This past week I had two quasi-uncomfortable situations at the gym. I realized I’m not just a gym rat but perhaps an (unintentional) gym hog, too.
Backing up, the check-in people at the front all know me by name and so do most of the trainers. They see me so often that last spring, the owner actually asked me, while laughing, if I ever skipped a day — that I was “like clockwork.”
I kind of felt pathetic having the owner think I was there too much.
I’ve said before here that I’m a creature of habit, that I flourish in routines, within the boundaries of structure. I used to go at 5:30 a.m. when it opened until this fall and winter, when I took to after-work sessions.
And because I got there among the first (few) pre-dawn exercisers, I had full range of machines. So I always used the same Precor elliptical with arms: the one closest to the cubbies and magazine rack, and strategically close to the water fountain and the paper towel/cleaning dispensers.
Anyway, I didn’t initially pick it for any of those reasons (though it does scream of OCD behavior). The machine was just always available that early in the morning, so it became a habitual thing for me.
When I’d go on weekends, I’d usually find myself on the same machine if it was free, and never thought twice about it. I never claimed it as “mine,” nor would I be upset if someone else was on it when I arrived; it’s a huge gym and it’s usually packed.
So if someone was on my preferred machine or any other one for that matter, I’d simply find another one, or do something else until “an elliptical” (not “my elliptical”) was free.
But apparently in some unspoken Powerhouse Fitness language, my fellow gym-goers affectionately know the machine to be “mine.”
Which I found out last week on two separate occasions.
In all fairness to my fellow sweating friends, I do usually work out at the same time most days, and do usually use “that” machine — but only if it’s free.
I mean, I guess it makes sense that they’d see it as my preferred machine … but not enough to think that *I* think it’s mine, as well, right!?
So anyway, last Wednesday, I arrived around 10 a.m. (I was on va-k after all) and since the machine I prefer was in use, I got set up on a different one.
I went to put my bag and change of sneaks in the cubbies and the guy on “my machine” (a regular who I know, but don’t know well) turns to me and says (while smiling) “I’m almost done here. If you can wait three more minutes, it’s all yours.”
I was a little taken aback and said with a smile, “Aw, thanks, but totally take your time.”
“Nah, I’m wrapping up and know you like this machine. When I saw you come in, I just wanted to give you the heads up.”
Wow! Um, ok. I was definitely surprised, but glad to have my favorite machine.
Then on Saturday morning I got in and all the machines were in use. No problem.
I put my stuff down and was about to start stretching or maybe hit up some weights when I happened to make eye contact with a woman a little older than me — another regular — who was on “my machine.”
Truth be told, I did wonder how much time she had left, but certainly wasn’t about to say anything about it.
But she caught my eye, smiled and said, “Hey, I’m almost done. I know this one is yours!”
I didn’t know what to think. She didn’t seem annoyed or anything, but I felt soooo icky — like a gym hog! No other words to describe it.
I know I’m a gym rat and there a lot — maybe too often. But I definitely don’t think I’m so high and mighty I can walk in and people will cut their workouts for me! Heck no.
Since she did say she was almost done … I didn’t feel too bad, but it did make me feel kinda bad.
I said a polite thank you and told her I appreciated it, but that it certainly isn’t “mine.” She just smiled, shrugged, and said to have a nice day.
I shouldn’t have been too surprised. I do live in the midwest; people are genuinely nicer here — in my experience — than the east coast, where I come from.
Still, in my heart, I felt she totally thought I owned that machine. And that made me feel pretty bad.
In actuality, I know I didn’t do anything wrong. And neither person seemed to think I was rude or had done anything wrong. (I didn’t ask anyone to get off a machine and didn’t hog the machine when someone else wanted to get on — that would have been rude).
But I still felt a sensation of judgment (even if it was half-joking, like “Yea, we know this chick digs that machine”) … and it wasn’t a nice feeling.
This was one of those examples where perception is reality.
Though I didn’t mean to appear selfish (and never behaved outwardly selfishly), my actions over the two and half years of working out at this gym have spoken louder … and I fear — in some tacit way — that I have given off an unflattering perception of myself.
I can’t change the past, and I’m not going to stop using that machine. But going forward, I think I’ll just try to be a little more aware of my surroundings. It can’t hurt. Perception is reality, and I’m not a rude person and don’t want to be seen that way.
How about you? Do you work out at a gym and have you had an experience with gym etiquette — on the giving or receiving end?