7 People You'll Meet at the Gym

1. Chatty Cathy. She talks on her cell phone, to her friends, during yoga class and while sitting on the weight machine everyone is waiting for. Being able to carry on a conversation when you're exercising is how you know you're not pushing too hard, but non-stop conversations (or more than a moment on your cell) are just bad gym etiquette. Talking during most exercise classes is also not OK. Your gym-mates would prefer to hear their music, the instructor, the TV, or just enjoy a little silence. Zip it, and save your conversations for after your workout.

2. The Grunter and the Breather. They groan when they lift weights and moan when they lower them. Within moments of stepping on the treadmill or elliptical they're breathing hard and heavy, grunting, sighing, and emitting noises most of us only make in private. It's natural to make a little noise when you're working hard, but making cave man noises throughout your entire workout is not OK. Turn down the volume on your vocal cords.

3. The Stinker. Whether it's perfume, B.O., or gas-there's no excuse for heavy odors in the gym. The whole idea of working out is to get sweaty, but if you start out relatively clean, use deodorant, and wear clean gym clothes, you probably won't smell bad. Leave the perfume at home and please, please, no matter how heavy that weight is, no farting in public.

4. The Cheerleader. He gives the thumbs up to newbies and experts alike. She spreads gym-time cheer with liberal doses of "good job" and "looking great." The cheerleader might be totally fit or still have a long way to go, but he's excited to be exercising and happy you are too.

5. The Virgin. They're brand new, don't know what they're doing, are a little bit frightened, and eager to get started. Even though they're slow and awkward and tie up the machines too long, so what? Be nice. You were once a virgin too. Give them space and help if they need it and soon, they'll be at home at the gym, just like you.

6. The Machine Hog. If the gym's not busy, take all the time you want on cardio and weight equipment. If it's rush hour though, don't be the guy who abuses time limits or the lady who hogs a weight machine between sets. Most gyms set 30-minute limits on cardio equipment for peak hours. If you're not actively pumping iron, be courteous to those who want "your machine." Working in, when done politely and appropriately, is a perfectly acceptable way for people to share weight machines during busy times.

7. The Inspiration. Maybe she's the overweight woman, walking mile after mile on the treadmill. Maybe he's the older guy who's come to the gym every day for 50 years. Maybe he's the fitness instructor who used to be 100 pounds overweight or the pregnant woman who's keeping her weight under control and doing her best to stay healthy. Maybe it's you who's inspiring others at the gym to keep running or to lift one more time. These are the people who keep us coming back for more because if they can do it, so can we.

There are lots of other characters at the gym like the bully who demands a machine someone is already on or the glamour girl who's only at the gym to flirt, not to sweat. But for every stinker, grunter, and heavy breather, there are a dozen people just like you doing their best to get fit, stay fit, and make their gym an inspiration to others.