The Cave

The Cave Blog

Gym Etiquette

Recently, we’ve moved some equipment around and as we continue to expand and bring in new people, it’s easy for little things to get missed.  This is just a reminder of friendly practices before, during and after your workout.

We use different tools, but it's the same idea.  Don't let our gym look like this!

We use different tools, but it's the same idea. Don't let our gym look like this!

Keeping things organized.  Some days, we have CrossFit classes back-to-back for six hours.  It’s a pain in the butt for later classes to get set up if the earlier classes don’t put their stuff away properly.  This includes stacking the bumper plates neatly in their correct places (written on the wall), keeping the kettlebells organized, and stacking the dumbbells in an orderly manner on the shelf (written on the shelf).  Also, if you’re going to use a weight to anchor your pet, please put the weight back before you leave.  And finally, if you have to record your numbers on the floor with chalk, please wipe up after yourself when you’re done.

Starting on time.  Most people know that if you show up late, you have to wear the weight vest for the warm-up.  This is just a fun reminder that if you’re late, you’re inconveniencing everybody else in the class.  If you show up early, feel free to work on individual mobility or skill work, but please don’t start the warm-up until the class actually starts.  Otherwise, you’ll finish before everybody else and have nothing to do until the skill work starts.

Use the Chalk Bucket Correctly.  Nobody likes inhaling half a pound of chalk dust when they’re gasping for air during a workout.  So, please apply the chalk, then clap your hands inside the bucket.  Also, it’s very helpful if you avoid knocking the chalk bucket to the ground.

Encourage Your Classmates. Most of you are pretty good about this.  If you finish early, it’s polite to cheer on the people who are still working– even if you’re cheering between gasps.  You can also feel free to encourage others while you’re working.

Edit: I forgot to add this before, but it’s along the same lines as everything else: Use the Heaviest Weights Available.  I don’t mean, try to go as prescribed, I mean be as efficient with the bumper plates as you can be, especially if it’s a big class.  You can make 100kg by putting eight 10kg plates on a 20kg bar, but if there’s anybody weaker than you in the class they’re going to have a tough time scaling because you’re using all the lighter plates.  Be courteous to the classmates who might not be as strong as you by reserving the lighter plates and bars for them.  Again, not a big deal if there’s only one or two people in the class, but I’ve seen a few issues with this in those busy Saturday morning classes.

Just remember: this isn’t big box gym, it’s a community.

14 Responses to “Gym Etiquette”

  1. Patricia says:

    What is going on here? I completely agree with putting stuff away, as I am often cleaning up after other classes. HOWEVER… There are certain boundaries that should not be crossed…

    The weight vest - It is disrespectful of your clients who live busy lives to punish them and to treat the offense as some kind of moral issue. ?? Preserve the weight vest for someone who routinely “disrupts” classes, Period. Stop playing some holier than now role - it’s insulting to your paying clients. And you Nick for one are being a hypocrite on this point because you yourself don’t believe in this rule and have argued against it.

    Now telling people to encourage their classmates? Come on? This is something that should come from one’s own personal inspiration that is usually a reflection of the environment. You can’t “tell” people to do this. Set the example - BE the change you want to see happen, as opposed to preaching it.

  2. Matt Mihaly says:

    I actually wrote a really long post about the vest yesterday, but apparently forgot to hit submit comment. It’s just aimed at the gym in general, not Nick. Just posting it here because Nick’s post brought it up. Here’s the summary of what I meant to write yesterday.

    * Being late isn’t disruptive to class. I arrived 25 minutes late once last week, did my warmup, and then did the workout with everybody else. Not ideal (I thought it was Wed when it was Thur, so was half hour off for a 4:30 pm class) as I missed the skill work, but did it disrupt anyone else? No. Everybody got their warmup, skill work, and workout in. I often watch people who come in late finish the warmup before people who were there, in fact. How is that disruptive?

    * I really don’t like the implications that the fairly arbitrary ‘rules’ around the vest bring up. Moral judgments of fault, basically. For instance, I’ve heard instructors say that when someone is late but was being driven, that’s ok, because it’s not the person’s fault. And yet, when there’s bad traffic, that’s apparently our fault. Or when someone’s taking a business phone call in the parking lot and is late as a result - also our fault. But if you txt or email or call 2 minutes before class starts to let the instructor know you’ll be late, it’s no longer your fault, or it’s no longer disruptive or something, since the vest is then not required. None of it makes sense, and I really dislike feeling like someone is judging me for WHY I’m late.

