Confrontation at the Gym

Last Wednesday, a tense situation occurred at the gym that I work out at. Maybe this confrontation took place because everyone was anxious to get their workout done and move onto the Thanksgiving holiday or maybe it was because the aggressor I am about to talk about is just a jerk but either way, the situation I witnessed added a little excitement to what was looking to be just another routine day at The University of Montana Campus Recreation Center.

As I just mentioned, I work out at the campus rec gym located on campus. Sitting literally right next door to my place of work at the Adams Center, it is a two second walk from my office to the gym’s locker room. Besides being extremely convenient, the facility has everything I need, the rates are the best in town, and it is a nice way to stay involved in the campus community. The main drawback is that on a campus of roughly 15,000 people, the gym many times gets very crowded and quite frequently equipment that people would like to use is occupied. This dilemma led to the run-in on Wednesday.

Obviously for some reason I was meant to witness this little spat because it occurred in its entirety right in front of me the second I got off the track from my daily run. A guy probably a couple years younger than me who just happens to be ripped out of his mind needed to use a squat rack. At the campus rec, there are only two such squat racks, a definite disadvantage considering the popularity/necessity of that certain piece of equipment. On this day, of course, both squat racks were currently utilized, putting the agitated guy on the outside looking in. One of the squat racks had the person who was using it, a fit and cute young woman, working admirably as she punched out squat after squat. Although occupied, the other rack, however, did not have a person using it at that specific time. Instead it was just fully loaded with someone’s water bottle sitting right in the middle of the rack. About ten feet behind the squat rack and about five feet to the right are mats used for people who want to do abs, stretch out, or work with the medicine balls. This mat area was where a tall guy who was about the same age as the ripped guy but much less built was sitting at. The water bottle that I just mentioned? It belonged to the tall guy who was trying to work in his squat workout while alternating it with some ab work. This did not sit well with the ripped guy who marched right over to the tall guy to tell him what he thought.

Ripped Guy: (In an angry, accusatory voice) HEY, how many sets do you have left over there.
Tall Guy: (In a respectful, earnest voice) I just have two more.
Ripped Guy: (In an angry, pissed off voice) There are only two squat racks in this whole gym. If you are going to use it, USE IT!
Tall Guy: (In a peacemaking, somewhat surprised voice) You can work in with me, I am almost done.
Ripped Guy: (In an even angrier voice) The weight you are using does not work for me. You gotta move faster, man.
Tall Guy: (Defensive voice, getting angry) I said you can work in with me!
Ripped Guy: (In his angriest voice yet) There are only two fu@#$%^ squat racks in… **I intervene**

At the point that I intervened, the ripped guy was still giving the tall guy a respectable amount of space so it was not like a fight was about to occur but the argument had gone on long enough and voices were escalating. As much as I hate to get in other people’s business I needed to do something at that time, people in the gym were starting to look over and I was by far the closest person to the incident. The least I could do was show a small amount of leadership and step in.

Although I had never said one word to the ripped guy prior to my intervention, we always see each other on a daily basis at the gym so there was that mutual respect that two guys who work hard have for one another. I simply just told him to give the tall guy five more minutes and walked with him down to the other end of the floor.
Point of this post is not to talk about my mediation skills though. It is not to talk about roid rage either. Rather, I just want to get the discussion going on gym etiquette for this particular situation. It is my belief that it is acceptable for a person to occupy two stations of a gym (whether it be a machine, a bench, a mat, a bike, etc) as long as the person is making an above and beyond effort to work back and forth between the two stations in a short amount of time. For example, the tall guy who was doing the squat/ab combo…he should have worked at a pace where after he finished his squat set and moved over to the mat he should have returned to the squat rack for his ensuing set in a time that took no longer than the break someone would take if he/she simply stayed at the squat rack for every set. So, to quantify it, if the guy was leaving the squat rack unattended for no more than about two minutes at a time, there should not be a problem. If he was taking more time and basically letting the squat rack sit idle and neglecting other gym users the opportunity to use the equipment then he was definitely in the wrong and the ripped guy had a very valid point. However, that does not justify the classless and confrontational attitude that the ripped guy took on…he was simply just being a bully.

Like any subculture, life at the gym has its own intricacies and unwritten rules. Everyone who goes into this type of environment should have a basic understanding of how to act. Most people who go to the gym go with the underlying motivation to improve their body and health. This is a very noble goal and something that is especially needed in this country. While achieving this goal for ourselves in the gym, we also need to do whatever is possible to make sure we are allowing others to do the same. Don’t Blink.