Gym etiquette
October 26, 2018 11:24 AM   Subscribe

I have a consistent problem with zombies that I'd like to solve or at least approach better.

I go to a "big box" gym in my small town that is between work and home. It's a, well, big gym with plenty of cardio machines, a big free-weight section, a big weight-machine section, lot of other room. I think it used to be a Staples -- it's that big of a space.

Despite the amount of space and equipment, I am consistently coming across people sitting ("resting", phone-using, TV-watching, meditating, etc.) on machines that I want to use. Like maybe half of the weight machines have a person sitting on them, idle.

My questions are:

1. Is it accepted gym etiquette, that one can sit on a machine for many minutes without using it, or using it only very, very sporadically (like 1 set every several minutes)?

2. Is there an expectation that when someone asks to work in, that the sitter should in fact move? Or is making this request rude?

When I have asked to work in, there seems to be a lot of resistance. Most often, people don't seem to understand what I'm asking, and ask me to repeat myself. Often the previously motionless person is now in need to do a set with me as audience, before allowing me to use it. Sometimes this is accompanied by glares.

There aren't a lot of options here, or else I'd have bailed already. I've been going to various gyms for well over 20 years. This has varied a lot across gyms; generally, in smaller gyms it seems like people are more aware of others. The one place it wasn't ever a problem was a fancy women's-only gym in a bigger city (I am a woman, and the sitters are 80% men, and the resistance is 100% male). But it wasn't this much of a problem even in the Harvard Law School gym.

I'm sure I could use a nicer "tone" (and smile more, and be prettier, and skinnier, and more generally worthwhile of their time or of using the machine, but I digress) but it seems to me that the rudeness is on their part to start with, by sitting on a machine in a gym full of gym-using people. I feel like when I say "Can I work in here?" (exactly that, simple) I should not get the resistance that I do -- almost never do I get cooperation. But maybe my expectations are upside down?

If I am correct, how can I approach this differently, short of a) not going to the gym, or b) arranging my entire workout around sitting people?
posted by Dashy to Health & Fitness (44 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I would say "are you using this machine?"
posted by phunniemee at 11:30 AM on October 26, 2018 [53 favorites]

I agree with phunniemee. I wouldn't know what "Can I work in here?" means.
posted by Faint of Butt at 11:33 AM on October 26, 2018 [21 favorites]

I'm sure that some of these folks are truly just rude jerks, who will behave this way regardless of how you approach them, but I wonder if there is also some amount of confusion when you ask to work in about what exactly you mean. Maybe try: "Excuse me, are you still using this machine?"
posted by wuzandfuzz at 11:34 AM on October 26, 2018 [13 favorites]

You might try different phrasing in case they're not familiar with "work in." (And given their general gym etiquette , I would say they probably wouldn't be.) And yes, staying put on equipment you're not currently using is bad gym etiquette.

Maybe something more like "Could I do a set on/take a turn with this thing?" or "this is the only X not in use, could I have a turn?"

This is also something that should probably be included in the introduction the big box gym is doing with new members, with some refresher signs and that sort of thing. It would be worth bringing up with the staff.
posted by asperity at 11:36 AM on October 26, 2018 [12 favorites]

The rests between sets can be as long as 3-5 minutes, and it's usual to hang around in the vicinity of the equipment to prevent other people taking your weights or changing the settings. So someone sitting on a bench not obviously using it is not necessarily being rude.

But asking to work in is not a rude request. Them doing a set right away is not necessarily surprising or a huffy response.

Someone else working in does throw off their rhythm if they're actually using the equipment, so I avoid it by reordering my workout where possible.

It does sound like the people at your gym kind of suck though, which is probably an artifact of the kind of gym it is. There are definitely people who camp out and space out on equipment. Phones have made this problem way worse, and it may be particularly bad at big box gyms. Asking to "work in" is a term of art that may also be unfamiliar at a big box gym, and may be part of the cause of the flustered-then-irritated response. I like "are you using this machine?" if you suspect they're not actually using it or "can I use this while you rest?" if they are.
posted by caek at 11:36 AM on October 26, 2018 [16 favorites]

Response by poster: Don't want to threadsit, but "Can I work in" actually evolved from, previously, "Are you using this machine" which always got either a) "are you stupid?" looks, b) "Yes.", or c) nothing at all, and thus required its own clarifying request that I would actually like to use it too.
posted by Dashy at 11:37 AM on October 26, 2018 [8 favorites]

1. I don't know about accepted, and it depends on the machine, but I sometimes need a few minutes rest between heavy leg press sets or something. Now when I take 3 minutes rest because I was entering my reps on my phone and got distracted on the internet, I know that's not cool and I try to avoid it! However, many people are not that concerned/not aware of gym etiquette.