    * There is zero consistency in enforcement, to the point that making someone wear the vest is completely arbitrary, therefore making it even more unacceptable . Myself and another regular who is usually at different classes than me tracked the enforcement of the vest from the end of June to the beginning of August. 22 people were late (sometimes including me), which spans all instructors at the gym. Three times people wore a vest, and too is spread across 3 instructors.

    * The vest is bad for us and works against us getting in better shape. I know my fiance only joined Crossfit once she quit her job, because, in her words, “I don’t need my gym putting obstacles in the way of me working out.” She didn’t want to worry about being late because she was doing something more important - working - or because there was traffic coming back from the city. Reasonable feeling? Completely, I’d suggest.

    Similarly, when things were going poorly at my last company, I had month on month of stressed-out horribleness. Crossfit was the only part of my day I looked forward to, but there were multiple occasions where I didn’t go because I’d leave work, hit traffic and worry that I’d be late. The absolute last thing I needed was someone [working at the gym I am paying $200/month to] telling me that it’s my fault that I’m late and thus I must be punished like I’m 8 years old.

    So anyway, ditch the idea of the vest please. I don’t know how many people it bugs, but it’s more than 3. If someone is -actually- being disruptive, say something privately to them.

  3. karen says:

    I thought Ellen was the only one who wore it.

  4. debbie says:

    Maybe I”m an idiot, but when I’m late, I just go and put on the weight vest.

  5. Bill N. says:

    I don’t like the weight vest anymore than I like dropping and doing 30 push-ups if I accidentally curse. And so motivates me to be on time and watch my mouth. I like the fact our box isn’t filled with profanity, and I like that we start our workouts as a group on time. If I’m late, I usually push up my workout to the next session. Ask any SEAL that made it through BUDS why they endured the incessant “humiliations” from their instructors - it builds an intense sense of selflessness, translating into a more cohesive and effective team. Just saying…

  6. Matt Mihaly says:

    @Bill The cursing I understand, at least when kids are around. It makes sense. The weight vest makes no sense. The logic is that you’re wearing it because it’s disruptive to be late, but it’s not disruptive to be late and further, the gym is completely arbitrary about who gets punished and when. It also serves to inhibit the willingness of some people to show up, which is not good at all. We do start our workouts together as a group, but that’s completely different from worrying about whether someone is 2 minutes late. The workout usually doesn’t start for 30-40 minutes after class begins, after all. I came in 25 minutes late the other day, and we still started the workout together as a group.

    Beyond that though, the comparison to a SEAL team is not apt. This isn’t a team. We are not training to, as a group, go kill terrorist leaders. We’re here to, selfishly, perform better, feel better, and look better. We all signed up as individuals, and the pace of our progress in Crossfit is dependent on us, not the rest of the gym members. It’s nice to show up at the gym and see friends who will cheer you on, but then, it was nice to show up at big box gyms and see friends too (just less of them, as people are not as universally friendly in those). I like to see my friends at the gym make progress, but that is far from the same thing as a team that’s all working towards a common goal. We may be working towards the same type of goal, but it’s an individual one for every gym member. (We record our own PRs, for instance, rather than team PRs.)

  7. Martin says:

    I hesitate to comment because, in all likelihood, nothing will change.

    First, I agree with the motivation behind the weight vest. Have everyone be there on time, do the warm-up, skill work and WOD as a cohesive group. I get that.

    Second, the vest rule sometimes seems unfair: both because of attributions of “fault” and inconsistency of application. Matt has summed this up nicely. I would add that whenever a trainer is late, nothing happens to them, yet we are the paying customers!

    Finally, my own personal tactic to deal with the perceived injustice of it all is just to put on the damn vest, complain about it a lot, and then go really, really slowly through the warm-up. Sadly, I rarely make it through more than a few reps of the warm-up and, voila, time for skill work!

  8. Roger says:

    Ok, some history. When we first started and set class times people were regularly late for class. Often 1/2 the class was 10 minutes or more late for the class. I blame this a bit on Marin culture. I have found a very cavalier attitude toward being on time for things. This is disrespectful and rude. We instated the weight vest rule as a way of stressing the importance of being on time. It had a very large impact on the timeliness of students. At the time, no one complained about it. So, it helped and people didn’t seem to have a problem with it.

