Courtesy, cleanliness add to gym success

  • Published
  • By 2nd Lt. Kathleen Polesnak
  • 52nd Fighter Wing Public Affairs
In addition to packing clean socks, headphones, shorts and bottled water, Sabers should start bringing some courtesy when they enter the fitness center for their work-outs. 

Of about 15,000 people tied to the 52nd Fighter Wing, many are not only required, but also eager to exercise to stay in shape. Unfortunately, with the volume of people that use the facilities, not all of them flex their brains as much as their muscles while they pump iron or run laps. 

Remembering to keep others in mind while exercising would likely prevent any comment or action that could be perceived as rude or inappropriate, as well as allow everyone to get the most out of their work-outs. 

To make everyone's exercise experience more fulfilling and enjoyable, take a moment to heed these pet peeves, which, I know from several lengthy discussions, are shared by others across base. 

Leave the 'hogging' to the 81st 

Gaggling on equipment, mats and lanes or snagging all the weights directly inhibits other people from doing their work-outs. There are quick, easy and painless ways to exercise that don't prevent others from accomplishing theirs. If you're using a machine and someone is waiting for it, allow them to switch off with you. I know my weight limits are significantly lower compared to others', but it takes less than 30 seconds to insert a pin or switch out weights, a more efficient option than waiting five to 10 minutes for someone to finish a set. 

If you're finished stretching or doing ab work, rather than lingering on a mat, move to the carpeted area. And if you're walking or running slower than other runners on the track, veer to an outside lane so they don't have to swing around you each time they complete a loop. These aren't earth-shattering behaviors that require more effort - they are small habits each person can adopt to help enhance everyone's ability to exercise. 

If common courtesy isn't convincing, there's actually a fitness center operating instruction that states patrons must limit their work-outs to 30 minutes on equipment during peak hours or when the gym is full. 

Work on your thighs; don't socialize 

It's been proven that having a work-out buddy is a significant motivator for some, thus increasing their willingness to exercise more frequently. However, that doesn't mean the gym should serve the same purpose as a coffee shop or bar. Catching up on weekend activities between squats may become a 10-minute conversation; meanwhile, another person is waiting for that particular piece of equipment. 

Although there are a plethora of people who listen to music, those without it don't necessarily want to hear about your crazy Friday night. If there's a conversation you wouldn't want your boss to hear, you may not want to start it at the gym - your peers, subordinates and supervisors all use the same facility. 

And, though people are sweating and contorting their bodies in sometimes awkward positions, this is not an open invitation to lend your compliments, especially to the opposite sex. You don't know if the person you are attempting to suavely speak to is an officer or enlisted Airman or someone's family member. Save your pick-up lines for a more appropriate venue. 

Don't be mean - keep it clean 

This fitness center may be the oldest in the Air Force, but it is a privilege to have the equipment, staff and facilities that afford us the ability to keep ourselves fit. Mark Geairn, fitness center director, said one of the most common issues he and his staff face is people not picking up after themselves. If you're finished using weights, put them back. When people leave weights on bars or dumbbells on the floor, someone else has to replace them - and sometimes, that person may not be able to lift a 90-pound weight. 

Wipe down equipment after use, and leave locker rooms tidy. While talking about tidiness, don't forget hygiene. Drinking fountains are used for just that - drinking, not spitting. Some people also tend to stack personal belongings in aisles between equipment, Mr. Geairn said, when they should be tucking them away in cubbies, on hooks or in lockers. 

Now that Skelton Memorial is open 24-7 weekdays, it's even more imperative that people take the time to clean up after themselves. Fitness center staff members are there to help maintain the gym - not to clean up after every person's mess. Rather than complain about outdated facilities or equipment, let's focus on keeping it functional and user-friendly. Plus, being lazy while working out is an oxy-moron. 

Just like running an extra mile or completing one more set of bicep curls, a little effort goes a long way. We are privileged to have the Air Force allot time for us to fit exercise into our schedules - let's not abuse it by continuing bad habits that hinder others' fitness or ravage our facilities.