There’s a Bunch of New Members at the Gym in January. And You Will Deal.

Any person in a space for the first time, particularly a space that they are paying to occupy, deserves better than insults based on someone else’s ego and entitlement.
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January 8, 2015
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Sometimes it’s difficult to sufficiently express my disgust with something without explicitly repeating, describing, or sharing the thing that disgusted me in the first place. This is a frequent quandary, as I don’t like to disseminate hurtful words or images without significant cause or purpose.

It is with this in mind that I simply ask you to trust me when I say that I just heard an asshole at the gym say some incredibly offensive things about a woman who was arriving there for the first time. We were checking in simultaneously and the woman had been ahead of him, cheerfully announcing that she was freshly signed up for her new membership. After she walked away, he proceeded to disparage her weight, gender, outfit, you name it.

This dingbat felt that because she’s a new member, it’s the first week in January, and it seems he feels her weight is not low enough for his liking, he could pass judgment and estimate a date upon which she may end up canceling her membership. He made his remarks in vulgar parlance and through his personal barrier of ignorant shortsightedness, of course, so I’m paraphrasing.

I leaned in and told him that his opinion of her was of no interest to me, but since we were sharing, I detailed my thoughts on his expertise in the area of being a fetid shitbag and told him that the only thing worse than his comments was his conspiratorial tone with which he thought I would agree.

As I walked away from the slack-jawed wastrel, I thought about all of the social media insults I’d seen in the past few days from similarly awful gym rats, as well as the times when I’ve seen other gym regulars like myself be obscenely shady, and I have a few helpful reminders:

You Don’t Own the Gym.

Unless you do, in which case I suppose you are free to allow or deny access/membership as you please. But barring some sort of openly biased country club scenario and speaking generally of people who are using a commercial gym in our capitalist society, they’re not there because they begged or were chosen from on high to be there; they paid money to purchase a membership. So whether it’s day 1 or 1,001, a newbie has as much of a right to be in the gym as a two-a-day. Without insults, eye rolls, and huffing and puffing from the regulars. It’s that simple.

You Don’t Know [My] Life. (Or Anyone Else’s.)

This is a popular exclamation made by an upset party, often an aggressive utterance during the escalation of an altercation between strangers. And it couldn’t be truer in this context. Shit’s about to get real, because I NEED people to stop making judgments about other people’s health based on their weight and physique. I need this to happen when the assumptions are positive as well as when they are negative, and though this happens all over and everywhere, it is especially prevalent and hateful within the confines of a gym.

Many folks aren’t as on top of THEIR OWN health and fitness levels as they could be, so when a stranger thinks s/he can gage another stranger’s fitness based on appearance? To the extent that they would make a comment? GTFO. I hear this type of thing so often, and I am absolutely that killjoy who will say what I’m saying here to some harridan who feels superior because her Lululemons are a smaller size than someone else’s, or because they see muscle tone on someone and assume they’re a pro.

Every body has different biology and a different biography, and — BREAKING NEWS — someone you label “fat” could be in better health than you.

Again, unless we’re talking about a specialized extreme sports facility or competitive training ground, there is not an extreme fitness requirement to embark upon an exercise regimen. Are you another human at this gym I’m in who is also here to use the facilities and is not harming me in any way? Coolio.

Stop making assumptions about other people. Oh, and while we’re at it...

Have Some Compassion.

Don't be that person making assumptions about a new member's motivations, comfort, or abilities. Basic human compassion does not assume that someone is shaking on the inside and scared based on their race, gender, weight, or physique, but it does recognize that any human being in a building for the first time might notice if you’re prancing about like you own the joint and making it clear that you think they don’t belong there.

Any person in a space for the first time, particularly a space that they are paying to occupy, deserves better than insults based on someone else’s ego and entitlement. Perhaps you work out year-round and think New Year’s resolutions are foolish. You are free to not make any. However, the fact is that many other folks do, and a major one is to work out more, so gyms see a membership surge in January. New gym members are not some personal burden for you to bear, they’re human beings. Act accordingly.

BTW, compassion is not condescension. Recognizing the humanity* in all of us doesn’t come with an asterisk like *but she’ll be more human when she loses the weight, or *but I’m more human because I don’t use a wheelchair, or any such nonsense.

There’s a dude at one of the gym locations I frequent most often whose mobility is impaired by a disability that I can’t name because I’ve never asked and he’s never volunteered the specifics. We are very often at the gym at the same times, and we have a nodding/hello relationship. He’s cool with me and I’m cool with him, but I’ve seen him be a bit pissy to others, and I can’t say I blame him. He’s an adult and he should be able to work out without being treated like the star attraction of a telethon by a bunch of busybody strangers. He’s got a routine and he’s there to exercise, and, um, you should be too, so maybe…

Focus on Your Own Workout.

I feel like this is the one where the Angry Insulters will say but that’s the whole point, I can’t even do my workout because there’s all these new [REDACTED] in the way waaahhhhh.

Really? Are you really being prevented from working out? Are you suffering? Or are things maaaaaybe just a bit less comfortable for you?

I’ve been a regular gymgoer for many years, there is absolutely an influx of new members in January, and every year I’m aware of the cycle without wishing ill upon new members or taking to social media to call people horrible names and question their commitment and ask why they’re even trying.

Yes, I have found classes to be more crowded at times. GASP. I might have had to wait a bit to use the weight machine of my choosing. DEAR LORD WHY?! I suppose there may be facilities out there that are more impacted by the January boom than others, but I happen to patronize multiple locations of two different gym chains, and I’ve never seen a crowd actually force another member not to get their workout in. So while I can’t speak for everyone at every gym everywhere, pardon me if I side-eye the purported threat level and question the entitlement level instead.

If you are one of the especially rude dudes who includes in your insults that “they’ll all be gone in a month anyway,” then Huzzah! Less than a month to go before you can use all of the treadmills in the entire facility for 90 seconds each or spread 18 towels out on the locker room floor and roll around in your own private moisturization ritual or whatever else it is you like to do that makes you feel entitled to claim a public space as “yours” and get annoyed that others who have the same rights as you would dare to enter it in amounts of which you do not approve.

What is it that you came to the gym to do? Take a census? Report on usage? Guess how many people there are wearing gym clothes they got for Christmas and judge them by the amount of wear on their sneakers? Or could it be that you’re there to exercise your own damn self? To do your own damned workout and get your own damned results and not comment on others unless for some reason they were to approach you and ask for your comments and/or evaluation of their presence in the gym as it relates to the calendar? Which brings us to…

Mind Your Own Business.

This always an option. In this context, consider not insulting a fellow human taking up space that is most definitely not yours to allocate. Consider minding your business, lifting what you came to lift, squatting what you came to squat, and going on about your day.

And then when you’re strong enough, we’ll see if you can handle kindness.