Updated: Feb 21, 2019
I spend a lot of time in the gym, whether training clients or working out myself. I even have business meetings in the gym sometimes, or meet up with friends there before heading off somewhere else.
The gym is, for a whole variety of reasons, at the heart of what I do, and has been for some time now.
And it can be a curious place with regard to the social codes that dominate the space and which can affect the behaviour of all those who also spend a significant amount of their time there.
Plus there is the curious relationship of members to the gym space. Because it is, if you think about it, a place that members elect to spend their time and money in for the purpose of physical activity, appearance improvement, or longer-term health and fitness conditioning above other considerations.
It is an arena of a very particular form of self-improvement and, due to its nature, of self-contemplation.
But is it, for all that, a democratic space?
I have written previously about the nature of the cliques that can come together in a typical gym space and their characteristics. But what about the fundamental issue of access and place for members where the gym floor is concerned? Is there an issue in the equality of membership and how gym members behave whilst on the gym floor?
I would say there potentially is, and that it is up to all of us who make use of our local or temporary gym to understand that the gym environment is, by its very nature, a shared social and professional space apart from anything else and that we all have a presence (and a voice) in it.
A typical gym crowd in any quality gym can be divided pretty much along the same lines, no matter where the gym is located or its standard of equipment. Firstly, in most gyms you get regular members, temporary users, staff, friends of staff and members dropping by occasionally and those Personal Trainers who may use the gym as their working base.
It’s a pretty fluid group of people that have no choice but to share the gym space, facilities and equipment with each other when training, and who also have to respect each other when in the gym environment.
And the key words here are ’share’ and ‘respect’ as, regardless of the amount of time spent on the gym floor, or the level of training reached whilst exercising, the gym is still a social space paid for (even if partially subsidised) by its members and users.
Which means every gym user and member counts.
Sometimes people come to me and express a certain sense of intimidation, either of the gym environment itself, or of those who make the gym their regular home. A lot of this can actually have no basis in reality and is usually down to perception (though sometimes competition to use a certain piece of equipment can also generate a certain kind of tension on the gym floor).
When this happens it is always sad to me, because no one should feel uncomfortable or unwelcome in their own gym and neither should they be denied its potential benefits.
The gym is for everyone, regardless of ability or status. It is what we share to better our health and enrich our social experience. It is our communal space and our escape from the pressures or troubles of life.
So respect it and the people that use it, who fairly and jointly make claim to it, and who enjoy its benefits.
Because the gym is for all of us.