2007 exercise resolution? Here's some gym etiquette

It's officially 2007, and New Year's resolutions are about to begin.  More people join a gym and health clubs in January than any other time of year.  With this in mind, it's a great time to go over some of the basic rules of gym etiquette.

First and foremost, when visiting a gym for the first time, meet with a trained instructor to familiarize you with the machines.  Pay very close attention to what he or she says, as you must use the machines properly to get the full benefit of the exercise.

Some gyms provide towel service and others don't.  If yours doesn't, always bring one with you.  There is nothing worse than lying on a bench with the previous user's sweat all over it.  Most gyms now have cleaning supplies located in the cardio area for you to wipe down your machine once you have finished using it.

Remember that golden rule of when you get something out, put it back where you found it?  This holds true at the gym also.  Place all equipment, including free weights and weight plates back where you found them.  Leaving weight plates on a machine, especially anything over 35 lbs., is inconsiderate for the next person using that machine.

There is nothing wrong with asking someone to spot you once or twice, but don't expect them to help you on every exercise.  On the flip side,  if you see someone lifting too much weight (this may become apparent by someone's face turning blue) please, give them a hand.  If you are lifting heavy weights, focus on proper breathing; you should be exhaling as you contract the muscles and if you do so loudly, that's fine, but no grunting or screaming.  Weights also make a loud noise when they are dropped, which can throw others off of their workouts or just plain startle them.  Bend down and place them on the ground quietly.

Most gyms usually have a 30-minute time limit on the cardio machines.  If your gym is not busy, you can stay on the machine as long as you'd like.  But, when people are waiting, be respectful and share the machines.  Another time saver in the gym is to limit the number of sets you do on a machine.  People usually stick to around 3 sets of 10 repetitions.  If you really want to have a long, solid work out, avoid the gym during the busiest hours, like the 5pm after-work rush.

Gyms are usually equipped with televisions, stereos, and most people bring an iPod or Walkman with them.  It's vital that you ask everyone around you before changing a channel or station on this equipment provided as to not mess up someone else's workout.  Ipods and Walkmans are great to have as long as the volume is under control to where the person next to you cannot hear what you are listening to.  Don't sing along with your music, you don't know how loud you are singing when your headset is on, and the gym is not the time or place for karaoke.

Mirrors are very important in gyms to help make sure you are using proper technique, not for fixing your hair or checking yourself out.  Secondly, respect others who are also using them and try to avoid walking in front as they are performing their set.

Wearing the proper gym attire is a must.  No jeans or ripped clothes and sports bras are only appropriate if there is a shirt over them.  A good pair of running or walking shoes will make your work out much more comfortable.

Though there may not be rules posted around the gym for how to act, there are these unspoken rules that all of us should be familiar with, whether we are veteran exercisers or just starting out.