Gym etiquette

Will Milner is working out in the gym. working out how he should behave

The Knowledge

Will Milner is working out in the gym – and trying to work out how he should behave.

Always tell the truth to a lady in a Lycra jogging suit. She isn’t hiding anything and you should try and do the same. That’s my motto anyway. Unless, of course, you are laying face down on the floor of a gym and trying to catch your breath after falling from the handlebars of an exercise bike. If that is the case, then lie like your life depended on it. The truth would just embarrass everybody.

I am new to my gym and have not really got to grips with the etiquette involved yet. Am I supposed to give an encouraging but non-intrusive wave to the figure reflected in the mirror or turn and do the same to the ‘real’ person beside me? Does politeness demand that I join in with some of the grunting that seems so popular, or is it acceptable to stay away from public displays of affliction? Should I be having more earnest conversations with strangers about my core? Would it be okay to take a sandwich along and watch a little TV? Actually, I know the answer to that one.

The wall-mounted screens, in my gym at least, are purely for music television channels showing an endless loop of high-energy pop videos and what appear to be adverts for surfing holidays and six packs. It is aspirational television designed to inspire and motivate sweaty, struggling and shapeless sorts like me pounding away on the treadmill.

I can’t get through more than about two Beyonce videos before becoming uniquely aware of my shortcomings and want to start throwing dumbbells at the screen. If only I could lift them above shoulder height.

Finding myself alone in the gym recently I was, I reasoned, in charge of the screens. But with the remote control long gone and the screens mounted 10 feet up on the walls, opportunity was not on my side. Old me would have put up with it. But the gym me, all springy shoes and perforated T-shirts, was clambering onto an exercise bike and reaching for the buttons in just a few seconds. CSI was about to start on the other channel and I didn’t want to miss it. I would have made it, too. If only I hadn’t caught sight of myself in the mirror and given a reflex wave. In that split second I lost concentration and came crashing to the floor.

There I remained until Lycra Lady found me two minutes later, still gasping and murmuring. ‘You’ve really pushed yourself today,’ she said, clearly thinking I was recovering from breaking some physical target rather than a rib, which was more likely.

I could have told her the truth. That I had a TV-inspired strain that was, ironically, likely to confine me to at least a week of TV instead of the gym. But instead I punched the air, shook the sweat from my brow and shouted the word ‘CORE’ right in her face.

Maybe I am getting used to the gym after all.

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