A Middle-Aged Mom’s Guide to Gym Etiquette.

man carrying barbel
Photo by Victor Freitas


I’ve only been lifting free weights for the past five years, but  as an outsider to gym culture, I hope my list will be helpful to those neophytes who find that they have to share small workout facilities with people they would not normally associate. Sometimes it can be intimidating to be a woman in a male dominated place; there are lots of passive- aggressive ways that men use to make sure that you are aware that you have intruded on their sacred space and make you uncomfortable. I have provided some ways to help you fend them off.

  1. If the younger, off -duty firemen or police men talk about their exploits with “dancing girls” at their latest convention in Atlantic City (but slyly make a big deal about not wanting to talk about it in front of “a lady”), it is best to put on a maternal smile and encourage them “to expose” you to things that you don’t normally hear at “elementary school pick up,” however, be sure to remind them to wear condoms because you have heard about diseases from unprotected sex from watching Dr. Oz on TV.
  2. If the older retired guys start talking about their dandruff and how there are no longer as many dandruff commercials in their youth, suggest that they come to gym in the afternoon to hear the other guys talk about hookers. Also, if the 50 plus crowd start to talk about missing the cut-off for Happy Hour, it’s time to put the earphones in.
  3. Sometimes the teenagers forget to take off their heavy plates, because they are so used to mom picking up after them. If they do not respond when asked to remove them, I generally slam the plate on the floor and cry “These are just so heavy! I can’t possibly take these weights off by myself!”
  4. If a man has legs that have less hair than yours, do not even ask him if he waxes and do not suggest that he might be a cross dresser. I have discovered that men, who have hairless legs, make less testosterone (than me) and- let’s face it- making testosterone is what lifting is all about.
  5. If you see someone who scrupulously wipes his/her machine down prior to putting their sweaty body on it, but neglects to wipe down the machine after using- do not ask them if they are an attorney

In my experience, almost everyone in the gym appears to be more sexy, and interesting if they don’t talk too much. This is a unisex thing; I personally prefer to let my imagination fill in the gaps. I spent three years of watching a very fit man- who never, ever spoke, work out with these strange arm coverings. I imagined that it was some strange cure from the old country and that he spoke no English. When we finally did chat, I discovered that he had a very strong New York accent and the coverings were old sweat socks to soak up arm sweat.

After all, the gym is a place to concentrate on our bodies, improve our body image and feel sexy. There is nothing worse than learning that the cutie that you thought was stoic and tough, gossips as much as the mothers on their way to Zumba class. I know that this ALSO means that I WOULD DO BETTER TO STICK MY EARPHONES IN MY EARS AND SHUT UP.

PS: In the event of very hurt feelings or burned bridges, there are a lot of gyms out there- in fact- it might be wise to join more than one….

Gym Me

Me before cell phone cameras were banned at gym.

This was also published on Open Salon under Snarkychaser