Behavior in the Gym: How Loud Is Too Loud?


Since running my first real half marathon, Ive taken a hiatus from blogging while deciding on my next fitness goal. But this morning I read something in the paper that I just had to share.

In high school I worked part-time at a gym. As all fitness club employees do, Im sure, our staff had nicknames for some of the more animated characters that frequented our establishment.

There was the Sweat Sprayer—a woman who flung her sweat-drenched ponytail in every direction while on the StairMaster, bathing those around her in perspiration. There was Casanova, the annoying guy who sidled up to girls lifting weights and tried to pick them up. We named one girl Phoebe, because of her similarity to the Friends stars bizarre running style. And, of course, there was The Grunter.

When The Grunter bench-pressed or lifted barbells, his noises echoed throughout the gyms entire first floor. We all got a good chuckle out of the ruckus, but no one really minded; he even joked about it himself with other members.

There are bound to be some unusual or annoying—and sometimes “inappropriate,” as this popular YouTube satire brings to light—people at the gym, but Ive never heard of people actually getting violent over such behavior. Until this morning, when the New York Times reported on an ongoing trial involving one Christopher Carter.

“The Manhattan district attorneys office says that Mr. Carter, a stockbroker in a spinning class at an Equinox gym on the Upper East Side, had had it with Stuart Sugarman one morning last summer. Mr. Sugarman was pedaling a couple of bikes away—and grunting, groaning and shouting.

“Mr. Carter walked over and upended Mr. Sugarmans exercise bicycle, with him still on it, Mr. Sugarman said. He spent two weeks in a hospital and said he has had chronic neck and back pain ever since. Mr. Sugarman, 49, has said that he can no longer go golfing or hiking—or spinning.

“Mr. Carter, 45, is now on trial in Manhattan Criminal Court. He could face up to a year in prison if convicted on an assault charge, a misdemeanor.”

Though we don't know what really happened—or just how obnoxious Mr. Sugarman actually was—the whole story seems quite ridiculous. I did a quick poll around the office, and asked staffers what kind of gym behavior might send them over the edge. Here are a few of our biggest complaints.

  • Noncompliance in class. "People who come to a group class, announce that they have back pain, and get the instructor to adapt the entire class to their shortcomings."
  • When someone sets up a long, complicated weight rotation, essentially assuming possession of multiple machines/stations while others or waiting. Or, "Someone spending 30 minutes on a machine, 20 minutes of which is spent staring into space."
  • Loud singing, talking, or cell phones! "The worst one was the two women next to me on the treadmill discussed a friends long, complicated and very painful birth for the first 20 minutes I was running, and then for the last 15 minutes, girl #2 pulled out her cell phone and called friend in hospital and discussed hideous after-effects of tears, etc."
  • Those who change channels on the overhead, communal televisions while others are obviously watching what's already on. "Thanks, but I could really do without Rock of Love."
  • Too-tight clothing (on male or female). "I see women who try to wear spandex from 1983 when they weighed 20 pounds less and men who should retire those college T-shirts that show off their rapidly growing beer gut."
  • Spitters (while running outdoors). "A guy in Central Park almost hit me yesterday with a giant wad of saliva. Ew!"

What do you think: What horror stories have you witnessed in the pool, the locker room, or at the weight machines? Whats considered acceptable and unacceptable at the gym? And how do you deal with it?