Seven deadly gym sins

The Guardian


Gyms and swimming pools in particular, should be the natural habitat of the over-zealous rule-maker. For one thing, they explicitly ban dive-bombing, spitting and heavy petting, things you might reasonably consider bad manners in most surroundings. Yet obvious infringements such as the ones listed below are rarely mentioned in the wad of rules and regulations you get on joining a gym. Officially sanctioned they may be, then, but this kind of behaviour does not make for a harmonious changing room.

1. Applying fake tan

Prolonged nakedness is always going to make you a little suspect in the eyes of fellow changers. Prolonged nakedness while smeared with sun tan lotion and turning an unlikely (have you seen the weather?) shade of sun-blushed peach, trying all the while to avoid brushing against clothes and shower curtains, could see you given a wide berth in spinning classes in future.

2. Asking for change in the locker room The person you are asking is wearing only a towel. Think about it.

3. Product envy Take two bottles into the shower? No: take one of those freebie shampoo/ body wash/lotion/deodorant-in-one samples that come glued to the pages of glossy magazines. Not only will you avoid the risk of having a back rub or manly scent “borrowed” by a fellow exerciser who “forgot”’ to pack theirs, but you will stand out as someone who comes to the gym to work out, not because it’s got better water pressure than your shower at home. (Bringing scented candles and a nice glass of red wine for your post-Pilates chill-out also suggests you are becoming over-reliant on your gym.)

4. Mentioning ‘ergs’ and ‘bench-presses’

Acceptable topics of conversation in a changing room: the ownership of a stray pair of shoes; the temperature of the sauna; the puniness of the hairdryers.

Not acceptable: exercise-related bragging; exaggerated puffing and panting (do your sweating in the weights room); overt muscle flexing; voicing your opinions on the economy.

5. Upsetting the hierarchy of lockers

Regular gym-goers — those whose swipe cards have registered double figures, and whose sportswear is not fresh from Niketown — have a favourite locker. It’s usually close to their favourite section of bench and favourite peg. You may think this doesn’t matter: after all, you wouldn’t get off the cross-trainer just because some wannabe gladiator had his or her eye on it.

Bear in mind, though, that the wannabe gladiator can kick you’re a… on the cross-trainer (with just a casual resetting to the are-you-sure-you-can-handle-this level as soon as you clamber off, wheezing) and would do so were you to persist in ignoring their prior claim to locker 114.

6. Singing in the shower

Oh, hurrah. I have joined the same gym as Beyonce.

7. Excessive body pampering

By all means, examine the progress of your chest/nasal/leg hair, but at home, in front of your own mirror. The changing room is not the place for tweezers, scissors, clippers or razors, not least because of the danger of slipping on the puddled floor.

Despite the introduction of such complimentary fripperies as towels and shower gel dispensers, your gym is not a spa. Unlike a spa, you do not go to a gym to be preened and relaxed. Like a spa, however, you will leave slightly oily and considerably lighter of wallet.