2. It is definitely not rude to ask, but I (a woman) have also experienced similar push back.

One slight change to your approach that might help is rather than first asking if you can work in (which is not necessarily a known expression if they aren't a regular gym-goer), start with asking how many sets they have left. Then depending on their answer I can do one of two things:

If they say something like "just one more/just a couple more", I'll go get water/try a different machine/stretch/etc. If they say anything more than 2 (or if they say they don't know/aren't sure), then I ask "do you mind if I use the machine while you're in between sets?" (Again, "work in" can sometimes confuse people - I had similar experiences with people needing me to explain it so now I avoid the phrase altogether).

Most people don't say no to that, although some might, but at least then I tried. Regardless of the outcome, I find also that just asking how many sets they have left usually speeds people up/reminds them that others are waiting on a machine, so even if I can't work in, it at least gets them out of their reverie and moving a little faster.

I will say that if there's a particular machine hog who doesn't share and you see them a lot, it may be worth talking to gym management about enforcing machine sharing, since it's sometimes a policy of the gym.

On preview: asking if they're still using it will help if you've seen someone sitting there for 10 minutes without moving, but if they really are still using it (or want to claim that they are), it doesn't lead you easily into getting to work in, which is why I prefer to ask about reps. If you still have confusion when asking that (maybe your gym has a lot of people new to working out?), you could try "how much longer will you be using this machine?"
posted by jouir at 11:38 AM on October 26, 2018 [22 favorites]

"Can I work in here?"

Maybe try... "Hey, can I use this machine?" The "Are you using this machine?" question might have felt hostile to some sensitive folks because it forced them to acknowledge they weren't using it. "Can I use this?" gives them a chance to say yes, to give a positive answer.

On preview, I like, "Are you almost done with this machine?" It suggests you want to use it without asking them to get off, directly.

(I agree that there are likely gender dynamics at play, and I agree you shouldn't have to add a pretty, perky smile to your request.)
posted by bluedaisy at 11:43 AM on October 26, 2018 [11 favorites]

I only tangentially use a gym but I've seen announcements/signs from gym owners specifically telling people not to sit on the gym equipment using their phone and not using the equipment. Maybe complain to staff that people are doing this (I mean like a general "this happens a lot" rather than "that guy over there is doing it").
posted by EndsOfInvention at 11:45 AM on October 26, 2018 [11 favorites]

My gym is small and busy and when it comes to sharing weight machines, it's quite common to ask to work-in (take turns doing a set) and it would be rude to refuse that request.

I usually start by asking someone, "how many more sets do you have?" and if it's just one, then I'll wait. If they have multiple sets to do, then I ask, "Can I work-in?" I have never had someone say no. If you don't want to use the term "work-in" just ask to take turns doing a set, "Can we alternate/take-turns doing a set?" And if you get guff, go to management and let them know they need to do a better job posting etiquette rules. There should be no awkwardness about making that sort of ask.
posted by brookeb at 11:45 AM on October 26, 2018 [6 favorites]

One set every several minutes is not "very, very sporadically." It's not unreasonable to take 5 minutes or more between sets. And it's also reasonable that roughly half of the equipment is occupied, because the rest time is generally equal to or longer than the work time for a set. And if it's a barbell, it's reasonable for the same person to occupy the equipment the entire time, because it takes time to rack weights.

But for machines where you're just moving a pin, that's not an issue, and any reasonable person should be willing to let you work in if they are taking more than a couple of minutes between sets. But it's also reasonable for someone to refuse to let you work in if they planned to start a new set in 30 seconds.

I'd try, "Are you done with the machine, or are you just about to start a new set?" If they are done, they should get up. If they are about to start a new set, you should wait, but you can ask to work in after they finish the next set. If they volunteer that they have X more sets, you can then ask, "Can I work in between your sets?"

