My day started out pretty decent this morning. I trained my 6:30 client for a hour, whisked my kid off to school and made a bathroom run before heading to my local gym.
At this point, many people are used to my bobble head jogging around with headphones for five to ten miles when I'm in the middle of marathon training or watching me lift shit up and putting things down when I'm going in for a personal death session. In my mind, I don't think I did anything different than my usual: I took a selfie, jotted down my entry for the workout of the day and picked up the equipment required to proceed with my routine. My typical corner was occupied by my cool gym bro buddies who happen to be in the middle of their regular but grueling 45 minute calisthenics session. One day, I might ask to join them, just not today.
I headed over to the mat under all of the vibrant circular lights and started my warm-up. I pulled out my speed rope to get in my standard 500 revolutions and around the 200 point, I was approached by a gym bro. Please insert your OH BOY... and AWWW FUCK here. Thanks.
From his eye contact from the 60th revolution, I knew he was going to say something to me. I thought my typical headphone move would be enough but nope, not this guy. He called me out over my imaginary music and I tried hard not to give him eye contact.
- CHICAGO!!! (I was wearing my 2016 Chicago Marathon shirt)
- You really need to jump up higher and slow down your speed.
- No, actually I'm fine but thanks for the suggestion. I like my method.
- Well, if you like terrible form I guess... You really aren't jumping high enough and you should use your arms more. It'll build up your chest. Did you know-
- Seriously dude. I'm good. Can I enjoy the rest of my workout?
- You don't have to get all defensive. I'm just trying to help you reach your fitness goals.
- Oh really muthafucker?! Fitness goals? Please entertain me on my fitness goals, sir. Are you a personal trainer? Did you ask for my age or health profile? My ailments? You should really train that mouth and brain like you do to your arms. If you're going to give me advice, at least give me SOLID advice. Fuck off!
- Thank you. I've been trying to wear my bitch repellent all morning.
This conversation never gets old for me because it seems like I wear shirts to the gym that screams "I need help from people who will injure me." In turn, I will entertain you with 6 ways to tell the obnoxious gym bros to go away.
1. Be Direct But Respectful Initially.
I promise I'm not always a foul mouth fat gym rat who happen to love running in the streets for shiny objects. It takes a LOT for me to get to a nasty place when I'm in the gym. It's my playground and one of the ways that I practice active meditation.
The best way to get your point across is to be direct. Being an asshole and being firm are two different things. I tried this tactic with the douche bro at the gym today but it fell on deaf ears.
Stand firm, unapologetic and tell the person thank you but you prefer not to take unsolicited advice. Please note in advance, I will NOT be one of those bloggers/writers who will suggest that you SMILE or say SORRY/PLEASE FORGIVE ME every five minutes. This is something that society has conditioned women to respond to practically everything. Not saying that gym bros and gals don't approach men but women are heavily targeted, especially when spotted in the weight area.
2. Wear Headphones
I'm not really fond of pretending to listen to music but days like today when I see it coming on, I try to give folks the non verbal cue that I want to be left alone. This guy wasn't hearing any of that shit.
I am very aware that at least a third of my readers would never resort to cursing at someone after the second, third and for some, even the fifth time of reiterating that you don't want their advice. In turn, 8 times out of 10, people will not approach you in the middle of your zoning out session with "advice."
3. Hear Them Out Completely and Laugh in Your Head
Sometimes, I actually hear people's unsolicited advice completely. Why? Different reasons.
4. When They Insist, Briefly Explain Your Feelings to Them (If you feel like it)
I'm corny and truly believe there's a message in practically everything. Sometimes, the gym bros and girls of the world truly don't see harm in "correcting" you. Maybe you will be the person who will convince them that maybe there's a better tactic to offering advice.
Before I became a regular at my current location, a LOT of people either gave me strange looks for hanging around the weight area or immediately thought I needed help/workout plan. My size and gender don't help these stereotypes in the winter because I tend to layer like an ultra tomboy. It's pathetic that I get respect now because my legs and arms don't match my one pack. Nevertheless, I was approached by this gentle giant who was a bit pushy about his "fear" of me using the reverse side of the bosu ball while using the battle ropes. He thought "only an experienced person" should try this. Sure, this is the moment where I could have pulled up my accolades, bragged about my 50+ races completed and shown him my Instagram feed full of CrossFit/calisthenics on crack mashup but I'm NOT that type of asshole unless truly provoked to a sore place.
Since I was having a decent day with time to kill, I suggested him to consider some of his word choices and asked him why did he think I needed help. I gave him the illusion for a few minutes that he had control of the conversation and by forcing him to question his intentions, he realized that his approach could be off putting to the wrong person. See, I'm not always a dickhead! Plus, it felt good to not piss another person off. I actually see him at the gym now and realized that he was projecting his own "fears" onto me because he didn't know how to do it. How crazy is that?
5. Do Something Strange or Move to Another Area
Wait, what? Yes. When I say something strange, it could mean that you don't respond at all. Continue working out and look through them. As a parent, I tell my son that people don't hold power to make fun over him if he doesn't entertain it. Don't like that? Tell them you don't understand English/Spanish/French/Bullshit. Worked well for me when I went to the gym in Florida.
If all else fails, don't let these bitches kill your vibe. Move your shit and occupy another space. You're not running away; you are avoiding the possible cancellation of your membership for going cat shit crazy on them.
6. If It Sounds Like Harassment...
Post 9/11 here in NYC, our transit system loved saying "...if you see something, say something." Why not do the same thing in the gym? If you explored all of the options that made you feel comfortable and this person is pushing it, perhaps you should consider reporting it to a gym employee. Let them handle the situation from there. You should not have to feel like you need to escape the gym because of another human intentionally or unintentionally making you feel like crap. Whatever happens, please remember that you are just as capable and worthy of occupying a space in any area of the gym that you desire.
Every Rule Can Be Broken
Not every situation is going to be black and white. Maybe you actually like gym advice? Perhaps, that guy that's giving you advice is someone you've been crushing on? Gym bro/girl = Gym Bae? is this advice actually coming from a gym employee who is seeing something that will harm you. Before you pull out your mace, really consider listening to the first sentence or two. Who knows. It could be some solid advice.
Anyone experienced gym harassment or unsolicited gym advice? Share your thoughts below!