Step Into Spring

A little Madness in the Spring, Is wholesome even for the King.
- Emily Dickinson

The sparrows are once again building their nests in the lava stone on the front of my home, my crocuses are starting to pop up their yellow heads, and the wind has a whisper of warmth. Spring has sprung. Many of us turn to two favorite springtime activities. Changing over our closets and beginning anew our heartfelt workout program in hopes of fitting back into our spring wardrobes. For cleaning out closets, I defer to image consultant extraordinaire, Mary Lou Andre. Mary Lou's new book, Ready to Wear, can help even the most fashion-phobic individual battle the monsters in their closet. As for working out, it is up to you to hit the gym. Be sure to bring your water bottle as well as these guidelines for being a gentleperson in the gym.

Aerobic Attitude ~ While working out it is important to remember that you are in a shared space. Unless the gym is completely empty you will need to share the equipment and the areas with others. One should strive to be an athlete and a gentleperson.

Appropriate Attire ~ There seem to be two extremes at the gym. Either bodies are barely covered with incredibly thin spandex or buried under layers of ratty old sweatshirts and ripped sweatpants. Both can be equally unpleasant. You should strive for a happy medium of unencumbering, relatively new, yet not completely revealing, togs.

Equal Equipment ~ Just like the playground at elementary school, the equipment in the gym should be shared among those present. That which you have taken out, you should put back. That which you have used, you should clean. Take turns. Be honest (there are clocks on the walls; we know when you have be on the machine longer than the allotted time). And when attending classes, be sure to arrive on time.

Waiting versus Working In ~ Individual gym cultures vary on what to do when someone is doing sets and others are working a circuit. While some insist on the squatter's rights concept, I must side with those who believe that if you are doing more than two sets per machine, you must vacate to allow others to work through. A bit of eye contact while standing in close proximity should be enough to indicate you would like to work through. Sometimes a polite "excuse me" is necessary. And occasionally, you will need to enlist the aid of the staff to continue your workout.

Mirror, Mirror on the Wall ~ The mirrors on the walls of gyms serve two purposes. First is to make the space feel bigger. Second is to allow you to view your muscles getting bigger and, well, other areas getting smaller. If you like to work out in front of the mirror, be sure you are not blocking someone else. While watching the mirror, you should be watching yourself; not using the mirror to "check out" others.

Cell Phones ~ I would hope we all know by now that the gym is no place for your cellular telephone. No one wants to hear your business, your lunch plans, your whining or your romancing. Additionally, since the advent of picture phones, cellular telephones should never be out of your bag in the locker room. If you must be reached in case of emergency, leave the number of the front desk.

Forging Friendships ~ In our harried lives, gyms do provide a social outlet. However, be sure your friendly overtures are welcome. If the person is not making eye contact or is answering your questions curtly, move on to another individual. Many people prefer not to converse with strangers while in the locker rooms, naked. You should also refrain from trying to sell anything to your gym-mates.

Safe and Sanitary ~ We may be endeavoring to have our bodies be their best, but while working out there is a high potential for the "ick" factor. Do wipe the machine down when you are done. Do keep your toileting and your showering separate. Do swallow your saliva or find a sink (water fountains are NOT the same as a sink). Do shave only in showers or at sinks (not in saunas). Do properly dispose of your gum before coming out on the floor. Do be sure your garbage, wrappers and old newspapers find their way into the trash.

Muscles and Music ~ It is one thing to sing in the shower at home. It is entirely another thing to sing, hum or whistle while working out in a gym. Music can be motivating, but be sure to keep your music to yourself. This is especially true for those off-key people who like to sing along with their walkman while exercising.

If you find these guidelines hard to follow, then forgo the gym in the warmer weather and take up long distance running!