In defense of sitting, in a big gym it may be hard to know if someone's waiting for a particular piece of equipment. And in defense of glaring... uhh...nope, some people are just jerks.
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 11:46 AM on October 26, 2018 [6 favorites]

I deal with this by just avoiding that machine and doing another exercise until they are finished, but a.) my gym is small and not very busy, making this easy and b.) I have zero desire, as a woman, to attract the pumped-up attention of some bemuscled male whiling away time between sets on the leg press machine or whatever. I understand that this isn't a very practical answer. If I absolutely had to use that machine right then, I might ask something like, "are you still using this machine?" and sort of keep a distance while asking.
posted by Armed Only With Hubris at 12:31 PM on October 26, 2018

Yeah it sounds to me like the breaks are pretty normal length (for free weights, anyhow). Is this something that takes more than a few moments to fix to change between users? It's usually a reasonable ask if you can do the changes fast and the timing works out. "How many sets do you have left?" and then "Ok, can I work in/use it while you're between sets?" is fair. And yeah your question might prod some of them to realise "oh I am ready for my next set now".

You can certainly ask management about rules re working in. And I am 100% sure that the gender dynamics are causing this. You're not being rude, you're asking something reasonable and polite people would say yes, but gyms accumulate bro-y jerks who are sexist without consistent effort from management.
posted by jeather at 12:44 PM on October 26, 2018 [3 favorites]

You are behaving correctly and shouldn't have to do this, but if the free weight area is less crowded can you use that for exercises that convert easily? Figure out if there's other equipment that can meet your goals. I hate waiting so I have a bunch of, say, shoulder exercises and pick from the list based on what's free.

I would also speak to management about reinforcing sharing - my gym has signs over the water fountains.
posted by momus_window at 12:45 PM on October 26, 2018 [1 favorite]

Gym men are awful in my experience. I don't know if it's that they're feeling all pumped up and HRRRGGGGG or that they resent women being in there at all, but... yeah, unfortunately, as a matter of self-protection, kid gloves are in order.

I think "hi, are you almost done here?" strikes the best note between "I'd like to use it when you're done please" and "gtfo." You shouldn't have to be the one with the kid gloves if they're sitting there on their phone - they're the ones in breach - but there it is.

(The last time I complained to a manager about something at the gym, his forehead vein pulsed and he got so fighty with me it took all my flirting to calm him down. I literally had to giggle and touch his arm. It was... not great. And the junior front desk staff are useless.)
posted by fingersandtoes at 12:53 PM on October 26, 2018 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: To clarify, I am only talking about people sitting on machines where the only adjustment is a pin and maybe a seat height; not barbells or leg press or other free weights, which do take longer to swap a setup.

I understand about break length -- I take them too, just not sitting on the machine.

I think there just isn't a perfect way to pose the question (basically because people sitting are seeking to avoid it)(and this is eliding over the expectation that the asker must ask perfectly nicely with a smile and a cherry on top) but it does help to know that my expectations aren't out of line. Thanks for your answers.
posted by Dashy at 12:55 PM on October 26, 2018 [9 favorites]

you dont really want to pose a question though - you are asserting (rightfully) your equal claim to use the equipment while they are not even using it.

im a man but id like to think more sensitive than most to gender and power dynamics, and i dont think theres an easy or good solution to your problem - doing something else is letting them win, but any other option will, apparently, require confrontation. in your case id go with being entirely direct and just force them into acknowledging you are in the right or being outright rude and probably breaking the gyms code of conduct (which i'd wager includes behaving in a professional and courteous manner to other patrons). My confidence in enacting such a plan might be affected by whether or not it seemed like any gym employees/management were willing to acknowledge that this was an issue among patrons or not. would they be willing to put up (passive aggressive) signs to "remind" asshole users? its probably worth swinging by the front desk just to get a feel for how they'd react.

The progression of directness:

"Are you using that machine?" - > "Can I work in?" -> "I would like to use that machine while you are resting between sets."
posted by Exceptional_Hubris at 1:06 PM on October 26, 2018 [1 favorite]

Yeah I killed time looking at my phone today while a guy also killed time looking at his phone sitting at the lat pulldown machine I wanted to use (and had been recently using, but got up between sets to cede to others!) and I really feel you on this.

In the end I just waited him out but I was considering "Mind if I do another set while you rest?" to be as clear as possible but not too confrontational.

