Born To Be Mild: Gym Rules Edition

Born To Be Mild
by Liz Black


Man do I love rules. Actually, let’s use that sentence as a jumping off point, because it’s not actually very true. I don’t “love” “rules” so much as if there’s a suggested way of behaving, I will usually, gladly conform and expect others to do so as well. And I’m not talking marching like Nazi’s or if-all-your-friends-jumped-off-a-bridge-you-would-too dangerous conformity, I mean adhering to rules for the comfort and better quality of life of everyone around you. Like at the gym when the sign says “Please limit your use of the cardiovascular machines to 30 minutes during peak hours,” or also at the gym “Cell phone use is prohibited except in designated areas,” or once again at the gym “Please wipe down the machines when you are done using them.” Generally speaking, these are excellent rules that, when conformed to, ensure a quality workout for everyone involved. But contrary to the physical benefits that the gym should provide, I find myself nearing a myocardial infarction every time someone flaunts these rules. The gym goes from my safe place to be a sweathog, to the place where I’m giving you the stinkeye in the reflection of the wall of mirrors because you, person who doesn’t even have a towel on the back of the lat press despite dripping with sweat, disgust me.

I work myself into a lather when I see people “disobey” these signs. It’s not so much that they’re breaking a rule, let’s face it, rarely is there some dickholey thing you can do at the gym that will get you punished or arrested. But someone did think enough of how you should behave that they had 3-5 small plaques made and hung at various intervals around the weight machines telling you what’s expected of you when you work out. It’s like being vaccinated (sorry, Jenny McCarthy) — if you have a small minority of people who ignore what the majority is doing, you could eff it up for everyone. Only instead of getting the measles, we have to listen to your one-sided conversation about how you want to go see Love And Other Drugs but then you read the thing about – spoiler alert! – Anne Hathaway’s character has like, a disease or something? So maybe you don’t wanna go? But whatever, you’ll just work it out later when you get home. Which is where you should have worked it out all along.
I don’t want to sound like a jerk because of course I’m a human and it’s 2011 and I text at the gym and I’m sure I’m not the most considerate person that ever lived. I’m just so over and done with people who don’t get that they’re a foot away from another human that they don’t know and might not want to be the audience to their conversation. I just know I start sounding like my/your/every mother when I say that times have changed and for all the conveniences of modern technology, it’s also turned us into a bunch of assholes. For the most part! I’m sure if I’ve met you and like you, you’re immune to my rant. And yeah, sometimes even when I know someone’s waiting for my treadmill and I only have 12 more minutes to go to make it a solid hour of cardio I will ignore Captain Ants-in-his-pants who’s pacing behind me and making audible huffs of annoyance. But this is my health we’re talking about. And also, there is a perfectly good rowing machine that no one has used since 1991 that you could kill time on, sir. (So, yeah, I’m not perfect but at least I’m not oblivious.)
There are so-so-SO many other rules that people don’t pay attention to that kill me in this city. People who shove their way onto the subway before others have exited. People who, while you’re waiting for the subway, kinda step in front of you as if they’re looking to see if the train is coming and then they don’t MOVE again so they basically just cut you in line to get on the train. People who, when confronted with a set of double doors only use one of the doors and let the other one remain closed. That last one might be the death of me. I know this sounds more like airing a grievance than a born to be mild and I apologize for that, but at least you know now how I feel about rules. As André says…OBEY. Unless it’s the Fuhrer who’s making the rules. In that case, I say sweat all over his Nazi stairclimber and have no regrets.

About lizblack

Liz Black is an entertainment writer who lives in Brooklyn, NY. She has improvised and written several sketch comedy shows which she performed at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theater, and most recently directed the sketch group Gentleman Caller. She has a blog,, and she really enjoys NY1 and burritos.
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