Monday, January 14, 2008

Weight Lifting Etiquette

Well, this one was supposed to be about music...and that's a work in progress. The fitness center in our building is currently under construction - they are remodeling and re-painting the walls. Even though it would be easy for me to attain access to that area as an employee, the smell of the fumes is awful and I would fear having an 8th grade education by the end of the workout. So, for the first time in a long time, I took a trip over to the recreation center, or the U of M's RC if you will (oh wait, we've already coined "RC" as something else). This experience inspired a new writing and forced me to call an audible because there are some things I need to address.

Weight Lifting Etiquette: I honestly think that this should be a university class or at least weekend seminar. It should be similar to a firearms safety course in the sense that you need to obtain some kind of a certification in order to take part in that activity. From this point on, everybody that walks through the doors of the rec needs to show their U of M ID, and needs to show proof that they are "Weight Lifting Certified." A mere set of guidelines posted up on the wall isn't getting the job done. Far too many people have absolutely no idea what they're doing, a closed-circuit to that group of people: You can be spotted from a mile away, so stop trying to disguise it. From the way carry yourself, from the way you lift, and most specifically from the way you walk around a machine with that dumbfounded look on your face elicited by your inability to understand how to position yourself in that station or even try to figure out what it could possibly accomplish. It is so transparent.

This recent trip to the rec reminded me why I actually prefer to workout by myself, ideally in an area that is generally unoccupied. This is really the only thing in life that I consider to be my alone time, and where I don't want to be around people. A crowded recreational center is not only a nuisance, but a distraction. In actuality, the only real "etiquette" you need in an exercise facility can fit under the umbrella of "being respectful." But the people who can't grasp this concept are more than likely not disrespectful people, but are so green to the gym environment that they are oblivious to how they are interfering with others. I don't think my "etiquette" course will ever meet university approval, but I've included a list of guidelines in hopes that they will spur a call to action and make everybody's lives a lot easier:

1) Recognize marked territory:
-If someone has dumbbells on a bench or weight on a bar, clearly they are using that specific equipment. Things like that don't happen on accident - or in my case, I didn't accidentally put my workout log on a weight bench this afternoon so I could get a drink of water, only to come back and find out that some muscle-head rifled my station. I have no idea how you can be that naive/apathetic to just toss someone's shit to the side. Now however, I do realize that there are the 7 out of 10 who occasionally "forget" to put their things away, but this is a different situation. If you're unsure as to whether or not someone is occupying a machine, here is the proper way of finding out: "Ask." Pull the little buds out of your ears and ask people within a 5 foot radius if they are working in your desired area, it's not that much of an inconvenience. At least be considerate enough to entertain the idea that you're not the only one at the rec.

2) Don't do power cleans at the rec:
-I'm sorry, but your athletic career is over. And I know your athletic career is over because if you needed to be doing olympic lifts, you would be doing them at Bierman. You would be in a state-of-the-art facility with a conditioning specialist, and you wouldn't have to workout in the company of common folk. Power cleans are geared towards developing explosive SPORTS-specific power in the hips and legs - which you do not need. There is absolutely no physiological benefit of doing power cleans to the recreational lifter - none. So why do you keep doing them? Is the power clean the one element of nostalgia that brings you back to your yester-years? To images of you running out under the bright lights or circling the wrasslin mat in the old gymnasium? That's got to be it - it is astonishing to me how some people will be forever be high school heroes.

3) Don't draw attention to yourself:
-Now I'm not writing about this for the people who stack the plates on deep, because if you can manage the weight, by all means. But I'm referring to those who grunt, snort, spit, scream and do everything in their power to make you aware that they are there. If you have a great physique, people will take notice to it. We don't need the extra, so please shut the hell up. These are the same kind of people that more than likely lined their letterman's jacket with chevrons all the way down to the sleeve in high school - insecurity exemplified at the highest level. This isn't a bar, this isn't a mall, this isn't a social area of any kind, it's a freaking gym. Everybody that comes into the rec has one priority - themselves and their workout. All people are noticing is that you're ruining their day - we're not impressed with you.

4) Pick up after yourself:
-This is something you learn in kindergarden. The situation that irritates me the most is when people leave small 5, 10, and 25 pound plates all over the floor, because now I'm forced to pick up your mess or else I can't get anything accomplished. Funny, how people struggle to grasp what it's like from the other perspective. Be respectful and leave the place in the position you found it.

5) If you don't know what you're doing, for the love of God - ASK:
-This isn't something that bothers me and much as it concerns me for other's own welfare. There are a lot of people (I'd estimate over 50%) who couldn't even tell you which muscles/energy systems they are targeting during their workout, and I think this such a terrible thing. What worries me the most is people not doing the form properly - it honestly pains me to watch. Don't do squats up on your toes, don't roll your shoulders at the top if your shrugging, and please God don't under-stride when your lunging - you're gonna blow your knee out. These are things I see all the time, but it's not like I can just go up to somebody and correct them. The vast majority of people would interpret this as me being condescending, and the last thing I want to do offend somebody, so all can do is just shake my head in hopes that one day it will dawn on them. I saw an idiot the other day doing bench press with his hands spaced no further than shoulder width, and he was clearly lifting close to his 1-rep. And I'm thinking to myself, "This guy is going to be painfully sore tomorrow, and he is going to have no idea why."

I think the number one reason people don't workout is that they try it once, they hurt themselves, and then it's "screw this, I'm done." What people don't realize is that recreational centers, with the exception of the people that I've talked about previously, are honestly a very welcoming environment. Avid lifters would be more than willing to help the inexperienced if they just asked. In the cases for some people, it would probably make their day. There's also a reason that the rec prohibits sleeveless shirts - and it's not so the hoggers leave the machines all sweaty. It's because they don't want people to feel intimidated by those who exercise regularly. They want people to embrace the idea of being active, and it's hard to promote that when most times it's painfully obvious who's been working out and who hasn't.

I didn't create this blog to express the idea that I'm smart and everybody else is stupid - I think that's the biggest misconception, and why people get so stirred up all the time. I'm just a rational person who thinks rationally and wants everybody else to board the rational train with me - and most importantly this is my therapy. I could either spend the entire day thinking about that douchebag who was power cleaning at the rec (which shouldn't bother me, but it does and it festers), or I could blog about it, move on, and be done. That is why I do this, and hopefully I can entertain a few people in the process.

In closing, I would like to say Julie: I'm patiently waiting. I can't wait to see what the other half of Northstar has got brewing over there. But just remember to be careful. Although I don't get offended by much, I can dish it out just as good as I can take it..............that's what she said.