Fortunately this doesn't happen too much because mostly I do free weight stuff and the machines where you sit definitely attract the worst offenders. (In my experience gym dudes are actually quite polite about checking to see if I'm done or asking how much longer I have; possibly the free weight/barbell stuff is generally populated by people more attuned to gym etiquette?)
posted by little cow make small moo at 1:09 PM on October 26, 2018 [3 favorites]

When I have asked to work in, there seems to be a lot of resistance. Most often, people don't seem to understand what I'm asking, and ask me to repeat myself.

"Can I work in here?"

I'm not a gym jerk, so everyone's advice above about the actual equipment-use thing is likely to be apt, but if you said these words to me, I'd be confused. I've never heard the phrase "work in," though obviously some others here have, so I suspect it's either a regionalism or a gym-ism that doesn't appear everywhere. (I'm guessing you accent the preposition?)

This is like the increasing use of the term to "call out (sick)" instead of "call in (sick)" -- outside of calling someone out for bad behavior, I was flummoxed when someone said, "I called out today." "Can I work in here" only makes sense to me if someone's pointing to an empty office and asks the office manager, "Hey, this is empty. Can I work in here?" But if you said "tag in," I'd understand.

So, they may be so confused by what you're saying and feel awkward about asking you, so they think, "Well, maybe Dashy wants me to hurry up, so I'll do that and it won't be obvious I didn't understand." Me? I'd say, "Dashy, I don't understand the words you're using. Will you say it differently so I understand?" But I'm weird and lived in an international dorm for 4 years and am constantly translating between people who ostensibly speak the same language, even decades later.

Again, jerks will be jerks, but since you said "Most often, people don't seem to understand and ask me to repeat myself," I think the problem is, at least when they *don't seem to understand* it's that they don't understand, gym jerkiness or otherwise.
posted by The Wrong Kind of Cheese at 1:35 PM on October 26, 2018 [6 favorites]

I only tangentially use a gym but I've seen announcements/signs from gym owners specifically telling people not to sit on the gym equipment using their phone and not using the equipment. Maybe complain to staff that people are doing this (I mean like a general "this happens a lot" rather than "that guy over there is doing it").

Please don't do this. I have a routine with 3 minute rests that are timed on my phone. I browse Instagram and metafilter while the timer counts down. As soon as it dings, I do another set. Don't make assumptions about routines. Gut up and ask, or be flexible. It's a community use situation.

Fwiw, I, female, have had just as much problem with women doing circuit training and trying to "claim" three stations at once as I have with guys camping out during sets. The women leave their bags on a bench press/etc and go elsewhere. In my experience any gender here is an equal opportunity offender, and I have more hostility towards men than anyone else I think I've ever met. I suspect, if you want to gender this, that you never had problems at your women's gym because women are less likely to lift heavy and take those 3 minute rest breaks between sets, or they're more likely to chat rather than look at their phones or TV during breaks and thus register as "busier" to you. Women are also taught to give way to requests more easily and as you mentioned the gym was "fancy" I'm going to go guess that was a factor. In my experience gyms are "nicer" when you go up or down in class. The absolute worst ones are middle class.

You asked about etiquette. It is good etiquette to allow people to work in if they ask (and good etiquette to ask), but people are dumb. It's also good etiquette to wipe a bench when you leave it and no one does that either.

But please do not be that asshole who assumes someone looking at their phone during a rest break isn't timing it or paying attention. The suggestion to tattle is a bad one in my opinion.

You're looking for a magic solution that will make your time irritation-free. There isn't one. Keep asking to do a set during another person's rest breaks, learn to be flexible with the order of your routine (I struggle with this), find a less popular time to go, figure out an at-home routine, or yes, tattle. But i think that will cause your more grief.

I would caution against interpreting non-compliance or tone as "I'm not skinny or pretty enough." That's self-sabotaging and not useful. You are right however in that tone makes a difference. But you're free to use any tone you want when you ask and you're also free to wait when they don't like your tone. It annoys me too that people seem to need "stroking" as I see it, but I am also aware that everyone, including people here need it, and I am never going to change the nature of the beast.

Your gym sounds over-subscribed. That sucks and I feel for you. I know in a small town you may be limited. Have you thought about clubbing together either some people and making a garage gym? Most small towns also have a YMCA and their attendees have been good about work-ins in my experience.
posted by liminal_shadows at 1:37 PM on October 26, 2018 [7 favorites]

Maybe if you spoke to management they would put up signs/remind people to either work or move.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 1:48 PM on October 26, 2018

Yes to both of your questions.

