By Jenny Everett, SELF magazine
With lots of sweaty, time-crunched strangers crammed into a relatively small place, the gym is ripe for bad etiquette. How can we make sure we're not violating any unspoken social rules?
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"The basics of all etiquette are using common sense and making others feel comfortable," says Sue Fox, author of Etiquette for Dummies and founder of Etiquette Survival. "If people understood these two rules, it would create a lot more civility in the world."
From hugging while sweaty to stripping down to your birthday suit in the locker room, here's her take on common gym etiquette situations:
THE QUESTION: Is it OK to strip down in front of everyone in the locker room?
THE VERDICT: Cover up with a towel. Many believe there is nothing wrong with romping naked in front of strangers, but there are also those who are more modest or shy. Cover up from the shower to your locker. Of course, you can't keep covered completely while trying to dress near your locker, but it's best to be as discreet as possible.
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THE QUESTION: Is it appropriate to chat up an instructor or trainer in the locker room?
THE VERDICT: Yes, but only a brief "hello"Since you're not sure how the fitness instructor feels about carrying on conversations off the clock, especially while dressing or undressing, the appropriate etiquette is to say hello or goodbye, but not use this time to talk. If the instructor initiates the conversation, then you can follow their lead.
THE QUESTION: Is it acceptable to save a place for your pal on the bike, treadmill or mat?
THE VERDICT: Nope. This isn't acceptable unless there are plenty of other treadmills available. Also, don't chatter away with a friend while standing on a non-moving treadmill. People who are there to work out are likely on a time schedule. It's really about a level of awareness. If you're in a gym (or any public place), look around to see what's happening. Are there other members waiting to use the equipment? If you've kept someone waiting unnecessarily, apologize.
THE QUESTION: Is it OK to touch people when you're sweaty?
THE VERDICT: These days, it isn't. It's best not to touch, hug a friend, shake hands, etc. if you are sweaty. Germs are rampant --including Methicillin-resistant Staph (MRSA), which is potentially deadly. It is also extremely important to clean up after yourself -- always use a clean towel and always wipe down the equipment after you use it.
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THE QUESTION: Is it rude to text or pick up a cell phone call?
THE VERDICT: No, but...As long as you are not making someone wait for gym equipment or at the front desk while you are texting or talking on your phone, it's OK. However, if you do accept a call while working out, you should let others "work in" or use the equipment while you chatter. One thing to remember is that you're not in a bubble: Keep your voice as low as possible.
THE QUESTION: Is it OK to ask another member for workout advice?
THE VERDICT: Yes. This isn't a problem as long as you begin the conversation by saying, "Do you mind if I ask you a question?" Most people will agree because they are flattered and would like to help. Just be sure to keep the questions to the point, and limited to one or two inquiries.
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