    Now, a few years later, we’ve had complaints about the vest. There are plenty of times when being late is completely out of your control, and that is understandable. In general if someone is late due to things beyond their control and explain it, then, whatever, if you don’t want to wear the vest, fine. Generally if someone is chronically late then, wear the vest, and fix the issue. We have also many times allowed a standing pass on the vest due to work schedules, or known situations that make arriving on time impossible. In these cases the individual knows to get in do their warm up and join in when they are caught up.

    To address some specifics. As far as arbitrary enforcement, this is near impossible to deal with, unless we become completely unyielding on the rule. Often people have valid reasons (as discussed above) for being late and we let them have a pass. We’re also not going to get in an argument over the vest during class. Its just not worth it. The vest is a lighthearted reminder to be on time. I am more strict about it than most of the staff. Try not to give your trainers a hard time about it. They are just enforcing the rules I have put in place. Complain to me about it. Really, just put the vest on and get to work. If there’s some reason not to (too much load for the movements in the warm up, preexisting injuries/issues that could be amplified by the vest, etc) then don’t put on the vest, but consider yourself scolded for being late.

    About trainers being late and not wearing the vest. The rule applies to trainers as well. If your trainer is late and has not made arrangements then they should wear the vest (though in their case they should wear it throughout the entire class). I have done so myself a couple of times. Trainers being late is a serious issue and if this happens more than once or twice with a given trainer I should be notified. You can even do this in the anonymous feedback form in the members area if you want to avoid any chance of bad feelings.

    The last thing I want is for someone to skip a workout because of the vest issue. Its just not that important. Yes, we really want you to be on time, but if there simply is no other option. Show up, apologize and move on. I care more about your health, fitness and progress than I do about the vest rule. Though I do care about the organization as a whole and know that we avoid a lot of problems other affiliates suffer from due to some of our stupid rules.

    Nick is in no way being a hypocrite about the weight vest. He has complained to me about the rule because he just doesn’t want to deal with the resistance he gets when he enforces it at times and understands that being late is unavoidable sometimes. So, whether he disagrees with the rule or not, he’s doing his job in enforcing it. Even like being a law abiding citizen is not being a hypocrite even if you disagree with a law that you are obeying. He’s encouraging you in this post to work to be on time.

    All of these rules are intended to make the program better. The reason we have push ups, weight vests and whatever other “punishments” for violations of certain rules is to keep it light hearted and in the spirit of who we are. Workouts do get delayed due to participants in the class, and yes this is a big deal. We work very hard to try and keep everything on track.

  9. Patricia says:

    Roger, in my experience the vest has not been a “lighthearted” reminder, in fact quite the opposite. I will email those details to you separately. But because of these experiences I’ve had, I will never where it again on principle alone.

    Hypocrisy. If one does not agree with a rule (not a law) why then would one go out of their way to promote that rule, when no one is asking them to? Nick actually saw my point when i put it to him this way. And my real point is that I appreciate Nick’s view on the topic.

  10. Patricia says:

    Also, I agree with Matt on every point.

  11. Nick says:

    Thanks, Roger. I wanted to get my $.02 in here, too ($.20, maybe…). I think there’s a whole lot going on here with group dynamics, psychology and our own micro-culture. Let me try to explain my take on all this.

    First off, take a look at the post again, and pay attention to the title and the theme. I’m talking about etiquette– the customary code of polite behavior– within our gym. Every bullet point that I mention is telling people to be courteous to others and to be a little less selfish.
    One of the things that distinguishes our gym from others is that we pride ourselves on being a community. That isn’t to say that you can’t get community at a big box gym or that other places suck because they don’t have what we have, just that we try to actively create an atmosphere of camaraderie, trust, and cooperation. One way to help create that atmosphere is to make sure that everybody is looking out for everybody else, which is why I included cleaning up after yourself, using the chalk bucket correctly and encouraging your classmates (as well as the edit on use of bumper plates). These actions help other people have a more pleasant experience– despite the fact that it is actually an inconvenience to you pick up your stuff, watch where you’re going and cheer others on.
    Now, do you have to do these things? Is cleaning up after yourself a requirement of gym membership? No. Are we going to kick you out if you routinely don’t clean up and bolt as soon as your workout is over, not giving a thought to your classmates who are suffering through a lengthy hero WOD? Probably not. But if you do that on a regular basis, you’re going to find that other people– other clients in the gym– generally don’t like you, don’t trust you and won’t help you when you need it. Is that going to affect what you get out of this gym? You bet it will.

