The equipment has changed, the members have changed, even the workouts have changed. But after 37 years in the fitness industry, Garrett Jones, manager of the Eastern Athletic Clubs in Melville and Blue Point, says one thing remains constant.
"Common-sense etiquette is still an issue, very much so," he says. "It sometimes takes you aback when you see some of the antics."
He stresses that discourteous, sloppy individuals are only a small percentage of the health club population. But that minority can make the gym an unpleasant environment for the rest. At this time of year, with so many new arrivals flocking to local clubs flush with enthusiasm for New Year's resolutions, perhaps a few etiquette reminders are in order:
It's not your personal gym.
An all-too-common sight is someone who monopolizes a piece of equipment. Sometimes, they even think the brief rest period between sets is the perfect opportunity to make a phone call -- while sitting on the machine that others may want to use. "You can't hog the weights or the machines," says Jones. "When you're finished, get up and let someone else use it."
Clean up after yourself.
Most clubs now have spray bottles of cleaning solution and dispensers of disinfectant or paper towels mounted on the walls. Use these to clean off the machine when you're done. The same is true with free weights. There are days when Ryan Pastore, manager of Synergy Fitness Club in Garden City Park, will find four or five sets of dumbbells left strewn around the floor -- instead of placed on the racks, where they belong. "If you're strong enough to pick them up," he says, "you're strong enough to put them away."
Exercise your heart, not your mouth.
When he worked at a different gym, Pastore says, "they had a no-cell-phones-on-the-treadmills rule." This was prompted by those who insisted on carrying on loud conversations while they were walking to nowhere. "That's just not courteous to others," Pastore adds. "People are trying to get in their zone, and you don't want to disturb them. Most gyms have a lounge area. Hang out there if you want to make a phone call."
If your ears are occupied, keep your eyes open.
Jones says he believes the advent of the iPod actually solved a perennial club problem. "You don't get as many complaints about music as you used to," he said. "Now everyone has their own. Play what you want, as loud as you want." However, those wired into their own music sometimes become oblivious to others around them. "People get so lost in their own music, they'll walk right in front of someone who is doing curls in front of a mirror," Pastore says. "When someone is performing a set in front of a mirror, they're looking at their form, trying to do the exercise correctly, so don't block their field of vision."
Is this what your bathroom at home looks like?
Towels on the floor, hair in the sink, a mess on the counter. Liz Neporent, co-author of "Fitness for Dummies" and a spokeswoman for the American Council on Exercise, says locker room sloppiness is a longtime problem -- with both men and women. "My rule is, if you wouldn't do it at home, don't do it in the locker room," Neporent says. "And I know for a fact you're not using six towels at a time at home."