Gym etiquette for waiting for a machine: Stop saying it

AAfter completing three different leg and glute-focused exercises — squats, hip thrusts and donkey kickbacks — I headed over to the hip abductor machine on the first floor of my gym. Hip abduction was my ultimate exercise, and squatting on the machine meant I could wrap up my workout after a long day at work.

Not surprisingly, it was already taken by a gym-goer and their partner, as most machines are usually on during peak hours in New York City (and almost every other populous city). So I decided to ask, “Excuse me, how many sets do you have left?” Usually, if the answer goes something like “I have 30 minutes left” or “ten more sets,” I’ll bounce to another machine before coming back. But the man in the hip abductor machine replied: “Sorry, I’m here.” Stunned, I just said “ok” and left.

As a weightlifter who frequents the gym, I find this response very disappointing. Actually, “Sorry, I just got here” is simply code for “I’ll be here for a while, so you can leave.”

While people aren’t technically required to respond (it’s rude if you don’t, IMO), it’s an unspoken rule and considered proper gym etiquette to let others know how many sets we’ve done. That way, people aren’t left guessing whether to wait or go ahead with their routine.

Unfortunately, this is not the first time I have heard this reaction. “Sorry, I just got here” is a common response at all the gyms I’ve been to in New York City, Boston, Chicago, and Wisconsin.

At a gym I used to go to in Queens, I witnessed people not only giving me attitude when I asked how many sets they had left, but shaking the weights, not wiping down their equipment, and even walking out of the bathroom. Wash their hands (gross, I know). Instead of feeling anxious about going to the gym, I had so much built-up anxiety that I dreaded it, so much so that I made excuses in my head to skip gym days because I didn’t want to deal.

On the days I pushed myself to lift, I heard an annoying amount of “sorry, I just got here,” often waiting 30 minutes to an hour for a squat rack, cable machine, or bench. By the time I finished waiting, my muscles had cooled down and I had to restart my warmup—or worse, the gym was closing.

Gyms are supposed to be places where people can de-stress and find peace after a long day. But the atmosphere is only as good as the people. By sharing how many sets we have left, giving people a chance to work out if we’re going to take some time off, we’re in turn creating a healthy and friendly environment where everyone can lift, sweat, and work out without wasting their time. .

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