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11 Ways to Avoid Being "That Guy" at a New Gym

Spare yourself serious embarrassment by dodging these rookie mistakes.
LEAVE YOUR CELL PHONE AT HOME Just about every gym bans cell phones in the locker room—no one wants to be surrounded by cameras while changing—but, if we had our way, cell phones would be banned from the building altogether. If you're texting or talking, you're not working, and that's bad for everyone's business. Advice: Some will argue that their phone is also their music player, in which case it's worth getting a workout-specific MP3 player. For $50 or less, you can buy one that'll play Slipknot without tempting you to check Facebook between deadlifts.

KNOW THE CLIMATE OF THE GYM BEFORE JOINING If you're coming from a cookie cutter gym to an old-school powerlifting plant, the atmosphere is going to be very different. Where grunting and weight dropping were once forbidden, they're now the norm. That transition's easier to make if you're ready for it. And if you're going the other way, know that throwing any kind of serious weight overhead is going to get you deemed a "lunk." Advice: Hang around the gym before you make a commitment. Go when you'll actually be working out, and talk to the staff. Be honest about what you're looking for. RESIST THE LURE OF THE SPEED BAG With every discipline, you have to start somewhere. No one expects to step into the rack and squat six plates his first time out, but most exercises allow you to work without bothering anyone. Learning to hit the speed bag is not one of those exercises. Advice: We know why you want to hit it. It’s just dangling there, asking for a beating. And watching someone skilled work the bag is borderline hypnotizing. But listening to a novice poke away at it can produce a racket that even the best headphones can't filter. If you're dead set on getting good, have someone show you the right way to do it and work on your rhythm. Keep your sessions short. LABEL YOUR GEAR Whether it's a lifting belt, a blender bottle or a kettle bell, it's best to make sure everything you use in the gym is easily identifiable as yours. Ever picked up someone else's bottle and taken a swig because they have the exact same one as you? Not a good feeling. Advice: Invest in a Sharpie. Use it. WASH YOUR STUFF Wiping up messes you make and giving people enough room when they're mid-movement are givens, but it bears mentioning as often as possible—your gnarly gym clothes can affect everyone around you. Advice: Not only is it smelly, but it's unsanitary and can lead to infection if you let it get bad enough. While disinfectant sprays might help cover up some of the funk, it can't hold a candle to a good wash. Your clothes will likely last longer and you won't be the subject of anonymous reports to the gym manager.

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