It was perhaps the most extreme case of gym rage—ever. While taking a Manhattan spin class last August, Christopher Carter became so annoyed by the unrelenting grunts and shouts of a fellow spinner that he tipped the other guy right off his bike and into a wall. The grunter was hospitalized for two weeks after the incident. Carter was acquitted of assault charges on June 2. Hopefully, the acquittal won't inspire a rash of altercations, as other exercisers decide that they too have had it with obnoxious gym behavior. Because any gym rat can tell you, grunting isn't the most irritating thing people do in fitness clubs. From making lunch in the sauna to sporting unsavory yoga attire, club managers report that some of their patrons are clueless when it comes to gym etiquette, or general decency. Here are nine of the most outrageous fitness club offenses.
1. The Sauna Stovetop A manager at a New York Sports Club was walking through the women's locker room a few years ago when she smelled cheese. Puzzled, she opened the door to the sauna, where a woman had placed bread and cheese on the hot rocks to make a postworkout grilled cheese sandwich. "Not only was it a health code violation, it was not really respectful to the other people in the sauna," says NYSC PR director Linda Hufcut. "She said, 'I do this all the time.' That was, obviously, the last time she ever did it.'"
2. Nude Fitness? A couple of visitors to a Gold's Gym in Paramus, N.J., decided to get naked and weigh themselves before they started working out. The two men didn't seem daunted by the fact that the scale was outside the locker room. They hung out by the scale, in full view of the other, clothed patrons, until a manager asked them to put some clothes on. They told Mike Epstein, the gym's owner, that they did that sort of thing all the time at their home gym. Perhaps they meant "home gym" as in the one in their basement.
3. Creative Blow-Drying A man in a California Crunch gym decided that the best way to dry out his sweaty shoes was to stick a hair dryer in each of them while he took his after-workout shower. He was shocked when managers asked him to cease and desist. "He said, 'I didn't even realize I shouldn't be doing this'," says Keith Worts, chief operating officer of Crunch, a national fitness chain.
4. Downward Dog? At another Crunch location a man had a habit of taking a yoga class while wearing shorts without underwear. He was more than happy to correct his faux pas as soon as managers made him aware that other members were uncomfortable with the view they were getting.
5. Work Out, Sleep In Some people get a little too relaxed at the gym. Gold's Gym managers have reported finding customers who fell asleep in the tanning facility and didn't wake up until the gym was closed, as well as customers who fell asleep on the bench press in between sets.
6. Killer Karaoke It's common and profoundly annoying: gymgoers get carried away listening to their music players. Before they know it they've treated everyone in the room to an off-key rendition of "...Baby One More Time." "I call it karaoke gone bad, because there is no background music and they're singing at the top of their lungs," says Harry Reo, a regional vice president for 24 Hour Fitness.
7. Talking (Too Much of) the Talk Fed up with people gabbing on their cell phones as they used the elliptical, many gyms have banned cell phones around workout equipment and designated areas for patrons to make calls. Still, people forget. "There's nothing worse than running on the treadmill and having someone next to you conducting an extremely loud conversation," says Hufcut, who's seen some people use walkie-talkies while on the treadmill.
8. Sweat Sins It seems basic, but enough people forget to wipe down their equipment after using it that this was one of the four deadly gym sins included on an informational video NYSC taped a few years ago. During the segment a careless gymgoer didn't dry off his machine; when he stood up, the entire machine was covered in dripping goo.
9. Scrimmage to Scuffle It's only logical that testosterone can run high at the gym, and sometimes managers need to break up altercations on the basketball court, says Nancy Pattee Francini, co-founder and president of the Sports Club/LA, which has 10 locations around the country. "Those guys, when they're playing basketball, can get into fights," she says. "They're not terrible fights—we're a high-end club."
These are, of course, the worst offenses, not the norm. Obnoxious behavior can usually be curbed with a little etiquette education, say gym owners. "Most of the time it's really an awareness issue with members," says Worts of Crunch. "We have to remind them that they're in a shared public space." Nonetheless, it might not be a bad idea to look over the list and make sure you're not committing any gym sins.