Monday, December 03, 2007

Gym Faux Pas

A story for you.

My girlfriend and I recently joined a gym. This gym is very convenient because it is only an eight-minute walk from our house. We have been members for about a month now, though my girlfriend hasn't been able to go as often as I have, due to being out of the country for work, among other things. On Thursday, though, she finally started going with me regularly.

Now, I cannot do something like working out without having a plan and a goal and all of that. So, I prepared a seven-week regimen for me, and then modified it for my girlfriend when she started coming with me. It's been fun to work out together. That is, it was fun, until Saturday.

On Saturday, my girlfriend was scheduled for a lower body strength training session. Let me say this: I am not a personal trainer. I have never taken any courses, and I never want to do anything like train other people professionally. That said, I do know more about all of this than the girlfriend, so it has been fun to help her out while she does her various workouts. This particular Saturday, I was only supposed to do cardio, so I was free to help her with her lower body. This does not mean I was "spotting" her or anything. All it means is that I had been the one to organize the plan, so it was up to me to keep her on track and let her know what the next exercise was. Seems innocuous enough, right?

Well, a man who works at the gym (presumably as a trainer, but also behind the desk), we'll call him Biff, came up and asked if I was training the girlfriend. I said no, that she was my girlfriend and I was just helping her out. He said he was just checking, because there is no outside training allowed in the gym. Fine with me, I said. I'm not getting paid for this. We're just working out together. Biff seemed okay with that, and walked away.

Sunday, we went on a hike instead of working out in the gym. This morning, I went and did some cardio on the treadmill, and tonight the plan was for us both to do an upper body strength training session (one of the few times our schedules match up for the next few weeks). 3:38 into this workout (I know because I looked at my watch), Biff came up to us again, and we had to stop. He said that he had spoken to the owner of the gym, and that we would no longer be allowed to work out the way we were. Other patrons of the gym had started "asking questions," he said, wondering if I worked there just because I happened to be writing things in a notebook (the journal I use to keep track of what we've done and what we will do).

I told Biff that we live together and all that, and that we both pay for our memberships and were merely working out together. He said that didn't matter, because the gym is liable for both of us, and they would be in trouble legally if something were to happen. Outside training is simply not allowed, and they were putting their collective feet down. He added that no other gym would allow us to do what we were doing.

I didn't really know what to do, but I was obviously pissed, a) that he was interrupting my workout with this shit, and b) that they had the nerve to essentially tell me who I could use for a workout partner. I asked if I had a kid, and I was helping that kid work out, would it be the same thing? He claimed that it's a fine line, because he had the same problem when he was training his mother (I neglected to refute this by telling him that I am not, in fact, training my girlfriend; we are merely working out together). I told Biff that this made me really not want to be a member at this gym anymore, and he said he understood. Then he walked away to let us continue the most uncomfortable workout in the history of that gym.

My girlfriend was afraid to let me even speak to her the rest of the time, because Biff was walking around doing his own workout quite near us. I had to do an exercise, and then she would repeat it, but she was nervous every time I told her how much weight she should use or whatever. The thing is, she knows that my mind likes the organization, so she lets me take care of the details, and she focuses on the workout. Now she wonders if this is just about the fact that I'm writing down her workout, or if we're even allowed to talk to one another when we exercise.

I'm obviously writing about this because I need to vent, but I also want to know what you guys think. Am I crazy for thinking that the gym is being ridiculously picky? Shouldn't they take into account that I am not a trainer, and I am not getting paid for my services? If they're making the legal claim, aren't they legally liable for both of us anyway, since we both pay a membership fee, regardless of whether we work out together or separately? Do you think we would be getting the same treatment if we were, say, a husband and wife (I'm not jumping to homophobia, but I can't help but wonder if we would get the same attention if I was some burly dude helping out my stick figure girlfriend)?

I'm calling the owner tomorrow to talk to him (this is not a national chain or anything, just a local gym) and see what the deal is. If we're not allowed to work together in roughly the same manner in the future, then I'll be canceling both memberships and asking for a refund for the month (the December charge just came on Monday morning, so I don't see why I should have to pay for the whole month). Please let me know what you think of the whole situation, and if you've ever experienced anything like this.


AUTHOR: kingman
DATE: 12/04/2007 08:41:33 AM

That sounds ridiculous. Here in New York and New Jersey, people work out and train together all the time. On machines and free weights, it doesn't matter. How does a gym define "Outside training"? And how does that make them liable? If you read a book on bench pressing, go to the gym and drop a weight on your foot, is the gym liable because you consulted some "outside training"? If so, I'm heading your gym for a tasty lawsuit.

But I don't know if state laws are different where you are. There have been alot of odd gym regulations in the news lately. Some gyms even have anti-grunting policies, meaning if you make too many moans an groans during training, you can have your membership revoked. Freedom of Speech apparently doesn't cover Freedom of Grunt. But no gym should be able to tell you what you can and can't say to your training partner.

AUTHOR: Jack Cobra
DATE: 12/04/2007 01:38:16 PM

Wow, this is horrendous. I've been a member of a different gyms for....about 13 years now and this is about the worst thing I've heard.

I'd listen very carefully to what the gym owner says because you very well may have a legal claim on your hands.

At the gym I'm at now there are a lot of women who workout together, go through the same exercises and write them down. They've never had a problem like this.

So, if two dudes were doing free weights bench press and were writing down what they were lifting and talking about it they would be in trouble too? I think not. This is bad, bad stuff. Keep us updated, please.

AUTHOR: Bruce Paine
DATE: 12/05/2007 10:30:55 PM

For once, I do not advise the use of firearms as a measure of resolution, but I do think you should leave the gym. When a person is exercising they should be left the hell alone, period. I would seek legal options as well. Perhaps record the conversation and write up a list of questions ahead of time. What sort of dog an pony show is this anyway? you can't talk to people about working out when you are working out. I mean, i am scared to talk to chicks and all, but if I was working out and i saw somebody that needed help or advice I would feel bad if I didnt offer it.

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