1) People should have awareness when there's demand for machines and not "take ownership" when using one, but I think a lot of people are timing their next set in a couple minutes so why stand up unless someone asks?

2) They should let you work in and it's definitely not rude to ask. I'm not a hardcore gym user and haven't heard the phrase, but I'd understand what you meant by "working in" given the context and I think most others would too. If it's not feasible to just rearrange my routine, I usually ask something like "Since it's kind of busy now, could we share this? I'll switch it back to your setting after I do mine". I'm male though and I know there's a different dynamic at play. I can easily imagine a lot of dudes being jerks about it if you ask.
posted by theory at 1:49 PM on October 26, 2018

I don't see going to the staff as tattling. You are paying for a service that you are not able to use because other people are staring at their phone. (And the fact that there is resistance and glares and a performative last set makes me think they are not waiting for a between-set timer countdown, either.) You've tried to address this on an individual level and have gotten enough resistance that you are asking a group of internet strangers what to do. Individual level strategies aren't cutting it; you gotta get cultural change here, from an authority these jerks will respect.

If there are certain machines that are really popular, the staff needs to know that, either to allocate resources appropriately (buy more machines!) or to implement a shared "calendar" for the machine. At my college gym, the ellipticals were restricted to 20 minutes; in order to use them you had to sign in and out. I don't think they actually came and kicked people off, but the sign-in sheet was a good reminder to people that this was a shared resource.
posted by basalganglia at 1:52 PM on October 26, 2018 [9 favorites]

Typically I start by saying, "How many sets do you have left?" If someone is truly just using a machine as their web browsing station, they usually sheepishly get up immediately. If they say "Just one," then cool, I can wait. If they say more than one, then I respond with "Do you mind if I work in?" or "Do you mind if we alternate?" or "Do you mind if I do a set while you're resting?" I use a little bit of prejudice here -- people who seem like they know what they're doing and/or are familiar with gym culture get the lingo "work in," other people I try to be more explicit with. It sounds like maybe at this gym you should ditch the phrase "work in" entirely.

Often the previously motionless person is now in need to do a set with me as audience, before allowing me to use it.

This is because they had one set left and they probably wanted to rest a little longer but they're also trying to be a good sport and hurry up and let you use the machine. I've done it many times. I'm sorry you feel like people are glaring at you while it happens.
posted by telegraph at 1:58 PM on October 26, 2018 [10 favorites]

Yeah, I think the problem is less "people are being a zombie on a machine" and more "your gym does not have enough machines."

I also nth "How many sets do you have left?"
posted by corb at 1:59 PM on October 26, 2018

You are not alone! My gym is very small, without a lot of machines or weight stations, but in the 34 years I've been going I've noticed that gym etiquette has fallen pretty much by the wayside. My trainer agrees.
posted by jgirl at 2:07 PM on October 26, 2018

Northern California: "can I work in?" is gym-specific language but all the gym regulars I know here would understand it. It's a minor imposition, but is an expected part of sharing a space. People giving stink-eye for it are just being jerks.
posted by agentofselection at 3:34 PM on October 26, 2018 [7 favorites]

If people are sitting on the machines and using their phones, not the machine, then you are probably in a shitty, shitty gym full of people who seem to misunderstand the purpose of a gym. I would quit and tell the retention officer that you left because "people seem to come here to fuck around on their phones, not lift, and that is not compatible with my goals, and I fear their laziness may be contagious.. Is there a spell of mononucleosis going around your facility? THat seems unsafe to me. Also I would like a refund for the time I lost waiting for these people to realize they are in a gym and not in their car driving or at a starbucks, kthxby"

Every time someone asked me if they could work in, I said, YES - whether I was a member or an out-of-towner visiting a gym for one night only. I'd say: "We can alternate sets, or you can just wait till i'm done my (x number) sets that I have left."

