January is a wonderful time at the gym. So many new friends! Maybe one of them will end up being your longtime workout buddy. Maybe you can encourage and inspire somebody who’s just getting started. What? No, I’m not being sarcastic.
After all, these fresh faces keep your gym alive. If you’re at a cheapo commercial gym, their fees subsidise your less hectic workouts the whole rest of the year. And if your gym or fitness studio is more of a tight-knit community, well, the folks who stick around will be part of that family going forward. What’s not to like?
OK, I get it: this first month can be a bit chaotic. The gym is crowded, the new folks don’t know where to find anything or where to put it when they’re done, and they may have no clue about gym etiquette. Those are all problems that, as a gym regular, you are in a particularly good position to address.
Show them how to clean up
One of the common complaints about the yearly influx of gym noobs is that they don’t know what they’re doing, and they trash the place. Bike seats unwiped, plates on the wrong racks, piles of dumbbells where dumbbells should not be.
People notice their surroundings. If there’s a clear organisation to the dumbbell rack, people will usually put the weights where they belong. But if the regulars can’t keep things neat, how is the new guy supposed to figure it out?
So, be a good example. Put your own shit away. Wipe your stuff. You can even make a point of being the first to grab the bottle of spray cleaner at the end of yoga class, wipe down your own mat, and hand the bottle off to the nearest newbie.
Teach them how to work in
So the gym is crowded. It happens. There’s a solution to this, remember? People need to work in with each other. If somebody’s resting on a machine you want to use, just ask: “Hey, mind if I work in?”
Do your set, then put the pin back in the machine where they had it (ask them if you don’t remember) and hang around while they do a set and the two of you can trade off. If you’re dealing with something like a squat rack, that’s still doable, even if it means the two of you need to load and unload plates as you trade off.
Remember, as the regular you set the tone. So if somebody asks how many sets you have left, don’t tell them “six” and then turn your back; say “Six, but do you want to work in?” And especially if you’re the stronger person, offer to load the plates.
Above all, don’t be a jerk
If you’ve been reading here a while, you already know what not to do. Don’t jump in and correct someone’s form. Don’t hog equipment that you could easily share. Don’t trap them into a conversation that they can’t politely escape. Just…be nice.
Be a friend. Smile sometimes. Compliment a new person on something neutral like their shoes—nothing about their body and honestly I’d skip anything related to their lifts until you know them better. (“Nice lift” is a fine compliment for somebody you kinda know, but a skittish newbie might think “Eek, how long have they been watching me??”)
Offer help where it would be helpful. If someone’s bench pressing alone, offer to spot or to give them a handoff. If a newbie walks into the yoga studio and stands there scanning the floor, move your mat over and help them claim a good spot. After all, they’re your new friend, at least for today. And maybe they’ll be back next month, too.