    Now for the weight vest issue. I hadn’t intended my sentence, “…if you show up late, you have to wear the weight vest…” to be taken as law. It’s a fact that we’ve had this rule for a very long time; it’s a custom of our gym, just like doing push-ups for swearing. My point was that if you show up late, or if you start the warm-up early, you disrupt the class. Now, Matt and Patricia point out that it’s not really disruptive, but I disagree with them, and here’s why.
    Punctuality goes hand-in-hand with courtesy. Your being late once or twice for legitimate reasons may very well not disrupt the flow of the class at all, especially if you’re somebody who knows the movements and can jump right into the warm up without having to ask any questions. But it’s not entirely about interrupting the flow of the class as it is disrupting the atmosphere of the gym. Showing up late sends the message that you’re on your own program. It distinguishes you as being apart from the group, and implies that you don’t care about the other people that got to class on time. (In the same way that showing up early and finishing the warm-up before anybody else gets there implies that you’re doing your own thing and aren’t part of the group, which was the deeper point that I was making in that paragraph of my post).
    I, the other trainers, and all the other clients might know full well that you’re a regular and that you got stuck in bad traffic and were late just this one time. We know you didn’t do it intentionally to insult us, or because you don’t want to work out with us. However, the message is still sent, and it gets stronger and stronger every time you show up late.
    Now, if you think about the weight vest as a punishment for a violation of morality, then you’re naturally going to be defensive about wearing the thing. But if you think of it as part of a “ritual” of being allowed back into the group, then it makes sense and isn’t insulting. Other micro-cultures do this type of thing all the time, it builds community and trust by reminding those that are temporarily removed from the group to be humble, and providing a way for group members to easily accept those people back into the group.
    Here’s a great example. If you’re a firefighter and you get your picture in the paper, you have to buy ice cream for your squad. Does that mean that all firefighters shun the camera, or feel like they did something wrong if a reporter takes a picture of them pulling some poor bastard from a burning car? Of course not! But if you end up on the news, it gives the impression that you are the only firefighter; you are being recognized for being a hero, despite the fact that you couldn’t do your job without everybody else in your squad. And as such, you should buy ice cream for everybody else– it demonstrates your humility within the group and allows you to recognize everybody else that helped you look like such an awesome human being.
    The weight vest is simply another ritual for a different way of being excluded from the group. Wearing it isn’t saying that you’ve committed a sin, it’s simply a way of acknowledging our micro-culture and remaining part of the group. If you can’t or don’t want to see it that way, then fine, don’t wear the damned thing. We won’t kick you out or shun you, but there might be other, subconscious and more subtle, ways that you’re excluded, especially if you’re not already part of the regular “in group.”
    This isn’t a threat or something it’s just how groups tend to behave. We’ve already seen several people come into the gym, decide they don’t fit and leave, only to be perfectly happy at somewhere else. That’s okay, not every group is right for everybody. At the same time, cultures tend to shift depending on the attitudes of those who embody them and our micro-culture– our little tribe with its rituals and taboos– is no different. Personally, I’m glad that we’ve created a climate of trust where people can discuss issues that bother them without the fear of being immediately excluded as an apostate. Weight vest or no, people don’t have open discussions and call their trainers names if they don’t feel like they have a strong place in the group.

  12. Matt Mihaly says:

    Thanks for your responses, Nick & Roger.


  13. Patricia says:

    Nick, i just read your last post/novel for the first time…You need to seriously chill out. People who read your posts and don’t actually “know” you, are going to think you’re whacko..

  14. Patricia says:

    And…I will add that knowing that someone is going to give you a dirty look or subtly exclude you for being late, is not positive motivation to be on time. What it does do is add stress to someone’s likely already stressful life and also tends to make people subconsciously or consciously want to be late to rebel (repel) the crud being put on them. How about just simply “appreciating” and warmly welcoming every client whether they are late or not. If you do this you might find people actually more motivated to not only show up, but do so on time by default because they WANT TO SEE YOUR SHINING SMILING FACE.

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