One guy asked me if he could use my barbell for deadlifts while I was resting. (my rest was 90 seconds) you know what I said?? "GO FOR IT!!! Just don't hurt yourself"

And I'm kind of a dick. so if I would let you in... well what does that say about those who would not?
posted by some loser at 4:02 PM on October 26, 2018 [3 favorites]

I see people in this very thread indicating that they rest for long intervals between sets WHILE SITTING ON THE EQUIPMENT. What's up with that? Don't do that! Everywhere i go and everywhere i've ever been this is bad gym etiquette. I was always taught, especially in a busy gym, that when you're not actually doing a set you move off the apparatus, and, frankly, that's the only thing that makes polite sense. Sure, you can stand nearby, look at your phone all you want, look at yourself in the mirror, adjust your athleisure, but squatting on a piece of gym equipment for more than ten minutes over, say, three sets comprised of 3 minutes of exertion and 9 minutes of resting is, in my view, not cool and is not a fair way to share the space. Exceptions to this rule: if you're doing 900 pound leg presses and someone wants to take eight plates off to do 50 pound leg presses between your set, etc. Otherwise, in the ordinary course, all this stuff is quickly varied as to weight and positioning and can be returned to your bespoke liking even before your rest period ends, like nothing ever happened. C'mon people!
posted by clownschool at 5:11 PM on October 26, 2018 [14 favorites]

I'm not sure there's an established set of rules about this. The problem may be different people acting on different assumptions of what's polite.

At my gym there are 4 cage/rack things. If one is free I grab it and stay in it until my routine is over. I only rest 2 minutes between reps and am only in there for a total of like 40 minutes. I am on my phone during breaks for sure. If I walk away someone else will take over and not let me back in. This seems to be how everyone acts about them. I don't know, it seems like a working system to me?
posted by latkes at 5:14 PM on October 26, 2018 [1 favorite]

I sympathize with the idea that the bad etiquette of others makes you feel like if you let someone in they won't let you back in, but polite society depends on having faith in your fellow gymgoer and not being an anticipatory part of the problem whereby you engage in behavior you know is wrong to avoid having others inflict wrong behavior on you! This is not a race to the bottom people! These exclamation points are only half in jest!
posted by clownschool at 5:43 PM on October 26, 2018 [1 favorite]

Some people are just jerks though - there is one gym I left because I could just never use the machines, guys used to sit on the same machine, doing no reps, for the whole 2hrs I was in there. Reading a newspaper, getting arsey if you asked them to move (it became clear from their occasional trips to the lockers with other gym-users that they were actually camped out there all day dealing).
posted by tinkletown at 5:46 PM on October 26, 2018

I have never heard the expression "work in" to describe using a machine to work out in my life. If someone said, "Can I work in here?" my response would 100% be "I'm sorry, what?" I imagine people literally do not know what you are asking. I also suspect they believe you are asking to take over the machine. Why not say something clearer, like, "Hey, you mind if I do a quick set while you wait between your sets?"

However, if I were sitting on a machine for two minutes or whatever in between sets, I would be irritated if someone asked to use the machine rather than just wait until I am finished, personally, especially if other machines were open that the person could use in the meantime while they wait for my machine. How full is the gym when you are doing this?
posted by AppleTurnover at 5:57 PM on October 26, 2018 [1 favorite]

The way I handle this when I’m not sure if they’re actually using the gear is to say, “Hi, I’d like to use this (bench/rack/equipment.)” They either clear out or let me know what their plan is. I’ll sometimes suggest a time estimate for clarity (“ok, you’ll be done in about ten minutes?”) It’s not a big deal.
posted by Sublimity at 6:30 PM on October 26, 2018 [1 favorite]

Folks claiming to not understand "Can I work in?" seem to have never been in a gym. It's not a secret gym hardcore folk lore phrase; pretty standard for asking if you can alternate sets with someone resting, since the sets tend to take less time by far than the recommended rest time. Maybe "do you think I can work in a set as you rest? how many sets do you have left" is more explicit but you aren't doing anything wrong; people suck ass and most people hate women, women included. They are dumb, you are cool, please don't change yourself.
posted by love2potato at 6:51 PM on October 26, 2018 [6 favorites]

Pretty much it is on them. And if they don't do it, it is a tax on you going there. It is why I have a bench and dumbells 15lbs-50lbs at home. Nobody bugs me.
posted by Ironmouth at 7:08 PM on October 26, 2018

>Folks claiming to not understand "Can I work in?" seem to have never been in a gym.

