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Mind your manners at the gym

Beth Morrissey is a freelance writer from Dublin, Ireland who's always on the lookout for stories of interest to hardworking women. Visit Beth online at www.bethmorrissey.com.

Fitness tips on sweatiquette

It's the New Year, you've joined a gym, and you're ready to take control of your health and fitness. Make sure you brush up on your sweatiquette beforehand and your body and fellow gym members will thank you.

Woman lifting weights on towel

Mind your gym manners

Many women find themselves inspired while working out, but even more find it incredibly annoying when others feel the need to share these thoughts. Jeanne Murphy of Basking Ridge, New Jersey, believes that most people bring headphones to the gym for a reason: so that there is no need to converse. And "absolutely no cell phones," she says. "There's very little more annoying than hearing someone's phone ring, then answered, and you get roped into hearing a one-sided conversation."

Chatty Cathy's take note: socializing is best saved for the juice bar, with friends you know want to hear your fitness enthusiasm, deep thoughts or big news.

Handle (Equipment) With Care

While you're quietly working away on the machines, make sure you treat them with care. For Laura Sundberg of Houston, Texas, wiping down the machines is non-negotiable. "I always bring a towel to wipe down the machines, and a separate one for my face," says Sundberg, who remains conscious that she wouldn't want to work out on a slippery, sweaty apparatus left that way by someone else. Similarly, if something is broken, dirty or malfunctioning, certainly report this to the gym management immediately to help everyone get their favorite machines back up and running quickly.

Follow the Gym Rules

Though they may seem arbitrary when a gym is deserted, rules help workouts flow smoothly when the gym is full. Putting weights back in their proper places keeps things organized and safe, stretching in reserved areas helps traffic move freely, and observing the time limits on the machines ensures that everyone has the same chance to use them.

Murphy believes that timing your workout is key to getting on your favorite machines with little wait. "Time your workout carefully," she advises. At her gym, "weekdays are especially busy right after morning school drop off, but quite empty right before school pick up." If you do have some flexibility, ask staff when the gym is least busy and inquire about "off peak" memberships which may allow you to work out during these times for a discounted rate. If not, get your name in early for a machine and move along to something else while you wait. Don't stand around complaining – no one wants to hear it.

Dress The Part

When you're on your way to a heart-pounding, sweat-dripping workout, be sure to dress the part. "Who are these women who wear a face full of makeup and sparkly and/or leopard print leotards circa Olivia Newton John's Let's Get Physical video to work out?" demands Heather Sanger of Raleigh, North Carolina. "It's nuts!" Laura Sundberg agrees that the wrong kind of outfits leads to annoying behaviors. "Women who get dolled up, wear make-up and leisurely work out... it gets like a meat market in there!"

For Kim Sproat Forsythe of Baltimore, Maryland, the workout wardrobe issue goes a little further. "Purchase an adequate sports bra," she begs all female athletes. "Two regular bras does not equal one sports bra. Keep the girls contained!" And speaking of contained, try to keep covered in the locker room as well. "While I understand that some women are more comfortable than others with nudity in the locker room, I do wish that people would understand that not everyone wants to see you drying your hair or putting on makeup while you are naked. These are both things that can done equally as well with your clothes on!" says Andrea Botham of Atlanta, Georgia.

Practice Good Hygiene

Perhaps the only thing more annoying to serious gym users than a fashion show involving lackadaisical workouts is the exact opposite, poor personal hygiene no matter how hard the exercise. "Never forget deodorant," says Sundberg. "No one wants to work out by the stinky girl." And while you're at it, give some extra attention to extremities which may be exposed. Yoga and Pilates classes in particular may require your feet to end up near someone's face, so make sure your tootsies are either clean and dry or covered by socks or slippers before you wave them around.

Use flip-flops in the locker room to help keep germs and bacteria to a minimum, and if you're feeling unwell, then just stay home. Everyone heads to the gym to get healthy, not sick because someone wheezed and sneezed right next to them. 

More ways to practice good sweatiquette

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