By Alicia K. Gosselin
At the start of every new year, there is a group of people that make their way to the local gym. Fresh-faced and wide-eyed, these determined folks can be easy to spot in a place full of regular gym rats.
For the Fitness Zone at Algonquin college, it is no different.
As the gym becomes crowded in January, practicing proper gym etiquette becomes increasingly important – for both the regulars and the rookies.
“Being courteous is a big deal at the gym,” said Cody Willcott, a student in the fitness and health promotion program. “It’s hard to see some new people come in and do things improperly – not necessarily on purpose, but because they’re not educated about it.”
Several large signs posted around the Fitness Zone imply what proper gym etiquette entails: clean and share the machines, put weights away after use, take phone calls after your workout, and pay attention to time-limits.
Willcott, who has had a membership at the Fitness Zone for three years, feels the signs do little to prevent alternative gym blunders.
“Keeping proper form while exercising – that’s a big one,” he said. “Don’t slam weights on the ground, and don’t gawk at others working out. Also, wear deodorant.”
According to Mary Towers, another student in the fitness and health promotion program, an essential part of gym etiquette is working out safely. She recognizes the New Year as a time where more people seem unaware of it.
“I’ve tripped over barbells in the stretching area,” she said, shaking her head. “I’ve seen people swinging weights […] I truly think it’s because people just don’t know the gravity of the situation.”
Towers and Willcott, both 22, agree that the Fitness Zone is a leading-edge gym facility, with a staff that’s always willing and available to offer assistance.
“It’s just a matter of people not asking,” said Towers, shrugging her shoulders. “Either because they are too shy, too embarrassed, or genuinely just don’t know they should.”
Wayne Boucher, a fitness and wellness coordinator, acknowledges that the Fitness Zone has seen an increase in gym memberships purchased this month. Each membership includes an optional orientation for new members to familiarize themselves with the gym, the rules and the etiquette.
Boucher, a nine-year Fitness Zone veteran, accepts that there is a stigma attached to the title of the workout newbie.
“In the industry – not just this gym, but all gyms – a lot of regular gym members and coaches have a hard-core mentality towards the new ones,” said Boucher. “They feel like they are getting in the way.”
Boucher shakes his head at this and adds: “I try and remind them that everyone was new once.”
Willcott admits when he first started working out, he was clueless. “But you learn,” he said, with a smile.
Since the Fitness Zone is not a commercial gym, Boucher emphasizes that its focus is on educating their members as much as possible. Boucher and the staff make sure to address any sign that a new member is struggling, exercising unsafely, or breaking a rule.
“I try to appeal to their performance and not their mistake,” he said. “It’s about the way you approach it.”
Boucher notes that young men tend to overexert themselves at the gym, while young women underestimate themselves.
An example of this “go-hard attitude” is the men’s public sauna – which has been damaged almost every year for ten years. There are four saunas in total at the gym: the men’s and women’s public, and the men’s and women’s staff. The other saunas have only been broken once in the last ten years. Both regular and new members using the men’s public change-room are not following rules and pouring water in the dry sauna. The front panel has also been broken about five times.
“It gives you an idea of how hard they are on it,” said Boucher. “As opposed to all other members.”
Boucher also notes that although January is a busy month, the crowd dies down around March. The failure rate among “resolutioners,” according to Boucher, is around 70 per cent.
“It has to be more of a commitment, and less of an idea,” he said.