DAVID LEAHY via GETTY IMAGES
Sweatiquette I hear you ask? It’s not a word? It is a word. I just made it a word. Maybe even a new #hasthtag. And it’s definitely a THING. In fact, I plan to submit it to the next Oxford Dictionary call for new words. Sweatiquette: The basic good manners one needs to adopt whilst in a shared exercise class to ensure a good experience for all.
Bug-bears. We’ve all got them. And the teeming mass of humanity that is the suburban gym is a great place for them to breed. For me it isn’t the sweaty equipment and grunting guys gawking as you try to work out, or the overly perky PT who just won’t be quiet after a long day when you’d rather be curled up with a Mojito than crunching with a medicine ball. For me, it’s oblivious classmates in group exercise.
I’m a busy woman. Much as I’d love it, I don’t have time to attend multiple classes a day. It’s a struggle to fit one class in amidst the administrivia of life. When I hit the gym, I have carved out that precious hour and I want to work HARD.
I understand for some people the gym is less about fitness and more about the social experience. And don’t get me wrong. I like the catch-ups and shared laughs with people who have nothing to do with my work day. But the reason you come to the gym may not be why everyone is there. So for the benefit of all, The Four Rules of Sweattiquette follow:
- Proximity. I understand you might want to stand in a cluster with your friends or near me because… well actually I have no idea why. But I do dance-based classes because I like to lose myself in the music, be free and express myself. That is impossible when you are standing on top of me and I have to restrict every step, arm-sweep and spin. I respect that some people like to take things at their own pace. Conversely, some of us like to cut loose. All I ask is you do your thing in your own space, not mine. That way the instructors won’t have to make us stand like pre-schoolers before the start of class, reaching out our arms and ‘making ourselves big’ so we have enough room. We are adults. I think we can master this visually.
- The word ‘visual’ provides a great segue to the mirror. For years it’s been used by dancers to check posture and form. Also handy to check you are not going to run into anyone, and that your sports-bra has remained in the appropriate locale after a particularly vigorous shimmy. So please, use the mirror for those reasons. Don’t use it to gaze raptly at yourself, check out your various sexy faces, or do your hair and makeup. It’s dance class. You’re going to be a sweaty, wet-haired mess if you’re doing it right. While you are checking yourself out – ten people just about crashed into you, twisted their ankles trying to avoid you, or almost hit you in the back of the head with an extended arm. Maybe not accidentally.
- Then there’s the controversy of ‘the spot’. We all know THAT person. The person who has to stand in the exact same place every class. Or at the very least has to be up the front. NO MATTER WHAT. I have some exciting news for you. Dance is about fluidity and movement. No-one has an immovable spot really. This is especially true if you are late for class. Seriously, if you aren’t on time show some manners. Slip into the back of the room. I don’t care how well you think you dance or how funky your outfit is, you are late! Don’t strut up the front and get in the way of people who’ve already claimed some space. Maybe a couple of times I have become a ‘spot person’ just to see how you’ll react. It’s amusing for a bit, but it makes no sense. Nobody can move. I tried standing in a different spot a few times and great news… Nothing bad happened. In fact I had to work my brain a bit harder to adjust to copying the instructor’s moves from a different angle. But no-one actually died. PS: I go up the front because I’m short!
- The mow-down. We’ve all heard of the ‘sprinkler’. Well the mow-down is another classic garden-related dance move and it takes the paleo-friendly cake for poor sweatiquette. You know that person behind you in class? Sometimes several rows behind you. And you know that moment when the instructor says ‘everyone come forward’ and they take it as the green-light to push through the middle of everyone so they can be AT THE FRONT regardless of how many people they trample in the process? I’ve had limbs bruised by such enthusiastic souls. The ‘mowers’ are usually off-beat, doing the wrong step, or doing a self-designed bonus-move that is so distracting it puts the rest of the class off.
I love that people of all ages and abilities come along and have a go at something new. I’m not advocating that classes are only for those ‘that can’… otherwise why are they called classes? I just want a little courtesy.
The instructors peering from the stage must notice even more near-carnage than me as the spatially-unaware wreak havoc. Those gentle urgings to not cluster together and reminders that there’s an empty space’ have their place amongst the pirouettes… lest poor sweatiquette lead to murder on the dance floor…
Disclaimer: Since being grounded from dance class with a foot injury, I have found the same rules apply to aqua-aerobics. But that’s another story. Probably called ‘Things You Shouldn’t do With a Pool Noodle’.