem, either go wireless or run the cord under your shirt. You can figure this out. I believe in you.

Hogging equipment

Your justification: I’m not done yet

The reality: OK, but people are still waiting. If you must do a bunch of sets on the same equipment, at least look around from time to time and be aware of who’s lurking around optimistically. Offer to let them work in.

If you’re doing a circuit type workout, where you use multiple items in quick succession, don’t expect to lay claim to everything for your whole workout. Some circuits just aren’t doable in a busy commercial gym. And if you’re at the gym with a friend, be aware of what you’re sitting on (or blocking access to) while you chat between sets.

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It’s totally normal to spend an hour or two at a gym full of people and speak to no one. Headphones in, eyes on your workout, focused. But what if you want to talk to somebody? A cute guy? An athlete you’re just in awe of?

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