I've been a member of various gyms over the course of many years. Blanket statements about the other posters in this thread are neither fair nor productive.
posted by AppleTurnover at 7:20 PM on October 26, 2018 [5 favorites]

I'm confused: I don't use the pulley machines, but in the rack in doing my whole routine using that rack, and only have 2 minute breaks between reps. I'm using the thing the whole time with only 2 minute breaks. So I stay in place during those breaks. Everyone seems to use them this way. This seems normal to me. I don't step off and share the elliptical partway through my workout!
posted by latkes at 7:34 PM on October 26, 2018

This is very gym specific, I think. At my gym, there are multiples of nearly every machine, lots of free weights and racks, and it is sparsely populated enough that I've only ever seen all of one thing in use a few times (occasionally, like, both leg presses are busy for ten minutes or so). People do sit at the machines on their phones during rest, but it doesn't really matter.

Maybe you could find a different gym? It sounds like this one doesn't work for your needs. I wouldn't be happy at your gym either fwiw.
posted by sockermom at 8:08 PM on October 26, 2018

  1. I usually start a set every other minute, but it depends on how heavy you lift. I know a guy who squats 4 plates who rests like five minutes between sets. So playing with your telephone for a couple minutes at a time seems within the normal range.
  2. At least in my gym the expectation is that if I can get my sets in without delaying yours, you don't have much excuse not to share the equipment. Exceptions would be, e.g., there are already other people sharing this bar, or our exercises are so different it'd be a pain to change between sets (e.g., 30 kg upright press vs 180kg deadlift).
I know the phrase "work in," but I agree that it's not universally known. I often say, "May I share the bar?"

The whole "let me do a set first" thing also seems reasonable to me. Suppose I was going to start my next set in thirty seconds. I'd probably rather do it thirty seconds early than a minute and a half late. Meanwhile, if you're between exercises, waiting thirty seconds for me to do my set doesn't sound like that much of an imposition, especially if it gets you exclusive use that much sooner.
posted by meaty shoe puppet at 9:08 PM on October 26, 2018

5 minutes?? asked my SO if he thought 5 is a necessary wait time between sets and just got a big grin - we, nor his marine or physio buddies wait that long between sets. Some days you're lazy and take a longer break, but you don't hog a machine forever - that's just basic gym etiquette. also find it interesting that cell phones are allowed in your gym! is this a U.S. thing? I haven't been to one where you're allowed to bring them.

its actually because of busy days i've just sort of transitioned to compound exercises and free weights. but if you see someone chilling on a machine, ask in a friendly, upbeat tone if you guys can alternate - i've rarely had a 'no!' from anyone.

is it possible for you to go at a different time and avoid the busiest time there?
posted by speakeasy at 12:58 AM on October 27, 2018

I would caution against interpreting non-compliance or tone as "I'm not skinny or pretty enough." That's self-sabotaging and not useful.

Recognizing when other people are treating you poorly because they are biased against women and particularly fat women can, in face, be useful. It helps you develop the necessary sense of 'fuck you and the horse you rode in on' to make your request that they stop sitting on the goddamned machine reading Facebook forceful enough that they actually do. If you approach that kind of asshole with too much deference you will never get what you want.
posted by jacquilynne at 9:02 AM on October 27, 2018 [4 favorites]

You are absolutely entitled to ask and they are being jerks if they treat this like an unreasonable request. There are definitely a few legitimate reasons to say "no," like if they're doing intervals with a strict time interval, but then they should tell you something like "I'm on a timer/I'm about to start my next set but I only have X more sets and you can have it right after."

Also just to nth this sentiment, if you are occupying a weight rack for forty consecutive minutes without allowing anyone else to work in with you, re-examine your life choices. It is not that hard to change what plates are on a bar after your set, particularly with another person helping. My feeling is that people who aren't prepared to make such a bare minimum of effort to be a good gym citizen are welcome to work out at home.
posted by en forme de poire at 3:04 PM on October 27, 2018 [1 favorite]

Wow, the variety of viewpoints in this thread is ... unexpected. I always thought "work in" was pretty standard.

To respond to your questions:
1) I will absolutely sit and rest on the cable row/lat pulldown/leg press between sets. That's the culture at my gym, though. I honestly don't know where else I would go to rest. If I get up someone else will take the machine... and then they'll sit on it during their rests.

2) Because the culture in my gym is to rest on the machine, I have never seen asking to work in as rude. The go-to questions for everyone in my gym seems to be "How many sets do you have left?" or "How much longer do you need this for?" I've offered to let others work in between my sets but this is declined about 90% of the time. Most people just re-order their workout. (Including me!)
posted by invokeuse at 5:07 PM on October 27, 2018 [2 favorites]

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