Cover Story Plant Life On Fitness Taste Now & Then


Mind Our Manners
Readers find a few more nits to pick when it comes to club etiquette

We covered a lot of territory a few weeks back when readers offered their favorite gripes about health-club etiquette. But it clearly wasn't enough for some of you.

Several folks since have added complaints about aural pollution: talking during aerobics class, instructors shouting into microphones, commercial radio played over the loudspeakers, music geared toward staff not members and music that's just too loud. "On top of that," said Kent Garvey, "it plays along with the TVs that are always on, creating a cacophony of noise."

Garvey also said not once in 10 years has he completed a designated circuit-training program without having to stop: "Someone else just pops into the line to work on one machine." Clubs should post signs to not "cut in," he suggested.

Jeanne Drury told how, just before a Vail ski vacation, she was working out on an EFX machine next to a pregnant woman with a bad cold. "She must have been really hot, because she had one of the fans set to blow directly on her. The only problem was, it blew on me, too. The second day at Vail, I came down with one of the worst sore throats I've ever had, followed by a terrible cold. I was down for the remainder of my expensive vacation."

Dorothy Burns pointed out a common gripe: Not wiping down the equipment after use. She suggested posting signs, making announcements, placing spray bottles at machines and giving members towels as they arrive. "Shouldn't this be `the rule' at health clubs?"

Jim McGill added that staff should ensure users are vigilant about cleanliness. And, "If guys have to wear shirts, which they should to keep the sweat down on the machines, then females should wear shirts, too. Women seem to sweat nearly as much as men and a jog bra doesn't absorb much. Some of the worst machines I've ever seen were leg-curl machines where the bench was smeared with a mix of sweat and pancake makeup."

Also from McGill:

Gym management should vacuum floors and scrub showers daily.

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Even if circuit training, no yelling "I'm on that" from across the gym.

No dropping of weights. If you can pick it up, you can put it down.

Keep the singles scene out of the middle of the floor.

Staff shouldn't push sales of gear, supplements, new classes or the latest membership deals.

Among Caroline Thienes' complaints were ripe, smelly gym clothes. She also encouraged flexibility: "Live a little, and try using another section of the aerobics floor, instead of being territorial and in the same spot every single class."

We even heard from the founder of The Executive Protocol Group in Richmond, Va., (, which bills itself as "Protocol and Etiquette Consultants to the Corporate World." Paul Siddle's suggestions included:

Don't stare at the opposite sex.

Sign up for machines (if required) and don't exceed the time limit.

Don't increase the steam in the steam room without asking others present if they want more steam.

Thank club employees for favors done.

David Kronfeld also addressed staff, though not in an especially grateful tone. "I could write an entire page about employees. I belong to a club with multiple locations. I rarely go to the one closest to me because it is so poorly managed." He cited apathy, poor follow-up, lack of enforcement of club rules, and a general emphasis on selling memberships over customer service. "Most of them are eternally polite, but rarely helpful."

One reader took issue with all the beefing: "I can't believe all the whiners who complained about other members at their respective clubs!" said Susie Maxwell. "They all seem like excellent candidates for working out in their own homes."

Finally, there was the reader - my sister, Mame - who watched a man at her club stay on the weight-lifting machines between sets while he read what appeared to be a fascinating article in The New Yorker. She started to be a little annoyed until she realized she might have been partly responsible: "I think the magazine was one I donated to the club!"

Molly Martin is assistant editor of Pacific Northwest magazine. She can be reached by calling 206-464-8243 or writing or P.O. Box 70, Seattle, WA 98111.

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