You know them, you recognize them, and you shudder every time they walk onto the workout floor. They are the Gym Rats. It isn’t their commitment to fitness and a healthy lifestyle that makes them so loathsome — it’s their slew of bad habits. What’s worse, those obnoxious habits aren’t even helping them get into better shape. If anything, it’s increasing their odds of plateauing and decreasing the likelihood of being invited out for smoothies after yoga class.
Here are their silly habits, which you should definitely avoid.
1. Using the leg curl machine to work out arms
Every gym has the guy who lies face down on the leg curl bench so he can work on his biceps. For starters, the leg curl machine doesn’t even work well on your legs — anyone with a good gym IQ and having spent a couple hours with a personal trainer can tell you that. So why does this guy think it will magically work on his arms, a body part the machine isn’t even meant for? Who knows.
Also, observe the area this gym junkie is putting his or her face in order to curl their arms. That’s the spot where most people sit. And more than likely, not all of them wiped the bench down after sitting there. Do yourself a favor, and stick to arm exercises with free weights.
2. Testing out their flexibility for no reason
There’s always that one former cheerleader that can’t let go of her glory days. Thus, she treats warming up for spin class like a Cirque du Soleil audition — posting up at the front and doing a lot of unnecessary stretches. What’s particularly bad about this goofy behavior is this particular gym nuisance isn’t improving their workout. “Static stretching before exercise can weaken performance, such as sprint speed,” WebMD says. “The most likely reason is that holding the stretch tires out your muscles.”
It’s easy to avoid becoming this attention-starved gym rat. If your fitness activities require a warm-up of some kind, do something low-impact unless instructed otherwise. Save the circus routine for becoming a contortionist in your next life.
3. Hogging the cardio machines
You would think someone who lives at the gym would know doing strictly cardio is an ineffective workout plan. Yet there is always at least one junkie who stakes claim to one machine for way too long. They don’t care that it’s busy and you have been waiting for almost 20 minutes to hop on. To make matters worse, this person also becomes extremely territorial over this one piece of equipment, to the point they almost get angry when someone else is using it.
What this gym regular clearly doesn’t understand is that sticking to the same piece of equipment doesn’t make them reach their fitness goals any faster or maintain them any longer. In fact, this behavior will lead them to plateau much faster. Avoid becoming this person by acknowledging your gym’s time restrictions for machine use, and keep your workouts varied to keep getting results.
4. Wearing a weight-lifting belt when it’s unnecessary
This close cousin of Grunt-for-no-reason Guy — we’ll talk about him later — can always be found duck-waddling somewhere near the bench press and free weights. His favorite fashion accessory? A belt that looks like something stolen from the WWE wardrobe closet. But the real kicker about Belt Guy is he often isn’t doing any of the power lifts or intense training that would call for this accessory to save his lower back.
Avoiding the curse of becoming this type of gym rat simply involves a bit of research. If you think a belt might be essential to your workout routine, do your homework first. If your weight-lifting regimen could benefit from wearing a belt, then by all means.
5. Giving unwanted advice
This particular gym-goer is probably the same person who said, “well, actually…” to the teacher at least three times per class in high axhool. He or she is a know-it-all and a busy-body, and also seems to have forgotten there are real trainers present to give legitimate workout pointers.
What’s worse is that neither one of you benefit from the unsolicited advice. Correcting someone else’s gym regimen won’t make this person any fitter. And there is a very strong chance they aren’t even following this glowing advice themselves.
Unless someone asks you for some friendly pointers, you’re better off worrying about your own workout. And should a wannabe-trainer approach you, graciously tell them you don’t have time to chat, or move on to a new exercise away from them.
6. Chatting entirely too much
The gym is typically full of Chatty Cathys. They chat on the treadmill, in the middle of Zumba class, while they’re trying to shower… You get the idea.
What this Chatty Cathy clearly doesn’t know is all that jabbering is taking away from their workout. Being distracted by conversation lowers the intensity of a workout due to the lack of focus. It can also be dangerous — Furthermore from Equinox says the lack of attention can lead to joint pain and other exercise-related injuries.
Socializing is fantastic, but beware of becoming the gym’s blabbermouth. Over-talking affects both your workout and those of others, so save the bulk of the chit-chat for in between exercises or after gym time.
7. Spending more time looking in the mirror than exercising
Don’t get us wrong — feeling good in your workout apparel has a ton of upside. Wearing that new neon-colored sports bra or your go-to workout shorts can boost your confidence and help push you through a workout. However, this can’t be said for the breed of gym rat who is so obsessed with their gym get-up that they spend the whole time watching themselves in the mirror.
The result of this silly behavior is similar to that of the chatterbox. The lack of focus results in an unfulfilling workout, with barely a sweat stain on those Lululemon yoga pants. Avoiding this habit is simple: If a mirror isn’t necessary for conducting an exercise, stay away from it so you can concentrate on your movements.
8. Training like a UFC fighter
Made Man has the perfect description of the gym junkie who pretends they’re getting in shape to take on Conor McGregor. “This is the guy who, after watching four seasons of The Ultimate Fighter, decided to make a run at getting his ass kicked professionally. Not only does he do ridiculous circuits throughout the entire gym, he continually shadow boxes after every set.”
To be fair, there is a chance that this UFC wannabe’s fitness regimen is getting him into great shape. However, it is also very likely that he put this ridiculous routine together without the help of a trainer. To avoid turning into this kind of gym rat, consult a personal trainer before taking on a workout meant for an experienced fighter. Oh, and don’t shadow box unless instructed to. It just looks dorky.
9. Grunting and yelling as if it makes them stronger
The award for most ridiculous behavior at the gym will always and forever go to this character. The grunt-for-no-reason guy is constantly making noises like he’s dying, and making them loud enough for even people outside of the gym to hear. While some grunting and growling is simply just part of the weight-lifting process, the extra loud noise is a cry for attention. “Nothing is wrong with grunting and yelling,” RippedNFit agrees, “but sometimes these guys overdo it.”
The key to not being the screaming guy is simple: Be courteous towards your fellow gym-goers. A little scream-free gym etiquette can go a long way.
10. Being the one-upsman
There’s nothing wrong with a little competitive spirit. Except that this gym rat takes it to the next level, countering every fitness-centric story you tell with his or her own even better story. This person has supposedly done more chin-ups, run a faster marathon, and maintained a better diet.
But remember, this habit doesn’t mean they are in any better shape than you. Playing “anything you can do I can do better” isn’t making them burn more calories or build more muscle, especially if they are just sitting around bragging about themselves while everyone else works out.
When dealing with this particular person at the gym, it’s better to just walk away and focus on your own regimen.